Osterbrot, German Easter Bread
EVENT: SHHH COOKING SECRETLY
THEME: EASTER BREADS
RECIPE: OSTERBROT, GERMAN EASTER BREAD
Osterbrot, German Easter Bread is soft, fragrant, sweet and rich. Its the German version of Jewish Challah or the Italian Easter Bread. Enjoy the bread for breakfast or at teatime. Leftover bread can be made into a bread pudding or French Toast. Actually, didn’t have any leftover as we toasted the slices lightly and finished it off slathered with butter and marmalade. The bread stayed fresh at room temperature for 2 days. The remaining I stored in the fridge in an airtight container.
A Bit About Easter Breads
Many European Countries have a tradition of baking bread that is connected to Easter and Good Friday. The practise of eating sweetened bread as communion actually goes back to the Byzantium and the Orthodox Christian church times. While many of the European countries still follow the tradition, for some it is more an Easter food to enjoy rather than signifying any religious or traditional custom.
As a matter of fact, the shape of the Easter Bread signified different things. Breads shaped as the wreath symbolizes the thorn crown worn by Jesus. Braided, especially with three braids signifies the Holy Trinity. You may have noticed that many Easter Breads have a whole egg or eggs and is baked along with the bread. The egg signifies rebirth, Jesus Christ rising from the dead.
Generally, sweetened breads are more popular as Easter Bread but some make savory ones too filled with ham, cheese and herbs.
Some of the more popular Easter breads are Hot Cross Buns, Kulich, Paska, Babka, Cozonac, Pinca, Tsoureki, Mazanec, Pizza Di Pasqua, Folar, Hornazo,are a few examples.
So far I’ve only made two:
Hot Cross Buns – finally got that struck off my list after ages.
Italian Easter Bread, egg free. Instead of baking the bread with an egg I used egg shaped candy.
Osterbrot, German Easter Bread
While the texture of most of the Easter Breads are similar, what sets them apart is the flavours that each region or Country uses. Many of the Italian Breads have anise oil or orange blossom water. Tsoureki, the Greek Easter Bread would taste different without mahlab. Some breads require a fairly large quantity of eggs like paska which actually contributes to the soft and cake like texture of the bread. My initial plan was to bake paska or tsoureki. Both ideas got shelved as for the former I didn’t have the right tin for the extra tall shape and for the latter I didn’t have mahlab. So then I settled for Osterbrot, German Easter Bread.
Osterbrot can be shaped two ways – either as a boule and then a cross is scored (cut with a blade) on it. The second way is to braid it. If you braid it then you don’t need to score it. I am so bad at scoring bread that I should have opted for the braid. Well, I guess I thought I’d try. It didn’t work at all as you can see from the photos, there is no resemblance of a cross on top of the bread. Sometimes having the right tools helps. So on my shopping list when I go abroad is a scoring blade.
Some Tips to Follow to Bake Osterbrot:
Cross or no cross, I don’t regret baking Osterbrot at all. So flavorful, soft and absolutely delicious. What I’d do differently is probably tent the bread after the initial 10 minutes and not wait for 15 minutes. The top of the bread browned too quickly for my liking. Reducing the temperature from the beginning is not an option as the high temperature gives the required rise to the bread. The steam bath is a must as it gives a beautiful crust. It will not be crunchy or crispy like the sourdough bread one, but makes it slightly chewy. A chewy crust and soft crumb… perfect for dipping the bread slice in some coffee, tea or even milk.
A bit about the group:
Every month a new theme is chosen by members. Then the participants are paired up. They give each other 2 secret ingredients to use in their recipe which is prepared fitting the theme. As soon as their dish is ready, the photo is shared on our Facebook group and other try and guess the secret ingredients. Finally, towards the end of the month the recipe is shared on the group. This way members get to know each other and interact with each other.
This Month’s Theme
This month, Renu who blogs at Cook With Renu suggested EASTER BREADS as the theme. Renu’s blog is a treasure trove of traditional and International recipes. You’ve got to check out her recipe on Easter Bunny Buns with all the tips she has given. They are so so cute and definitely worth trying. The Easter Bread theme suited me fine as I had planned to bake an Easter Bread anyway. Renu baked Paska Easter Bread. Click on the name for the recipe. I’m now tempted to bake it as soon as possible.
My partner this month is Sujata who blogs at Batter Up With Sujata. Sujata’s blog is a mixture of unusual cookies, Bengali dishes and some modern recipes too. On my list to try is her Multigrain Bread Peanut Butter. I’ve yet to bake a bread with peanut butter. I suggested that Sujata uses rosemary and mushrooms as her preference was savory. With those ingredients she has made a delicious looking Casatiello. Definitely going on my list to try. My preference was sweet so she gave me milk and orange zest.
Ingredients Required For Osterbrot, German Easter Bread
- Plain Flour – or Bread Flour
- Raisins – preferably the small Zante Raisins are used but I couldn’t find any so used normal brown raisins. Soak them in hot water for at least 30 minutes.
- Almonds – soaked in hot milk or water for 30 -60 minutes.
- Yeast – I have used instant active dry yeast. For the sponge and the bread dough.
- Milk – for the sponge and the bread dough
- Sugar – I used normal white sugar
- Butter – use either salted or unsalted. If you use salted, reduce the amount of salt you add to the dough.
- Orange or Lemon Zest – use either one of them. I used orange zest.
- Egg – medium, at room temperature. Lightly whisked.
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OSTERBROT, GERMAN EASTER BREAD
FOR THE SPONGE:
- 1½ cups plain or bread flour
- ¼ tsp instant active dry yeast
- 1 cup milk at room temperature (150ml)
- 1 cup raisins
- ⅓ cup almonds
- ½ cup hot water
- ½ cup hot milk
FOR THE BREAD DOUGH:
- sponge all of it
- 1½ cups plain or bread flour
- 4 tbsp sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp instant active dry yeast
- 1 medium egg lightly whisked
- 4 tbsp butter at room temperature
- 1 tsp orange zest
- soaked raisins drained and patted dry with a kitchen towel
- soaked almonds drained, peeled and chopped
- 1 tbsp milk
- 1 tbsp apricot jam
- some almond flakes
- ¼ cup flour for dusting
- 1 tbsp butter for greasing and rubbing over the dough
PREPARATION OF THE SPONGE:
- Add the ingredients for the sponge into a large mixing bowl.
- Mix it using a spatula or a spoon. It will be like a shaggy dough.
- Cover the bowl with cling film and allow it ferment for 2 hours.
SOAKING THE RAISINS AND ALMONDS:
- Put the raisins in a bowl. Add hot water. Mix gently and allow them to soak for 30 minutes.
- Put the almonds in a bowl. Add hot milk. Mix gently and allow them to soak for 30 minutes.
- Drain out the water from the raisins. Pat dry the raisins with a kitchen towel and keep on the side till required.
- Drain out the milk from the almonds. Peel the almonds.
- Cut about 6-8 almonds into slivers for the topping.
- Chop the rest into halves.
PREPARATION OF THE DOUGH:
- Add flour, sugar, whisked egg, yeast, orange zest and salt to the sponge.
- Knead everything into a dough.
- Dust the work top with some flour. Remove the dough from the bowl onto the worktop.
- Start kneading the dough, adding very little flour if required. Don't add too much flour.
- The dough will feel sticky but knead it if possible without adding flour. Instead use the measured butter little at a time.
- Knead the dough for 5-7 minutes.
- Add the soaked raisins and almonds. Using the remaining butter knead the dough till it is soft and silky. By now it should not be too sticky. It may stick a bit to your fingers but that is fine.
- Grease the bowl with some butter.
- Shape the dough into a boule. Rub some butter over it. Place it in the prepared bowl.
- Cover with a damp towel or cling film and allow the dough to ferment for 30 -45 minutes.
- Dust the worktop again with some flour.
- Take the dough out of the bowl. Knead it very gently.
- Shape the dough into a tight boule.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a silicon mat.
- Place the dough boule onto the parchment paper or silicon mat.
- Cover it with a damp cloth or cling film and allow it to ferment or rise for 30 minutes.
- Score the the top with a cross. Allow the dough to rise for a further 15 -20 minutes.
- In the meantime, preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Place a tray with water at the bottom shelf. This will help create the steam.
- Brush the top of the bread lightly with some milk. Can use the milk that you soaked almonds in.
- Open the oven BUT BE CAREFUL AS THERE WILL BE STEAM.
- Place the bread dough in the oven.
- Bake for 15 -20 minutes till the top is golden brown.
- Cover the bread with some foil so that the top does not burn. BE CAREFUL AS THERE WILL BE STEAM IN THE OVEN. Wear oven mitts to prevent your hands from burning or scalding.
- Reduce the heat to 180°C.
- Bake further for 20 -25 minutes.
- Remove the bread from the oven. BE CAREFUL AS THERE WILL BE STEAM IN THE OVEN.
- Place the bread on a wire rack.
- While the bread is still hot brush the top with the apricot jam.
- Sprinkle the almond slivers on top. Allow the bread to cool down completely before you slice it.
- Enjoy Osterbrot on its own or with some butter and marmalade or jam of your choice.
- Make sure you pat dry the soaked raisins otherwise it will make the dough to sticky.
- Instead of brushing jam on the baked bread you can sprinkle some pearl sugar.
- Or you can add glace icing once the bread cools down.
- Add lemon zest instead of orange zest.
- Some add only raisins. You can choose to use only raisins or both raisins and almonds like I did.
- For topping you can use ready made almond flakes.
- For a light bread, avoid adding too much flour when you knead the dough.
- Can knead the dough in a dough kneader with the kneading paddle.
- Can braid the dough instead of shaping into a boule.
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