With all the St. Patrick’s Day preparations I’ve been making, I almost forgot that Easter is right around the corner! In my search for Easter fare, I found (yet another) Eastern European bread recipe that I fell in love with. Traditionally, a large loaf of this bread is made for the Easter table and the leftover dough is fashioned into little dolls for the children of the family.
The dough itself is easy to make, but it is a yeast bread so plan ahead for rising time. While you are waiting you can boil and dye your eggs (or doll heads).
I dyed my eggs the plain, old-fashioned way. Food coloring, vinegar and hot water.
My luck with yeast breads has been spotty at best, but I did just fine with this one. The dough is a little elastic so it takes a bit of rolling when you are ready to “dress” your dolls.
I have left the recipe exactly as I found it (verbatim) on the printable recipe card, but after watching this video I decided to divide my dough a little differently. I thought I’d let you have a look at both techniques and decide what works best for you. (In other words, if you are a person who wants exact portion instructions I’d suggest using the specifications on the recipe card.)
I divided my dough into uneven portions, one a little larger than the other. If I had to give a portion size, I’d say a generous 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup dough.
Roll out each portion until they are long and thin. You’ll make a “T”, with the larger portion being the top and the smaller portion being the middle.
Where the “T” intersects you will place a dyed egg. You ‘ll need to gently squish it down into the dough until it feels stable and will not roll away. Bring the sides of the “T” in…
…crossing one side over the other. It’s almost as if you are wrapping the egg-head in a scarf.
(I know you are loving my technical explanations)
Now you are ready to braid!
When all the dolls are braided, snip them evenly at the ends with a pair of kitchen scissors.
Traditionally, you would make two smaller pieces of dough to cross over the face of the head/egg. This is used to make extra sure the egg stays in place. I didn’t like how it looked and my eggs were securely braided in and very stable. I like them better plain.
They are usually served as pictured above… but I just couldn’t help myself. Something within me could not let these go faceless!
I used food safe markers to draw faces on after the breads baked. I keep Wilton color writers on hand, and they worked well.
Although this bread was easy to make, I did have a couple of glitches I’d like to mention. A couple of my dyed eggs became splotchy during the baking process. They were still pretty, but not perfect. My suggestion would be to dye a few more eggs than you think you’ll need. I was able to pop out the ugly egg-heads and replace them with pretty, perfect ones. Again, after the baking process, when removing the egg-head I found that the dye had bled onto the bread. If you have an aversion to food coloring then this may not be the project for you. I have no problem eating a pink bread.
The egg is completely edible after baking (I had one for lunch yesterday). The bread is just slightly sweet and reminds me a little of pretzel dough, only softer.
Croatian Easter Bread Dolls
Yields 12 dolls
2 cups milk
1 package active dry yeast
2 large beaten eggs
½ cup sugar
½ cup (1 stick) softened butter
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups all-purpose flour
12 large hard-cooked colored eggs
Scald milk and cool to lukewarm. Add the yeast and set aside. Meanwhile, in a large bowl or stand mixer, combine eggs, sugar, butter and salt, mixing well. Add the yeast-milk mixture and half the flour and beat well. Add remaining flour gradually, until a smooth, soft dough forms. You may not use all the flour or may require more. (I used all but ⅓ cup) Place dough in a large greased bowl, turning to coat both sides, and let rise, covered, until doubled. Punch down and turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead 2 minutes. Divide dough into 36 equal pieces (divide dough into 3 pieces, then each into 3 pieces again, then each into 4 pieces). Cover and allow to rest 5 minutes. (I did the dividing a little differently – see sprinklebakes.com for more info) Heat oven to 375 degrees. Using 3 pieces per doll, roll into 3 (12-inch) long ropes. Begin by aligning the 3 pieces side by side. Put an egg near the top of the ropes. Pull the center rope down over the middle of the egg, tucking the end under. Pull the left strip over and down under the right side of the egg, and the right strip over and down under the left side of the egg. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, as long as some of the colored egg shows through. Braid the remainder of the rope, below the egg, and pinch the bottom ends together. Place doll on parchment-lined baking sheet. Continue with remainder of dough balls. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise slightly. Egg wash the dolls with 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely. By the way, the hard-cooked egg tastes just fine after being baked. The yolk might have a green sulfur ring around it but that doesn’t affect the taste. Makes 12 Croatian Easter Bread Dolls.
I had so much fun making these, and having some little helpers around would only increase the fun! I love learning about others’ traditions and I think it enriches our lives and those around us when shared.
Until next time!