If you're looking to create a new tradition for your family at Easter this year, consider this: For hundreds of years, Greek families have been baking Greek Easter egg bread to share with their extended families. You can, too.
- Make longer, thinner ropes of dough and join the two ends of your braids together after you're finished to create a wreath.
- Make your ropes of dough shorter for more braids, or double your recipe to have extra loaves to share with friends and family.
- Use fresh yeast for best results.
- Combine 2 c. of the sugar with the milk and butter (or margarine) in a medium saucepan. Cook this mixture over medium heat until butter is melted. Cool mixture to approximately 110 degrees.
- Combine 3 tsp. all-purpose flour with the water, the active dry yeast and the remaining sugar in a large (8 to 10 qt.) mixing bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. Warm water should be approximately 110 degrees to avoid killing the yeast.
- Beat 6 large eggs in a separate bowl then add to yeast mixture. Begin adding 8 to 9 c. of all-purpose flour and the milk mixture alternately to the yeast/egg mixture. Stir well after each addition.
- Turn soft dough out onto a well-floured work surface and knead in as much of the remaining all-purpose flour as it will take to make the dough firm. Knead the dough for 5 to 6 minutes or until it becomes smooth and elastic.
- Place the dough into a greased bowl or container and turn once to coat surface. Cover and let the dough rise in a warm place until it doubles in size, or about 45 minutes to an hour.
- Punch down the dough and divide it in half; then divide each half into three equal portions. Shape each portion into a 2- to 2 1/2-inch rope, approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
- Pinch three ropes together at one end to seal and braid the ropes together. Place dyed Easter eggs in the pockets of the dough between the ropes and shape the dough around the eggs to hold them in place; the number of eggs you use in each braid is up to you.
- Repeat the above procedure for remaining ropes of dough. Place braids on a lightly greased baking sheet and cover them.
- Let braids rise in a warm place until double in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.
- Beat the remaining egg and brush it on the braids. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.
- Bake the braids at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until tops are golden brown.
Avoid using too much flour or your bread will turn out tough. If you can only knead in 7 1/2 to 8 c. of flour, that's OK.
Make this bread the day you intend to use it, or else remember to refrigerate it so the eggs in your braid won't spoil.