Bonnie’s Egg Bread

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Two things conspired to formulate this post. One: I had Egg Cheese whey in the fridge, and Two: I had volunteered to bring Bonnie’s Egg Bread to the Easter dinner with my husband’s family. This recipe is a tradition in our Martin family. It was made originally by my dear sister-in-law, Bonnie, but she called it Grandma’s Egg Bread, because it was one her grandma in the States used to make. Bonnie was tragically killed at the age of thirty-two in a fluke accident eighteen years ago, along with her husband, Sandy; my husband’s brother. She was a vibrant person who flung her whole being into everything she did. She and Sandy were wonderful parents for those six short years, and we still miss them terribly at our family gatherings. We recall and imitate Sandy’s most common greeting, “Hey, (insert name). God is good!” Everywhere he went; at work, at church, and at home; this was his salutation, and he lived as though he meant it. So we make this bread in memory of Bonnie, and reminisce about them, wondering what they would think of their three children all grown up into strong young adults now. In fact, their oldest son is getting married this summer! Another milestone reached.

As I twist and braid the ropes of this bread together, another memory surfaces. I was the oldest of seven girls (yes, you read that correctly; SEVEN!), and from the time our hair was long enough, it got braided into two braids. There were also two boys, but thank goodness, their hair didn’t require braiding. On Sunday morning, Mom would be busy getting the baby ready for church, and combing the little toddler’s hair while Dad peeled and sliced many pounds of potatoes for the Sunday dinner of scalloped potatoes with sausage: one of our favourites. It was also an easy meal to prepare for up to thirty potential diners, since we rarely knew who would be showing up for dinner after church. We two oldest girls would set up our makeshift hair salon in the washroom; each of us braiding a younger sister’s hair as she perched on a low stool in front of us. We became masters at braiding; not too tight, not too loose, but just right. We heard squawks of displeasure or discomfort if it wasn’t just right. Then we piled into our big station wagon and trundled off to church, all spiffed up, with our braids swinging jauntily.

I muse how the rising of the bread is so symbolic of this Easter season where we commemorate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was “punched down” into death, only to rise again in three days, undefeated by the ultimate enemy. Without that life-changing event, we would have no hope of ever seeing Bonnie and Sandy again. With it, we as separate people are braided together in a common love; knotted tightly together at each end.

See why I say baking bread is therapeutic for me? Look at all the memories that just this one type of bread unleashed!

I use fresh eggs that are picked up by Pullets Plus at local farms and then delivered to us at Martins Family Fruit Farm, all nicely cleaned and graded. These eggs, used with the whey drained from the Egg Cheese, combine to make one of the tastiest breads ever. Its soft, slightly sweet golden interior and glistening seeded crust will look stunning in a basket on your Easter table. It’s a rich, almost Brioche-type of bread, perfect for a special occasion.

Eggs should be stored in the fridge for optimum freshness, especially after being washed. As it is with apples and peaches, the bloom, which is the shell’s natural protective coating, is removed when they are washed. I learned this a couple of years ago, and was intrigued by the similarity to apples.

 

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The finished product, all toasty brown. 

Bonnie's Egg Bread

Ingredients

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  • 2 cups scalded milk or heated egg cheese whey
  • 1/2 cup cooking oil or butter
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3/4 cup white sugar (I use only a half cup)
  • 3 large eggs, beaten lightly
  • 2 packages ( 2 tablespoons) rapid-rise yeast
  • 7 1/2 – 9 cups all-purpose or bread flour
  • 1 egg, whisked with 2 tablespoons water for egg wash
  • sesame seeds

Directions

Turn oven light on to provide a warm place for the bread to rise. Heat milk or whey until steam begins to rise. Measure the oil, sugar, and salt into a large bowl. Add milk or whey and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Let cool until the mixture is warm, not hot. Whisk the lightly beaten eggs into the warm liquid. Stir the yeast into 2 cups of the flour, and whisk the flour into the liquid. Continue adding the flour, a cup or 2 at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition. When the mixture is too stiff to stir easily, turn it out onto a thickly floured surface. Sprinkle a little flour into the bowl and you should be able to scrape out the dough fragments that cling to the bowl. Add them to the dough and continue adding, folding, and kneading in the rest of the flour until you have a dough that is smooth and soft, but not sticky. Sprinkle a little more flour in the bottom and sides of the bowl to keep it from sticking. Shape the dough into a round ball, and put it into the bowl. Toss a bit more flour on top of the dough. Cover with a large plastic bag or a slightly moistened tea towel and place in the oven with the light on or another warm, draft-free place to rise.

When the dough has doubled in size, usually about 60 to 90 minutes, punch down and cut into 6 (or 9, for the smaller loaves) even portions. Roll each portion into long ropes, about 1 1/2″ thick for the large loaves and 1″ for the small, and 16″- 20″ long. Pinch 3 of them together at the top, and begin braiding loosely, pinching them together again at the bottom. Tuck the top and bottom underneath the braid a little. Repeat with the remaining ropes. Grease large baking sheets and place each braided loaf in the centre. I like to use greased parchment paper on the pans to keep the egg wash from sticking. Cover and let rise again until doubled. This second rising will probably only take half an hour if your kitchen is warm. Preheat oven to 350° F. While oven is heating, uncover the loaves and brush them with the egg wash. Sprinkle the tops with sesame seeds. Bake the loaves for approximately 25 minutes until they are a deep golden colour. Remove from oven and allow to cool on wire racks. Slide a metal lifter under the loaves to loosen  before removing from the pans. Cool completely before slicing. I slice them into 18 – 20 pieces.

Yields 2 large or 3 small loaves

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