For Easter brunch, I made Easter Bread Wreath and Fruit Salad with Vanilla Dressing. The bread I made because, as you all know, I love baking. The fruit salad I made because Easter brunch called for something more than just bread.
Fruit salad was simple to make. I altered Alton Brown’s yogurt dressing; I mixed together a simple dressing of 3/4 cup lowfat yogurt, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon honey, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. To it, I added 1 cup halved seedless grapes, 1 diced Granny Smith apple, 1 diced pear, 12 halved strawberries, 2 peeled and diced kiwis, 1 sliced banana, and 1/3 cup toasted (and cooled) walnuts. I made this on Easter morning because reviews said the strawberries and bananas would suffer texturally if made in advance.
The Easter Bread Wreath was a subtly-flavored, enriched bread that needed to be started a day in advance. Earlyish on Saturday, I made the starter (1 cup flour, 1/2 cup water, 1/8 teaspoon yeast). I figured that 8 or so hours would be equivalent to an overnight rise, so I made the dough that evening. I combined starter, flour, salt, yeast, sugar, margarine, eggs and egg yolk, vanilla extract, anise seed, and orange zest in my stand mixer. I mixed with the dough hook for several minutes, adding a little flour to make the dough less sticky, kneading it until it passed the windowpane test. I covered the dough and let it rise, and refrigerated it when I went to bed. I think shaping would have been easier if I’d done it before refrigerating the dough.
The next morning, I peeled the dough out of my work bowl. I weighed it into 3 equal parts. The dough was very sticky, so I had difficulty shaping the pieces into 18-inch ropes. Working on a piece of parchment paper, I braided the ropes together from the center of the ropes outward; once one half was braided, I turned the ropes around and braided it backwards the rest of the way. I didn’t have much luck maintaining the braid when I sealed the ends together to form a ring. I boiled some water, poured it into a pan in the oven, and placed the braid wreath (with its parchment) on a pan in there to rise in the steam for about an hour (while I walked the dog and showered). The dough was very slack, and it didn’t maintain a very sturdy braid structure as it rose; the ropes melded together and lost definition.
I baked the wreath for 15 minutes at 375F, and another 15 at 350F. I let it cool for a little while, and then I glazed it with a mixture of powdered sugar and orange juice.
The vanilla fruit salad was pretty good. Toasted walnuts were a nice addition, adding something more interesting to the fruit. Does the vanilla add anything? I think so – otherwise it would just be yogurt and honey (still tasty, just not as special). I don’t generally make fruit salads – I eat plain fruit, usually – but this was a nice change of pace. I’d make this fruit salad again. It felt healthy but special.
The bread was tasty enough. It was subtly flavored with orange and anise; since I used aniseed rather than ground anise, the anise flavor was strong in some bites. I liked having the orange glaze on top since the bread itself wasn’t too sweet. The bread was chewy yet tender. It had great, bready texture thanks to strong gluten development since the dough was kneaded well. You could tear it apart easier than you could cut it. I overbaked it a little bit, though; it was a little dry if you didn’t have enough glaze.
I’m not sure if I would make the bread again. The flavor was great (particularly the glaze!), but the dough was difficult to work with, and I felt like it was a little too much work to shape the wreath. If I made the bread again, I would likely shape it differently or just bake it in a pan.