There was an air of excitement and anticipation in my childhood home as Easter approached. The night before the big day, we’d dress up in our Easter dresses with our patent leather shoes and knee socks, attend Easter Vigil Mass, then return home to eat my mom’s version of hot cross buns before we were shooed off to bed. These buns were basically dinner rolls decorated with pastel icing. My holiday memories tend to revolve around food. We’d always have Easter dinner with our friends, the Verhovens; their 5 children plus the 4 of us made for a rowdy gathering, especially after being hyped up on chocolate eggs.
My mom’s decorating was simple, just a flowering branch from the yard in an earthen jug. She would hang pastel colored egg shells. We’d watch my mom blow out the eggs and help dye the shells as Easter approached. There were a LOT of scrambled eggs for breakfast on the mornings leading up to the holiday. Such indelible images in my mind. Having an Easter bread to start the day was a tradition I continue with my family.
Plaited Easter Bread
So when I think of Easter, my thoughts travel back to those freshly baked rolls that we tore into before heading to bed. With full stomachs we excitedly headed upstairs, knowing there would still be leftovers for breakfast. When I learned that our Twelve Loaves theme for March was Holiday Breads, I wanted to make a rich egg bread, fill it with cream cheese, and make sure there was frosting. I broke open my Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and vacillated between brioche and challah until the challah won out.
After mixing all the ingredients together, I gave the dough its initial resting period while I ran errands, then was able to park it in the fridge till I had time to shape it. No kneading required…how about that? I loved the convenience of this dough. I rolled, snipped and braided it over a sweetened cream cheese filling, let the dough rest again, then baked for a half hour. I think this one will be worth repeating for Easter morning.
Cut strips on each side leaving the middle intact. Place filling down center, then criss cross strips over filling.
- • ½ cup + ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
- • 2¼ teaspoons dry active yeast (1 packet)
- • 2¼ teaspoons salt
- • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- • ¼ cup honey
- • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
- • 3½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
- • Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water)
- • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- • ¼ cup sugar
- • 1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
- • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- • Powdered sugar, butter, milk and vanilla to make icing
- Mix the yeast, salt, eggs, honey, and melted butter with the water the bowl of your stand mixer.
- Mix in the flour and with dough hook attachment, mix till flour is all incorporated.
- Cover dough with a cloth and allow to rest at room temperature approximately 2 hours.
- The dough can be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator up to 5 days (after that, freeze).
- When ready to bake, line baking sheet with parchment and dust dough with flour. Roll half of the dough into a rectangle 8 inches by approximately 12 inches. Return other half of dough to a covered container in the refrigerator for later use.
- Cut slits along both longer sides towards the middle at about 1½ inch increments...leaving a strip of uncut dough about 3 inches wide, down the middle of the rectangle. See photo. I cut out and removed a little extra dough on both ends for easier braiding, but that's totally optional.
- Mix cream cheese, sugar, butter and lemon juice till smooth. Spread down the middle of the dough, then plait (braid) the strips by crossing one over the other at a slight angle, to cover the filling. Cover with a dish cloth and let rest for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Add more time if your dough is cold.
- Preheat oven to 350º. Brush loaf with egg wash.
- Bake on the center rack of the oven for about 30 minutes. Cool and ice as desired with a mixture of powdered sugar, butter, milk and vanilla.
Total time does not include proofing times.
Twelve Loaves Holiday Breads:
Look at what our very talented #TwelveLoaves bakers have created this March!
- Grammy’s Italian Easter Bread by Dorothy at Shockingly Delicious
- Hot Cross Buns by Holly at A Baker’s House
- American Irish Soda Bread by Renee at Magnolia Days
- Jamaican Zucchini Spiced Bun by Lyn at The Lovely Pantry
- Plaited Easter Bread with Cream Cheese Filling by Liz at That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Greek Easter Bread by Alice at Hip Foodie Mom