Looking like a beautiful big nest, serve this Italian Easter bread as the centrepiece of an Easter breakfast. It's easy, delicious and really fun to make.
3 cups all-purpose flour, divided (approximate amount)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 8-g pkg quick-rise instant yeast
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup milk
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup mixed diced candied fruit
1/4 cup chopped blanched almonds
1/2 tsp whole anise seed
In a large mixing bowl, stir together 1 cup (250 mL) of the flour, the sugar, yeast and salt.
Combine the milk and butter in a glass measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for about 1 minute (watch carefully—it can boil over very quickly) or until the butter has melted. Add to the flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes. Add the 2 eggs and an additional 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the flour and continue beating for another minute or two.
With a wooden spoon, stir in the diced fruit, almonds and anise seed. Now, begin adding the flour, 1/4 cup (50 mL) at a time, stirring until the flour is incorporated before the next addition. When the dough becomes difficult to stir, turn it out onto a floured work surface and begin to knead by hand for 8 to 10 minutes. Resist the urge to add more flour than is absolutely necessary to form a smooth, soft dough that is no longer sticky. Place in an oiled bowl turning the dough over to oil the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size—about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Grease a baking sheet.
When the dough has doubled, punch it down to deflate it. Divide the dough into two pieces and roll each piece out to form a rope 1-in. (2 cm) thick. Holding the two ropes together at one end, twist them around each other (like a barber's pole) then form the twisted rope into a round loaf on the baking sheet—lay it down in a spiral fashion so that there is no real hole in the middle. Now tuck the additional raw eggs into the doughy nest, cover and let rise again until nearly doubled. (The eggs will cook when you bake the bread!)
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Place the bread in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it.