Recipe of the Week
Italian Christmas bread
1/4 cup warm milk (110 to 115°)
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/2 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter (melted)
2 eggs (at room temperature)
2 tsp. crushed anise seed
2-3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup chopped mixed candied fruit
1 Tbsp. pine nuts
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 Tbsp. butter
Combine the warm milk, yeast, and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Stir to dissolve yeast and set it aside to proof.
Combine honey, butter, eggs, and anise seeds in another bowl and beat with a wire whisk or fork until well-blended, then add yeast mixture.
Combine 1 1/2 cups flour and the salt. Add liquid ingredients to flour and stir to make a soft sticky dough. Add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time, continue to stir until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Place the dough on floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth. Continue to add flour, while kneading, if the dough shows signs of being sticky.
Place dough in a clean bowl, cover with a clean cloth and set aside.
Mix together the candied fruit, pine nuts, and raisins.
Shape dough into a plump ball and pat down the top slightly to form an oval. Place half of the fruit mixture on top of the dough, fold dough over and knead fruit into the dough, then repeat with the rest of the mixture. Continue to knead dough until the fruits are well distributed.
Place the dough in a well-greased bowl, cover with a towel, and set aside to double in bulk, about 1 hour.
Remove the towel and punch dough down. Place dough on a floured work surface and shape dough into a plump round ball. Place the loaf on a well-greased baking sheet that has been lightly dusted with corn meal. Cover the loaf with a clean light cloth and allow dough to rise for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until double in bulk.
Preheat oven to 375°.
Cut a 1/2 inch-deep cross all the way across the top of the loaf with a razor. Place loaf in oven on the middle shelf. 5 minutes after loaf is in oven drop the final Tbsp. of butter on top of the loaf in the middle. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Allow loaf to cool completely before slicing.