Italian Breakfast Bread

I know I’m late to post this for Easter so let’s just make this bread in celebration of spring and the new life that blooms all around us.

There are a lot of breads I am excited to make, but this one caught my eye on Pinterest. It wasn’t hot cross buns or the traditional Easter breads with little pockets meant for the dyed eggs. No, this had dried fruit and looked delicious in it’s simplicity.  In case you haven’t noticed, I look for traditions from other cultures, and I do a little testing, complexity, healthy(sometimes), and taste, and I decide from those criteria if it stays or goes.  This is a delicious sweet bread that is very reminiscent of a dressed-down stollen. The eggs make it a tasty egg-bread and the dried fruit gives it sweet/tart flavor. No added fats like butter or oil weigh it down, so I was thrilled with that and didn’t feel guilty when I smeared a little cream cheese on it.

Italian Breakfast Bread

Start out with  one cup of warm water(110-112 Fahrenheit), 2 Tablespoons white sugar and 2 1/2 teaspoons of active yeast. I activated the yeast in a pyrex measuring cup.

While the yeast, sugar and water worked it’s wonders, I got a half cup of yogurt, a teaspoon of vanilla, two eggs and 1 tablespoon of lemon zest, and a teaspoon of salt ready for the mixer.

With the paddle attachment, add all ingredients above(including the yeast) and mix thoroughly. Change over to the dough hook and start adding all-purpose flour, a 1/2 cup at a time, and waiting until fully combined until adding more. Add enough flour to make a non-sticky, solid ball.  It took me around 5 1/2 cups.

Spray a large bowl and place the dough into it, making sure to rub the ball of dough into the oil. Cover with a towel and let rise one hour or more. While the dough is rising, prepare the dried fruit.  I added diced raisins, cranberries and apricots.

Punch it down and roll it onto a floured surface.  Create a loaf with a seam and add some of the dried fruit. Once you combine the fruit into the dough, make another seam and repeat.

Once all of the dried fruit is hiding, place the dough into a pan for baking(a 9×9 cake pan is not large enough-trust me). Place the dough in the fridge for several hours or overnight. My dough rose within three hours. Take it out and let it warm up at room temperature for an hour.  Bake in a 350 Fahrenheit oven for 45 minutes.

This was an easy and wonderful dough to work with.  It’s time consuming(as all yeast breads are) but not labor intensive. The taste was mildly sweet but not overpowering like stollen can be.  I’ll keep this recipe in my recipe box–absolutely.  Now onto Brioche.

Italian Sweet Breakfast Bread 
Makes one 10-inch round loaf

2 ½ tsp. active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 Tbs. white sugar
2 eggs
½ cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt
4-5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup chopped candied lemon peel

In the bowl of a large stand mixer, combine yeast, water and sugar. Cover and let stand 10 minutes, or until foamy.  (If yeast does not foam, discard and begin again with new yeast.)  Add eggs, yogurt, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Mix well. With the paddle attachment of the stand mixer, stir in flour ½ cup at a time, scraping sides of bowl down, until dough starts to form (after adding ~3 cups).  Switch to the dough hook and continue adding flour (about 1 more cup) until dough forms a manageable mass.  Continue kneading for 5 to 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary, until dough is soft and pliable, but not sticky (up to 5 cups).
Form dough into a large ball and coat all sides with vegetable oil.  (I like to lift the dough out of the bowl, pour a tablespoon of oil in, then turn the dough around in the oil until the dough, as well as the sides of the bowl, are greased.)  Let dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down in bowl, transfer to a floured surface, and knead in the dried fruits.  The goal is to get the fruits uniformly throughout the dough without any of them actually bursting out into the exterior of the bread (as they will burn if exposed in the oven).
Form dough into a ball and place in a greased 9-10 inch round pan.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and cool rise in the refrigerator overnight.
The next morning, remove pan from refrigerator and let come to room temperature (about 1 hour before baking).  Bake in a preheated oven at 350 F  for 45 minutes, or until loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  (If bread browns too quickly on top, cover with a piece of foil.)

Leon and me at the Milwaukee Domes

It is with a heavy heart I announce the passing of my brother, Leon. He passed on April 2nd from pancreatic cancer at the young age of 55. To the man who loved to eat, this blog entry and loaf of bread are dedicated to you.