Easter Part One

We have just returned to internet access after a very enjoyable Easter weekend.  I trust you also had a good break.  Easter for us has featured a bit of baking and yeast work and the first thing I cooked was Easter bread with chocolate and almonds from Vefa’s Kitchen, Phaidon’s tome on Greek traditional cooking.

I have to say, of all of Phaidon’s books, this  is my favourite.  Firstly it has great recipes, secondly it has a bit of info on regionality and thirdly it is a beautifully put together book – sparse but good photography and I am a sucker for the blue typeface on white paper.

The bread is basically a plaited loaf where each thread contains chocolate and almonds.  A bit daunting for a novice like me but if you break it down and take each step at a time, not too bad.  The dough consisted of:

4 cups strong white flour
1 1/2 tbsp dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp grated orange zest
4 tbsp lukewarm water
5 tbsp lukewarm milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
5 tbsp melted butter

Combine dry ingredients, add remainder except butter, combine and gradually add in butter and knead.  Allow to rise for and hour or two.  Divide dough into two and roll each piece into a 30 x 40 cm rectangle.  Cut each rectangle into 3 strips.  Brush each strip with beaten egg wash and in each strip lay out 8g of blanched almonds and 30g of choc chips.  Roll each strip into a rope and plait 3 ropes into the bread. 

Allow loaves to rise for another 20 or so minutes then brush with a combined egg yolk and 1 tsp water and sprinkle with slivered almonds.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes in a 200C oven.

Next cab off the rank was a paella from, funnily enough, a book called Paella Paella.  The intention was to cook this over a fire in the back yard but the weather didn’t quite play ball (ok, the weather wasn’t too bad, I just lacked the motivation to get a fire going). Paella de picadello was the go.  This is apparently an Andalusian inspired recipe containing pork, chorizo and beef with raisins soaked in sherry, onions, tomatoes, chillies and moorish spices, plus beef broth and saffron.  Have to say more a risotto than a paella in both cooking technique and finished product but quite nice nonetheless.

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