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Hop to it and practice baking Easter breads

Gene Groner shares two recipes for Easter bread with us. The first is a sweet bread flavored with lemon juice and peel and is prepared in the traditional way. The second recipe includes Asiago or Parmesan cheese and makes use of a bread machine. It includes measurements for a 1-pound loaf or a 1{-pound loaf.

Are you looking for a dessert that satisfies your sweet tooth, but does not break the calorie bank? Carolyn Pizzullo remembers an apple pie made with diet lemon-lime soda, but she needs the recipe. Sliced apples are put in a pie plate and covered with a mixture of diet soda, unflavored gelatin and artificial sweetener. Sprinkle with nonfat dry milk and a bit of cinnamon, and bake until the apples are done.

The pie will set up as it cools.

Several readers found another pie recipe in a Weight Watchers cookbook from the 1970s.

For: Viola Furman of Tarpon Springs.

From: Gene Groner of St. Petersburg.

Recipe: Easter Bread.

Easter Bread

2\-ounce packages active dry yeast

{ cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)

4 eggs

6 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

} cup (1{ sticks) butter or margarine, melted

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons grated lemon peel

2 cups warm milk (110 to 115 degrees)

9} to 10\ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup golden raisins

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and yolks until lemon-colored. Gradually add sugar. Add butter, salt, vanilla, lemon juice and peel; beat well. Blend in milk and yeast mixture. Add six cups of flour; beat until smooth. By hand, stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with raisins; knead for 5 more minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into thirds. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Shape each portion into a loaf and place in greased 8- by 4-inch loaf pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden. Remove from pans to cool on wire racks. Makes 3 loaves.

Recipe: Italian Easter Bread (bread machine). Measurements are for a 1-pound loaf. Measurements for a 1{-pound loaf are in parentheses.

Italian Easter Bread

2\ cups bread flour (3 cups)

1 tablespoon dry milk (1{ tablespoons)

1 teaspoon sea salt (1{ teaspoons)

\ teaspoon white pepper ({ teaspoon)

{ cup grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese (} cup)

} cup water (1 cup)

2 large eggs, beaten (3)

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided (3)

2 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)

Fit the kneading blade firmly on the shaft in the bread pan. Carefully measure the dry ingredients and transfer to the pan. Add the water and eggs, 1 tablespoon (or 2 tablespoons) oil and yeast. Place the bread pan inside the machine and close the lid.

Program the breadmaker for the white bread dough mode. The unit will begin its operation.

At the end of the rising cycle, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest 10 minutes. With floured hands, shape the dough into a round loaf. Place the dough in a lightly oiled 8-inch (or 9-inch) round cake pan. Cover loosely and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. Brush the top of the dough with 1 tablespoon olive oil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Transfer bread to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

For: Carolyn Pizzullo of Spring Hill and Barbara Wilson of St. Petersburg.

From: Emilia Smith of Weeki Wachee and Stephanie Wayne of Bayonet Point.

Recipe: Weight Watchers Crustless Apple Pie.

Weight Watchers Crustless Apple Pie

4 medium apples (Stephanie prefers Granny Smith)

16 ounces lemon-lime diet soda

2 packages unflavored gelatin

3 packages sugar substitute (or 2 teaspoons liquid sweetener)

cup nonfat dry milk

Ground cinnamon

Peel and slice apples into a 9-inch pie plate. Heat soda, unflavored gelatin and sweetener. Pour over apples. Sprinkle dry milk over top of apples and soda mixture. Sprinkle with cinnamon to taste. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Filling will be thin. Cool, then refrigerate until set.

From: Aggi Tansey of Weeki Wachee and Denise Harrison and Ruth Hill, both of St. Petersburg.

Recipe: Spicy Apple Pie, from a Weight Watchers cookbook from the 1970s.

Spicy Apple Pie

Pie crust:

2 slices fresh enriched white bread, made into crumbs

Artificial sweetener to equal 2 teaspoons sugar

\ teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons water

Fruit filling:

4 medium apples

Citrus-flavored diet soda

Glaze:

2 to 3 tablespoons hot liquid left from cooking fruit after cooking down

Reserved apple peelings

} teaspoon apple pie spice (or ground cinnamon and dash of ground nutmeg)

Artificial sweetener to taste

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

\ cup diet soda (any flavor)

Few drops food coloring (optional)

To make crust, place bread crumbs in mixing bowl. Add sweetener, extract and water. Mix to a smooth paste. Press into 8-inch pie pan; refrigerate.

For filling, peel (reserve peelings), core and slice apples. Cover with diet soda and bring to boil. Cook covered until apples are just tender (don't overcook). Transfer apples to piecrust and reserve cooking liquid.

To prepare glaze, add apple peelings to cooking liquid and cook at high heat until reduced to 3 tablespoons of liquid. Strain; add apple pie spice and artificial sweetener to liquid. Soften gelatin in beverage and dissolve in hot cooking liquid or hot beverage. (Add food coloring, if desired.) Spread glaze evenly over fruit filling. Serve pie immediately or refrigerate and serve chilled. Makes 4 servings.

Note: This cookbook uses the exchange system rather than the points plan used now by Weight Watchers. According to an earlier diet program, the whole pie counts as 4 fruits and 1 milk.

Apricot: Cook 12 sliced apricots in cream-flavored diet soda to cover. Transfer fruit to pie crust and reserve cooking liquid for making glaze.

Peach or plum: Cook 4 medium peaches or 4 large plums in orange-flavored diet soda; add almond extract if desired. Add yellow food coloring to peach glaze and red to plum.

Strawberry: Cook 4 cups hulled strawberries in water just long enough to draw juices; sweeten artificially if you wish.

Recipe requests

Susan Upshur of Spring Hill loved the dense, rich tunnel of fudge chocolate cake her grandmother made in a Bundt pan. The cake had a fudge center, and used packages of chocolate cake mix and fudge frosting mix.

The recipe for Dutch letters is the recipe Louise Armstrong of St. Petersburg wants. Louise writes that flaky pastry has an almond filling and is usually shaped in an "S." Louise adds that bakeries in Pella, Iowa, are famous for this delicacy.

You Asked for It is a reader mail column. If you have a cooking question or the answer to someone else's question, write to: You Asked for It, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Be sure to include your full name, city and phone number with your letter. Letters without this information will be discarded. Requests cannot be answered by phone or mail.

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