Italian Easter Bread

I married into a big, Italian family with lots of food traditions. My favorite? Easter bread. It’s a sweet loaf covered in sprinkles. They serve it as a side dish at the big family Easter party and then we eat leftovers for breakfast until it runs out. I look forward to it every year.

Mark’s Grandmother used to make it every year for everyone in the family. Then, when she wasn’t able to, his Uncle took over the tradition. When she passed away, I got a copy of her recipe so I could continue making it.

It was easier said than done, though. Her recipe is finicky and gives hit-or-miss results. When it turns out, you get this beautiful loaf of sweet bread; When it doesn’t, you get a nice mess. After one-too-many failed attempts to duplicate her bread, I started browsing the internet for another recipe.

This recipe is close to hers, though there are a few key differences. The results taste the same, though, and I’ve yet to have a failed batch. Most importantly, it has gotten Mark’s seal of approval.


Italian Easter Bread
(from The Italian Dish)
Makes 2 braided loaves

2 1/4 t. instant yeast
1 1/4 c. scalded milk, cooled to room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/3 c. butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c.sugar
3 1/2 c. flour (approximate)
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast, warm milk, salt, butter, eggs and sugar. Add in about half the flour and beat until smooth using a dough hook. Slowly add the remaining flour until a stiff dough forms. Don’t worry about how much flour it ends up being, just keep adding until the dough is not sticky anymore.  Knead until smooth with a dough hook or turn the dough out on floured board and knead. Place the ball of dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.

Punch dough down, divide into 6 pieces.  Roll each piece to form a 1 inch thick rope. Using three dough ropes, braid together and pinch ends to seal. Repeat with the remaining three dough ropes.

Transfer the braids to a greased baking sheet.  Cover and let rise until double, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees

Brush each loaf with the beaten egg wash.  Decorate with sprinkles.

Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.


Flour Tortillas

I’m a self-taught cook. One of my biggest self-imposed obstacles is that I assume everything is going to be hard to make.

I’ve had this tortilla recipe bookmarked for nearly a year but making my own tortillas seemed like such a project. I finally had time last weekend to do some kitchen projects and decided to make these. Imagine my surprise when I was done in a half hour! These weren’t hard at all and they were so much better than store-bought.

Have you tackled any recipes that intimidate you recently?

Flour Tortillas
(from Confections of a Foodie Bride)
Makes 12

3 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1 heaping t. salt
5 T. shortening, lard, softened butter, or olive oil (I used shortening)
3/4 c. warm water

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the shortening and pulse until incorporated and the mixture is crumbly.

With the food processor running, slowly add the water until a ball of dough forms. Continue to process for another 30 seconds to knead the dough.

On a floured surface, divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Cover with a towel to avoid drying out. Taking one piece at a time, roll into a 8″ circle.

In a heated pan, add one tortilla at a time, cooking for 10-20 seconds, flipping and cooking for another 10-20 seconds. Remove to a plate and keep covered with a towel to keep warm.

Garlic-Cheddar Biscuits

Have you noticed the lack of seafood recipes on this blog? There’s a good reason for it: I really don’t like fish. I’ve tried it a few times in hopes that my tastes have changed, but no dice.

So, it goes without saying that I’m not a fan of Red Lobster.  I’m the person who goes and orders the one chicken dish on the menu. Their biscuits, though, are something I can get on board with.

These simple biscuits are a copycat of what they serve in the restaurant. They’re a little crunchy on the outside but nice and soft inside.  The butter brushed over the top soaks in and makes these an awesome treat.

Garlic-Cheddar Biscuits
(from Lettuce Pray, as seen on The Girl Who Ate Everything)
Makes 4 large biscuits

1 1/4  c. Bisquick
2 T. cold butter
1/2 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
1/3 c. milk
1/4 t. garlic powder

1 1/2 T. butter
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. dried parsley

 Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Prep a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper or spraying with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, cut cold butter into Bisquick until you have pea-sized chunks of butter. Mix in cheddar, milk and garlic powder until just combined.
Drop 1/4 cup scoops onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10-13 minutes, until tops are lightly brown.
While the biscuits are baking, melt remaining butter and stir in garlic powder and parsley. Brush over tops of baked biscuits with a pastry brush.
Serve warm.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Amish Muffins

This is another recipe that starts with Amish Friendship Bread starter. It’s no secret that I love the peanut butter chocolate combo, and it worked really well in these muffins.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Amish Muffins
(from Friendship Bread Chicken)
Makes about 2 dozen

1 c. Amish Friendship Bread Starter
3 eggs
1 c. milk
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1 t. cinnamon
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
2 c. flour
1 c. peanut butter
1 c. chocolate chips
1 small box vanilla instant pudding

Preheat oven to 325F degrees. Line cupcake pan with cupcake papers.

In a large mixing bowl, add ingredients as listed. Fill tins 2/3 way with batter.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Amish Soft Pretzels

I love soft pretzels – and these were particularly awesome.  The starter gives in a good sour bite, but they’re also still on the sweet side. The dough was quite forgiving to work with.

You can top these with pretty much any spices you like. I just sprinkled salt over most of them, but I made a few topped with herbs de provence and sea salt. Both were awesome!

These also freeze well. To reheat, just pop on a baking sheet in a 350F degree oven until heated through.

Amish Soft Pretzels
(from Friendship Bread Kitchen)
Makes 12

1 c. Amish Friendship Bread Starter
3/4 c. lukewarm water
2 t. yeast
3 c. flour
1/4 c. instant non-fat dry milk
1 T. vegetable oil
2 t. salt
Kosher salt to top pretzels

In a stand mixer bowl with dough hook, add starter, water and yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add rest of ingredients into mixer bowl and mix until dough pulls away from the sides and a ball forms.

Grease a bowl, put in ball of dough and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rest and rise for 1 hour. It won’t rise very much.

Lightly oil work surface. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll out each piece to about 20 inches. Use fingers to roll from inside to outside.

Take dough and make a U shape and then cross, bringing it down to for a pretzel. (You can Youtube this if you need to see an example!) Press dough together so it stays together.

Get 8 to 10 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of baking soda simmering on the stove top.

Place one pretzel at a time in the simmering water for 1 minute. Remove with slotted spoon. Place pretzels, spaced out on a greased pan and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until pretzels are lightly browned. Remove to cooling rack.

Double Chocolate Chip Amish Friendship Bread Muffins

These muffins really surprised me. I whipped them up when I needed something chocolately for a friend. I expected them to be a chocolate version of the classic bread, but they came out quite different – very fluffy and light. The slight sourness of the starter played off the chocolate so well.

I used dark chocolate chips in these, but I think regular chocolate chips and peanut butter chips would also work well.

Double Chocolate Chip Amish Friendship Bread Muffins
(from Friendship Bread Kitchen)
Makes 2 dozen muffins

1 cup Amish Friendship Bread Starter
3 eggs
1 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. milk
1 c. sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 c. unsweeten cocoa powder
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
2 c. flour
1 small box chocolate instant pudding
1 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325F degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, add ingredients except chocolate chips mix well. Fold in chocolate chips at the end.

Line muffin tin with cupcake wrappers and fill about halfway with batter.

Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Amish Cornbread

While I’m really a fan of any bread, cornbread is a particular favorite of mine. And, because of that, I’m quite picky about my cornbread.  I considered not making this because I wasn’t sure if cornbread with a friendship bread base would meet approval, but it totally did.

I recommend smothering it in honey butter and serving it along side a big bowl of chili. I don’t think there’s anything better!

Amish Cornbread
(from Friendship Bread Kitchen)

1 c. Amish Friendship Bread Starter
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. milk
2 t.  sugar
1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. cornmeal
1/4 c. vegetable oil
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking powder

Preheat oven 425F degrees. Grease an 8×8″ pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine starter, eggs, milk, sugar, flour and cornmeal. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.

Add oil, baking soda, salt and baking powder.  Mix well.

Evenly pour batter in pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Amish Friendship Bread Starter & Classic Amish Friendship Bread

When I was in Girl Scouts, I was passed a bag of Amish Friendship Bread starter. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. My Mom dutifully worked the starter for ten days before baking the bread and passing it on to other friends. Growing up in a small town, we received the starter over and over until my Mom just threw it out – after a while, it was simply too much.

I’m not sure what made me think of this, but once it popped into my head I had to have some of that Amish Friendship bread. It’s sweet, chewy and full of cinnamon. So good. After a bit of internet research, I found that I could easily create my own starter. Even better, I found a ton of tips on cutting down the amount of starter you make and other recipes you could make with the starter. It seemed like the perfect cure to the issues my Mom faced during my Girl Scout days.

I’ve now been keeping my starter going for about two months. I was hesitant to blog this at first – ten days of prep is an awful lot of work for some bread – but I’ve been having a great time trying out different recipes with the starter. Today, I’m sharing the recipe for the Amish friendship bread starter and the classic Amish friendship bread recipe. The rest of the week, I’ll be sharing additional recipes using the starter.

Working with Amish friendship bread starter is definitely a lesson in delayed gratification – but I think it’s worth it.

Amish Friendship Bread Starter
(from Moms Who Think)
Makes 1 starter

2 1/4 t. (or 1 package) active dry yeast
1/4 c. warm water (110F degrees)
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. sugar
1 c. warm milk (110F degrees)

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water for about 10 minutes. Stir well.

In a 2 quart glass or plastic container, combine 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or the flour will get lumpy when you add the milk.

Slowly stir in warm milk and dissolved yeast mixture. Transfer to a gallon-sized plastic ziploc bag. Consider this day 1 of the cycle.

Day 1 – Start or receive your starter.
Day 2 – Stir.
Day 3 – Stir.
Day 4 – Stir.
Day 5 – For a full batch, add 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of milk. For a half batch, add 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of milk. Stir.
Day 6 – Stir.
Day 7 – Stir.
Day 8 – Stir.
Day 9 – Stir.
Day 10 – For a full batch, add 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of milk. For a half batch, add 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of milk. Stir.

If you’ve made a full batch, divide the starter into 4 separate containers with 1 cup of starter in each.  If you’ve made a half batch, divide the starter into 2 separate containers of 1 cup of starter in each. These can then be used in friendship bread recipes or given to friends to create their own starter.

Hints and tips:

  • Do not use any metal bowls, spoons, etc. on the starter. It will give your starter a metallic taste. It is okay to use metal when mixing up your friendship bread recipes, though. I keep my starter in a glass canning jar, topped with plastic wrap and a canning ring.
  • The starter should smell yeasty – like bread or beer.
  • The starter may separate. This is fine – just give it a stir!
  • If the bag gets too puffy, let some air out. If you don’t, the bag could explode and you’ll have a mess!
  • Once the starter has been through its first 10-day cycle, it can be frozen. To use it in the future, just let it come to room temperature for a few hours before baking with it.

Classic Amish Friendship Bread
(from Moms Who Think)
Makes 2 loaves

1 c. Amish Friendship Bread Starter
2/3 c. vegetable oil
3 eggs
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 c. sugar
2 c. flour
1 1/4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda

Preheat oven to 325F degrees. Grease two bread pans with butter and sprinkle with sugar instead of flour.

In a large bowl, beat all ingredients together by hand until well blended.

Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans.

Strawberry Cheesecake Muffins

I work from home – as do most of my coworkers – so when we actually see each other on someone’s birthday, it’s an occasion that demands goodies. There happened to be a team meeting on Dawn’s birthday, so I whipped these up to bring in. They were a bit hit at our morning meeting. They’re a bit time-consuming but so good.
I opted for these because they were sweet enough and special enough to pass for a birthday treat while still being acceptable for the morning since we usually end up heading home at lunch time. We work-from-home people don’t do rush hour traffic well!
Strawberry Cheesecake Muffins
(from Food Wanderings in Asia)
Makes 1 dozen muffins
Muffin Batter:
2 . all purpose flour
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 egg
1/4 c. vegetable oil
3/4 c. milk
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. strawberries, cut into small pieces
Cream Cheese Filling:
4 oz. cream cheese
1/3 c. granulated sugar
2 T. beaten egg
1 t. vanilla extract
Cinnamon Streusel:
1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 t. cinnamon
2 T. butter, cold
Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.
For the streusel topping: Sift the flour, sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Whisk together. Add the cold butter and mix with a fork until the mixture looks like coarse wet sand. Set aside.
For the cream cheese filling: Beat the cream cheese, egg, sugar and vanilla in a bowl until smooth.
For the muffin batter: Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in one bowl. Whisk together. In another bowl, beat the milk, oil, egg and sugar. Stir the dry ingredients into the milk mixture gently. Do not overmix. The muffin batter will be slightly lumpy.
Scoop a tablespoon of the muffin batter into each cupcake liner. Sprinkle a few pieces of strawberries. Add a dollop (about a heaping teaspoon) of the cream cheese filling. Sprinkle a little of the cinnamon streusel on top of the filling, followed by another layer of the muffin batter. Add a few more pieces of strawberries. Lastly, sprinkle the cinnamon streusel on top.
Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Jalapeno Cornbread

Cornbread is a favorite of mine, but I’ve had trouble making it at home. It either comes out too crumbly or too much like a corn-flavored cake. This one? Absolutely perfect.

It could be made with or without the jalapenos – I really liked the special kick they added. I made this to go along with the Smokey BBQ Chili and it was a perfect combination.

Jalapeno Cornbread
(From Closet Cooking)

1 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. oil, butter or bacon grease
2 eggs
1 c. cornmeal
1 c. all-purpose flour
2 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced

Mix the buttermilk, oil and eggs.

Mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

Mix the dry ingredients in to the wet and then mix in the jalapeno peppers.

Pour the Mixture into a grease 9×5 inch loaf pan and bake in a preheated 375F oven until a toothpick pushed in the center comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes.