Buttery, rich and decadent, Easter Bread is my favorite thing about this spring holiday, and if I had to choose one bread to take with me to a desert island, it would be this gorgeous veganized version of Italian Pandolce studded with dried fruits and nuts and flavored with a hint of cardamom and fennel.
When veganizing this classic Easter Bread it was easy enough to substitute vegan butter, but replacing the eggs, which give the bread a distinct richness and color was a bit more difficult.After a bit of experimenting I discovered that by adding a little bit of saffron to the mix, the lovely yellowish color was a dead ringer for the original.
Many of you have a lot of questions about vegan baking...about baking in general, so I have put together a few pointers and tips to help make your life less stressful.
Baking Bread Lesson #1:
Don’t be afraid of bread making. Just follow the directions closely and don't make any random substitutions when you don’t have the ingredients, i.e. water for soy milk.
1. Always pre-measure your ingredients. It doesn’t take any extra time, and you will save yourself from forgetting if you added one or two teaspoons of baking soda, or realize that you don’t have enough flour or sugar when you are halfway through the recipe.
2. If you are serious about baking, buy a kitchen scale so you can accurately measure your ingredients. Not all measuring cups were created equal, and some vary as much as a Tablespoon. Trust me, it's worth $20 to shell out for this Ozeri scale.
3. If you don’t have a kitchen scale use the dip and sweep method rather than spooning the flour or sugar into a cup.
Most importantly be patient with the dough. Think of it as a living, breathing thing; a little baby of yeast and flour. It will grow if you treat it tenderly and give it a warm environment to thrive.
Veganized Italian Easter Bread: Pandolce
Adapted from the Vegan Feast Kitchen
1/2 cup warm water
2 tsp dry active baking yeast
1/4 tsp saffron
1/2 cup (4 oz) almond or soy milk
1/4 cup (2 oz) granulated sugar
3 Tbs vegan butter (I love Earth Balance)
Grated zest of one orange
4 tsp orange flower water (optional if you can’t find it)
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
2 3/4 cup unbleached white flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup golden raisins, dried currants, and chopped dried apricot (or cherries, cranberries, dark raisins...really any kind of dried fruit you like chopped)
1/3 cup chopped lightly toasted pine nuts, pecans, walnuts, or pistachios (or a combo)
1. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup combine yeast and saffron. Add warm water and let sit for about 7-10 minutes, until bubbly. (The older your yeast is the longer it will take.)
Yeast bubbling in water
2. In a small saucepan, heat the milk until it bubbles around the edges. (You don't want it to boil because too hot of liquid will kill the yeast.) Add the sugar and margarine and stir to dissolve. Let cool for about 3 minutes or until it is just warm to the touch. Add to the yeast/water mixture.
3. Pour the milk mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add orange zest, orange flower water, vanilla, salt, fennel and ground cardamom. Stir in wheat germ and 1 cup of flour. Beat slowly at first and then gradually speed up to about medium so you don't splash the flour everywhere.
4. As the wet ingredients combine with the dry gradually add the flour in 1/3 of a cup at a time. Resist the temptation to add it all in at once. You will regret having to clean up the flour later.
5.Once the dough has come together you can either turn it out onto a very lightly floured surface to knead it with oiled hands, or change to the dough hook and knead it in the bowl while you are cleaning up the dishes. Knead about 5-10 minutes or until dough is smooth like a baby's bottom.
6.When the dough is smooth, turn out into a lightly oiled bowl. Coat the top with a tiny bit of oil then cover with a clean, damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1.5 hours. If the dough isn't rising don't get frustrated. It can take up to 2 hours depending on the altitude and how old your yeast is.
Bread dough rising.
7. Take the dough out of the bowl and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Pat it into a rectangle and sprinkle with dried fruits and nuts. Roll it up like a cinnamon roll and fold the ends. Knead gently by folding and rolling until the fruits and nuts are well-distributed throughout the dough.
Pat the dough out into a rectangle and sprinkle with dried fruits and nuts.
8. Cut the dough in half and roll each half on a lightly floured surface into a 24-inch long rope. Twist the two ropes together and form into a ring on a parchment lined baking sheet, tucking the ends neatly together. Set aside for about 15 minutes while the oven is heating up.
Twist the ropes into a circle.
9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with olive oil or melted margarine. Return to oven and bake another 10-15 minutes or until a deep golden brown and sound a little bit hollow when tapped.