Each year, I embrace April with unrestricted optimism. The temperature swings of North Texas’ late winter and early spring are but a memory, and a new season is here to stay.
It’s impossible for me to drive past a garden shop without stopping to “take a peek,” and that usually results in a carload of geraniums in shades of light and deep pink. I love the feel and smell of fresh potting soil as I nestle each plant into its pot, anticipating the visual impact as they grow and mature.
The flowers’ colors, painted by nature, complement Easter’s soft hues of petal green, robin’s egg blue, sunny yellow, and soft pink.
In my kitchen, I display those same colors in the accessories that dot my countertops, the dinnerware and serving pieces I select, and the breads and desserts I bake.
Easter is April 17, and I’m already planning Easter brunch for our family. The table, draped in white linens accented with pastel cotton napkins, will display pale yellow dinnerware, my ceramic bunny collection, and a centerpiece of Springtime Sweet Almond Braid.
This pretty, braided yeast bread, drizzled with icing and garnished with pastel sprinkles, is an Easter tradition in our home.
Since the recipe yields two loaves, it’s also a thoughtful gift to share.
For years, I baked Springtime Sweet Almond Braids for the Junior Charity League Spring Benefit bake sale – a beloved fundraiser for Parkland Hospital’s Rehabilitation Unit. Whether I baked 10 or 16 loaves, they were all sold within minutes. I can still see the smiles on the faces of those who managed to purchase one before they were gone.
If you’ve never baked yeast breads, this recipe is a good starting point. Plus, I can be there in your kitchen to guide you through the steps, thanks to my Celebrating Home video series. The Springtime Sweet Almond Braid tutorial will be on my YouTube channel and my website beginning in early April.
I’d love to see your photos if you give it a try. Happy Easter! Happy Spring!
Springtime Sweet Almond Braid
1 cup milk
½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup water
5 ½ to 6 cups bread flour
½ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 packages active dry yeast (2 scant tablespoons)
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ cup raisins
1 recipe Decorative Glaze
In a medium saucepan, heat milk, butter, and water over medium heat until small bubbles form around the edges. Remove from heat and set aside until lukewarm.
Combine 2 cups of flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. Pour in the milk mixture and beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Add eggs and almond extract and beat well.
Stir in raisins and enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn it out onto a floured counter and knead until smooth. Divide the dough in half. Slice each half into 3 pieces and roll the first 3 into 12-inch ropes with your hands. Braid the ropes to form a long loaf, tuck the ends under, and transfer to a greased cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining bread dough. Cover loaves with a towel and set aside in a warm place to rise.
When the breads have almost doubled in size, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaves 18 to 20 minutes, or until they are golden and sound hollow when tapped with a finger. Remove the breads from the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. When cool, drizzle with decorative glaze and garnish with pastel sprinkles. Serve when the glaze has dried, or wrap breads in freezer wrap and freeze up to several weeks.
1 ½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla
Whisk together confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla until the glaze is smooth and thick.
Yield: 2 loaves