Croatian Easter bread dolls or primorski uskrsne bebe (translates literally to "Easter babies from Primorje") are traditionally made in Primorje and Istra on the Adriatic Coast.
The dough is a slightly sweet yeast dough, it is then braided around a colored hard boiled egg, giving the appearance of a swaddled baby (or an easter wreath).
The bread is served in two shapes, dolls and wreaths, they are gifts that are placed at the table with Easter lunch. Traditionally the dolls are served to girls, whilst the wreaths are served to boys.
They are actually easy to make if you follow the recipe, and making them was quite fun, it was fun 'playing' with the dough and making the shapes.
Traditionally the colour of the dyed eggs were red, but feel free to make whatever coloured eggs you like. I used food colouring, if you prefer natural food colours, feel free to do so, great colours can be achieved using beetroot, red cabbage leaves, turmeric, onion skins.
Now I use my stand mixer to make these, it's far easier to get the mixer to knead the dough than doing it by hand, but if you don't have one, just do it by hand.
The hard boiled egg tastes just fine after being baked. The yolk might have a green sulfur ring around it, but that doesn't affect the taste.
This is something I will definitely be making every Easter, a new tradition has begun in my house.
Makes 12 pieces
2 cups (500ml) milk
1 x 7g package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
3 large eggs (room-temperature)
1/2 cup sugar
114g (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups plain flour
12 large eggs (room-temperature, hard boiled, colored)
1 tablespoon water
Heat the milk in a medium sized saucepan until lukewarm. Add the yeast and 1/2 tablespoon of the caster sugar, set aside for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, combine 2 eggs, the remainder of the sugar, butter and the salt, mix well, to combine.
Remove the whisk attachment and replace with the dough hook. Now add the yeast-milk mixture and 3 cups of flour, turn on to low speed and let the mixer start combining all of the ingredients. Add the remaining 3 cups of flour gradually, 1/2 cup at a time, until a smooth, soft dough forms. Note: you may not use all the flour or may require more, you stop adding the flour when the dough is no longer sticky and it doesn't look wet and stuck to the bottom of the bowl. You want the dough soft, but not too sticky. Let the mixer knead the dough for 5 minutes. You can knead it by hand for 10 minutes if you don't have a mixer.
Place dough in a large greased bowl, turning to coat both sides, and let rise, covered with cling film and a tea towel, until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Punch down the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface (only add flour to your work surface if the dough is sticky, otherwise don't) and knead 2 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface (again only if your dough is sticky add flour), divide the dough into 36 equal pieces. An easy way to do this is to divide the dough into 3 pieces, then divide each into 3 pieces again, then divide each into 4 pieces. Cover and allow to rest 5 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 190C/170C fan forced.
Using 3 pieces per doll, roll each piece into a 30cm long rope. Begin by aligning the 3 pieces side by side. Press the three pieces together at the top and place an egg on top, pushing down slightly. Begin by wrapping the two side ropes around the egg as you would a scarf.
Braid the three ropes, below the egg, and pinch the bottom ends together.
Place doll on a baking paper covered baking sheet. Continue with remainder of dough balls.
If you want to make a wreath shape, just make the plait, then join the two ends together, and place the egg in the centre. I try and gently join the dough together under the egg without disrupting the plait too much.
Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise slightly, about 30 minutes.
Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool to room temperature.
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