Writings on curious recipes, food I've tasted around the world and the quest for finding the perfect blueberry muffin.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Hen - At my artistic limit

In case the last few posts hadn't already hinted at it - I kind of have a thing for baking. It's not just that I find it fascinating that one can take as little as 6 ingredients and make this or believe that I can win over anyone with these, or love the incredible smell of cinnamon, browned butter and toasted nuts that fills the apartment or.. okay, it is definitely all that. But actually, what I love most about home-made baked goods, is that they are pure. No preservatives, no flavor enhancers, no food coloring. Just honest ingredients. 

The other day, for example, we were sitting around the table and a friend of mine opened a packaged colomba -  a sweet yeasted Easter bread in the shape of a dove, found everywhere in Italy around this time.  Admittedly he had received it as a gift from a gas station, but still I was appalled at the 15+ unpronounceable ingredients they had managed to put into it. I immediately imagined how much better a home-made one would be - one with real milk and organic eggs and none of the unpronounceable stuff - and so, when my mom said she was going out to buy a Easter hen (the more traditional form in South Tyrol), I told her not to and that I would make one (she still went out and got one, in case, I, you know, failed...).

Here's to hoping the bought one goes stale, because my hen turned out plenty delicious. 

Easter Hen
Makes one large or two smaller Easter hens

While I find it delicious, it is not very sweet. If you want a sweeter dough you might want to up the sugar by a few tablespoons. This makes a wonderful Easter gift. Bring this instead of bought chocolates and secure an invitation for next year! 

30g // 1 oz of fresh yeast (I assume one could use 2 scant teaspoons of dry yeast)
1 tablespoon of sugar
200 ml // 6,7 fl oz of milk, lukewarm
500g of flour // 4 cups of flour
80 g // 5 1/2 tablespoons of butter
70 g // 5 tablespoons of sugar
1 medium egg
3 medium egg yokes
2 teaspoons of vanilla sugar
2 teaspoons of lemon zest
5 ml // 1 teaspoon of rum
7 g // 1 teaspoon of salt

Milk to coat the hens
Raisins, and coarse sugar to decorate

Mix yeast, sugar and milk and let it sit, covered at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Combine flour, butter, sugar, egg, egg yokes, vanilla sugar, lemon zest, rum and salt in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture and knead into a elastic dough. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise for about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 190-200°C // 375-400°F. 

Divide dough in half and cover the half you are not working with. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper roll out dough, about 2 cm // 3/4 inch thick. Cut out the form of a hen - you can use this as a help if you are as artistic as me. Let it rise on the sheet for another 10 minutes, then brush it with milk, decorate it as you wish and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. 

While the first hen is baking and your kitchen is beginning to smell more amazing by the second, repeat the process with the second half of the dough. 

Enjoy warm (is there anything better?) or - if you are making this as a gift - cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it cool down to room temperature. Best on the day it is baked.

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