Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy
Easter Bread in Calabria is shaped like dolls or babies called pupazze. My good friend Tomie dePaola, the noted children's author and illustrator, who often sets his stories in Italy, gave me his grandmother's recipe in which the dough is braided and an egg is nestled in the top of the braid, like a small baby wrapped in a blanket. When Tomie makes these, he freezes them to give away to dear friends.
3 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm (110º to 115ºF) water
3 cups plus ½ teaspoon sugar
2 cups milk
1 pound solid vegetable shortening, melted and cooled to lukewarm
5 pounds King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
2 egg yolks beaten with 2 tablespoons water, for egg wash
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Sprinkle on 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar and stir to dissolve. Let the yeast proof, covered, for 10 minutes, or until foamy.
In a medium saucepan, scald the milk (bring to just under a boil).
In a heavy-duty electric mixer, beat 21 of the eggs until frothy. Add the milk and the remaining 3 cups sugar and blend well. Add the shortening and mix well. Add the yeast mixture and stir to blend. Add the shortening and mix well.
Sift the flour, cinnamon, and salt together. Using a dough hook, gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, mixing until a ball of dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a large oiled bowl. Brush the top of the dough with oil and cover the dough with plastic wrap and then a towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place until it is doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Lightly butter two cookie sheets. Punch down the dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 to 3 minutes. Divide into 30 equal balls. Roll each ball into a rope about 12 inches long.
For each bread, braid 3 ropes together, then nestle an egg in the top of the braid. Place the braids on the cookie sheets and brush with the egg wash. Cover the braids with a towel and let rise in a warm place for about 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Bake the braids for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Note: When completely cool, these may be frozen, well wrapped in aluminum foil.
Variation: Make braided wreaths instead of pupazze.
This recipe is from CELEBRATIONS ITALIAN STYLE by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company Inc., in 1995. There is also a photograph of the finished "Dolls" in this book.