Knead help converting a bread machine recipe to an oven.
March 22, 2013 1:20 PM   Subscribe

My grandmother's in heaven, my bread machine is in the trash and my family can't wait to have Easter Bread next weekend. Help me successfully get this recipe back in the oven where it originated.

My Italian granny used to make what she called "Easter Bread" every year until she passed away 10 years ago. It's a sweet bread. Her "recipe" consisted only of a scrawled list of ingredients. After she passed I messed around with my bread machine and those ingredients until I came as close as I could to her recipe. Since then I make 5 or 6 loaves of this bread for my family every Easter, and they are pleased.

BUT ... my bread machine has broken and my budget doesn't allow for the replacement that I want for a while. Shamefully, I've never made bread before without one and Easter is fast approaching. (You can hear Mom-Mom laughing at me now, right? I sure do.)

I'd look for another conventional recipe, but other Italian Easter bread recipes online have almonds, raisins, or orange/citrus flavoring. They also mention braiding the dough around dyed eggs. All of that is intriguing to me, but my family is fond of the plain loaf.

This weekend I plan on testing the recipe but before I start wasting ingredients, I have some questions for the experienced bakers here.

1) I don't even own a loaf pan. What size conventional loaf pans should I buy?

2) The recipe makes a single 1.5 lb loaf, but my bread machine loaves were tall and squat. Would the below recipe make two "normal" loaves?

3) After mixing the dough, how long should I let it rise? Do I let it rise twice?

Here's the bread machine recipe in case anyone is curious...

3/4 cup warm whole or 2% milk
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 or 3 teaspoons anise flavoring, as desired
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup soft room temp. butter
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Put ingredients in the bread maker on the sweet bread setting, medium crust, 1.5 lb loaf.

When bread is finished, cool, glaze if desired and bring to Easter dinner, where everyone ignores the tell-tale bread machine hole in the bottom of the loaf and tells you that Mom Mom would be so proud of you for keeping up this tradition.

Any tips or tricks you can offer would be well-appreciated. Thanks!!
posted by kimberussell to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
3.5 cups flour means you'll get a bit more than enough dough for a single 9" loaf pan (the rectangular kind) based on recipes that call for 5.5-6 cups flour to make two 9" loaves.

I assume yes, you'd have it rise twice - once in a mixing bowl, and the second rise in the greased pan, before baking.
posted by k5.user at 1:25 PM on March 22, 2013

Should you want to replace it - I often see bread machines in thrift stores for not very much money. I think it's the sort of item that a lot of people buy and think they'll use all the time and then end up forgetting about.
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:32 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is really just a version of challah or brioche bread, so you can look up recipes for those to give you an idea of how to make them in a pan.

You definitely need to let it rise at least twice. Most recipes call for a rise in the bowl, a punch down and second rise in the bowl, and a final rise in the pan, but I don't think bread machines do two rises, so if you want it to taste the same maybe just do the one.

If you have a standing mixer, that will make it a lot easier.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 1:52 PM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

This discussion thread might help; chipmaster86's recipe, in particular, looks promising.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:54 PM on March 22, 2013

For the loaf pans, either 8"x4", or 9"x5" would work, I'd say. I'd get two of whichever size you can find first (it's better to have loaves that are too short than ones that overflow!)
If I was making this recipe, from what you've given me, I'd make sure my eggs/yolk were at room temp, beat them with the milk, and add the yeast. I think I'd also cut the butter into the flour/sugar (with a fork, or butter knives, slice the butter pretty small, then mix/mash it into flour/ should end up a mix that's kinda coarse, with maybe pea sized bits of butter rolling around). I'd add the flour/sugar/butter to the eggs/yolk/yeast, and then add everything else in.
Also assuming you'd have to let it rise twice. I'd let it get to about twice it's size in the bowl, then knead it a little, then divide it and let rise again in the greased pan(s). How long this will take will depend on the warmth of your kitchen...I've been known to put my bread in a sunny window to help speed things along.
Good luck!!
And on preview, it DOES sound like brioche, definitely look up some recipes!
posted by csox at 1:55 PM on March 22, 2013

I recently got into bread baking, so please take everything I say with a grain of salt (heh).

This summer I made a giant challah bread and took it up to a friend's cabin for eatins'. Her dad was like "what's this giant bread?" And people were like "challah!" And he said something like "looks like easter bread". To which my friend said "yeah, those are pretty much the same, but there's no hidden egg inside". So, here's how I make challah / some general tips for converting this ingredient list into instructions.

Switch to instant yeast if you can find it in the supermarket. If you can only find active dry, before doing anything else, warm the milk to 100F (definitely not over 115), and stir the yeast into 1/4 cup of it. Let that sit covered for 5 minutes. If you get instant yeast, just stir it into the dry ingredients. (instant is the new hotness in yeast technology for exactly this reason, but either way is fine). iirc 1 packet of yeast is about 1.5 tsp, so you should be fine just using 1 packet.

Combine the dry ingredients. I'm not sure about the butter, but probably you want to mix it in after the dry? Add the wet and stir it until it's a rough, shaggy dough.

Turn it out onto a lightly floured counter top and Kneed it. Kneed it a lot. Shoot for 15 minutes if you can, but 10 is probably ok. Kneeding means press and stretch (but don't tear the dough), then fold it over and do it some more. Youtube is your friend here.

Form it into roughly a sphere, and put it into a lightly oiled container. Cover it and let it rise for 60-90 minutes or until doubled. Punch it down to deflate it. Cover it again and let it rise until doubled again (probably only 45-60 min this time; will be bigger). Shape it. Brush on your egg yolk, preheat your oven, and bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes. If the shape you want is braided, hop over to youtube and watch some challah braiding vids. If you go this route, you probably want to let it rise another 15-30 min so you can egg yolk all the knooks and crannies.
posted by Phredward at 1:56 PM on March 22, 2013

And if you don't do the glaze, definitely do an egg wash to give it that beautiful brown sheen.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 2:02 PM on March 22, 2013

Sounds like your grandmother's bread was the same thing as, or very similar to, Greek Easter bread, or tsoureki. Here is one recipe I found. We don't usually put anise in ours but it sounds delicious.
posted by capricorn at 2:06 PM on March 22, 2013

By the way, tsoureki tastes and looks like challah but the texture is very different; it is more cakelike.
posted by capricorn at 2:09 PM on March 22, 2013

Have you asked around to see if anyone you know has a bread maker? It might be easier to borrow someone's bread machine than convert the recipe (especially with a time limit) and people sometimes have bread machines hiding in the depths of their kitchen cabinets.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:10 PM on March 22, 2013

That's brioche with a little flavouring.

Standard brioche technique is to mix all the ingredients, minus the butter (don't be afraid to adjust flour/milk to get a good consistency). Rest 15 minutes or so once combined. Knead to develop gluten (3-10 minutes depending on your hand kneading technique), then cut the butter in chunks and knead them in until you can't see any more butter. This can be a little labour-intensive by hand and a stand mixer is much easier, but I've done thirty loaves by hand at once, so it is bearable.

Rise once until increased in volume by 75-100%. Shape into loaves (if you want voluminous loaves, you can pre-shape the loaf too, video), rise until doubled, bake around 425F until a thermometer in the top of the loaf reads about 92C (20-30 minutes).
posted by ssg at 2:50 PM on March 22, 2013

Here's a previous askmefi thread on brioche. This should give you some starting points especially with regard to technique.
posted by scalespace at 4:46 PM on March 22, 2013

Phredward has a lot of good advice, but is wrong about the yeast. One packet of yeast is 2 and 1/4 teaspoons of yeast. which will make a significant difference in the rise.
posted by Concolora at 6:33 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can usually find a used bread machine at Goodwill for around $5-10.
posted by Bonzai at 8:03 PM on March 22, 2013

Thanks for the input, all! I have a lot more confidence. I'm heading out today to get loaf pans and will try the conventional recipe today. If I fail, I'll start thrifting for a bread machine (why did I not think of that!)

The challah/brioche connection is amazing. I won't tell you how old I was before I realized her "biscuits" that she made was actually a very plain biscotti. I'll let you know how I make out.
posted by kimberussell at 6:40 AM on March 23, 2013

That's the neat thing about bread. There are many, many variations from around the world, but the basic set of ingredients and recipes is very small. Everything is related. There are only, from a certain perspective, two types of bread - those with added fat and those without.

Challah and brioche are very similar, but challah is usually made with oil and brioche is made with butter. Challah normally contains more egg than brioche as well. Your recipe is fairly high in egg too.
posted by ssg at 2:18 PM on March 23, 2013

So, you've been waiting with bated breath, yes?

I used my stand mixer's dough hook to do the initial mixing and then kneaded like a champ. I put the whole amount in one 9x5 loaf pan. I baked it at 375 for 40 minutes, but the internal temp was only 160, so I let it go 10 more minutes, until the center temperature was 190. (I have no reference for the thump test, so I went with tempurature.)

Here it is!

The crust has a little bit of a burnt taste so I think when I do this for real next weekend, I'll go for 45 minutes and pay more attention to shaping it so it's not as sloped.

All of your advice and kneading tips were great. I knew AskMe wouldn't let me down! Thanks so much!

(I made bread!)
posted by kimberussell at 1:10 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Late to the discussion, but I'm surprised nobody mentions the "raise". Bakers and most European nanas would use half the yeast or less, but make a raise the night before baking: mix a little water, flour and yeast into a porridge-like substance. Cover, wait, use as the base of the rest of the recipe. Using a raise instead of a lot of yeast makes the whole process smoother and the final product better-tasting.
posted by mumimor at 9:04 AM on March 26, 2013

Looks like the bottom of the crust is bit burned, which is a common problem with loaf pans in a home oven. If you put the rack with the pan a little higher up in the oven if possible and put some sort of barrier between the bottom element and the loaf pan (like a cookie sheet) on the other rack set one level below, you'll be able to avoid that.
posted by ssg at 3:25 PM on March 26, 2013

Easter morning followup:

Last night I think I killed the yeast and ended up with these wrecks. Not good.

Today I gave up on Mom-Mom's recipe (sorry!) and tried this one. I only had active dry yeast so I let it rise for an hour at first instead of resting for 8 minutes.

Here's the result. My brother might bemoan the lack of a plain loaf, but I'm darn pleased.

I think I may have discovered a new hobby.
posted by kimberussell at 11:00 AM on March 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's beautiful!
posted by theuninvitedguest at 1:22 PM on April 2, 2013

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