Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Bad Attitude But A Lovely Bread

I confessed to Nik the other evening...I confessed that I really do not like Easter. But I didn't mean the Christian after-life part of the occasion - no, though I really am not a believer in that, I will admit that it is a beautiful thought. The parts that I don't like, that I really don't like, are the pastel, stupid-looking cartoonish smiling bunnies, the hyacinth and tulip bouquets, the colored-egg-based holiday traditions. Really. Independence Day has flags and bunting and a strong sense of historical significance. Christmas has the smell of pine, traditional baking, and family rituals. Even Memorial Day and Labor Day have a time-based relevance to them. But the cheesy, pallid decorations that typically appear around Easter give me a queasy feeling, honestly queasy -- and I'm not sure why.

Spring green, trees budding out, flowers starting to grow, in fact the whole concept and evidence of rebirth is lovely. I can remember as a kid in New York going out into the front yard to find the crocus poking up through the last remains of the spring snow storms. The entire scene coexists perfectly with the Christian ideas behind Easter - it's just the insipid decorations that I don't like. Get over it, Tom - they are superficial, go with the feeling behind the occasion. Okay, maybe I will try that next year. But this year the day is almost over and I still don't like silly drawings of lambs and chicks, and what's with the pale pastel egg WREATHS that I've seen displayed this year. Egg wreaths? Sheesh! BUT...Nik has a chicken roasting in the oven, a melange of (WINTER) root vegetables cooking, and some (SPRING) asparagus steaming. That works for me -- Easter as a transition from winter to spring. I like it.

You might remember a few days ago I mentioned mixing up a preferment for a brioche. Well I made the dough and the poor thing has been languishing forgotten in the 'fridge for several days. It had to be baked soon or the bread gods would be blowing dark clouds my way. Italian Easter Bread was the answer. You know - the braided loaf with the whole eggs baked into it. No, it isn't usually a brioche but it is typically an enriched dough. I had the brioche - so brioche it would be. Yes, I know -- if I can rant and fume about wreaths made of pale plastic pastel eggs why would I bake a bread with eggs baked into it -- because it's tradition and egg wreaths aren't, not yet, not ever...hopefully.

I used the recipe from the Tartine cookbook. I hadn't ever made that recipe before and found it to be quite nice. One twist that I thought odd originally but that worked out nicely in the end was the addition of milk after the dough was formed and after the butter was added. It resulted in a wonderfully smooth, silky dough.

Nik made Chicken Tikka Masala Saturday night. To give the bread a more savory finish, I sprinkled the brioche braid with zahatar before baking. Not sure why but I thought the zahatar might go well with the indian dish. And it did.
I also liked the way it looked on the bread, sprinkled around the reminded me of moss or grass with eggs nestled among it. It baked up nicely, if perhaps a little bigger than I had imagined. And actually I liked how the zahatar baked onto the eggs. It looked a little like what you might actually find on freshly laid eggs...if you know what I mean.
So Easter has come and gone yet again...and to the best of my knowledge nobody died because of overexposure to lambs, bunnies, chicks or the colors pink, yellow, or lavender. But they could've.

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