This was my second year making the Italian Easter Bread I grew up with; it turned out even better than last year's! Getting the eggs dyed was more of a challenge than last time, though...
My mom has always, as long as I can remember, dyed eggs on Holy Saturday morning. And she always always says that it's a horrible idea and the day is way too busy with everything else she has to make and do and there's really not time to dye eggs too, but it still winds up happening on Holy Saturday again the next year. So I didn't even ask, this year, what day she was planning to dye eggs... And then I picked Little Bear up from her house on Holy Thursday after my chiropractor and midwife appointments, and he came out to the car proudly carrying a basket of dyed hard-boiled eggs! "Look, colored eggs! I plunked them in the jar, Mommy!" Oops... I guess I missed my chance to dye a couple of raw eggs while the kids did all of their hard-boiled ones!
Being pregnant, and therefore susceptible to occasional bouts of craziness, I decided that I would make my own natural dye out of blueberries and color eggs for my Easter Bread on Good Friday afternoon. (Matt was not at home to tell me that this was a bad idea.) The dye simmered for almost an hour and a half, and came out a very rich purple-red:
...but after spending more than two hours in the dye, it became apparent that the eggs were not going to cooperate.
Left: two hours in dye without vinegar, because I'm pregnant and forgot. Right: two hours in dye with vinegar, because I didn't exactly measure the vinegar and we're pretty sure I put in way too much.
Then I went online and read about science and pH and egg dying, and put six drops of food coloring and one teaspoon of vinegar in half a cup of water. Five minutes later:
Maybe next year, natural dyes. Maybe next year.
Holy Saturday morning, Little Bear enthusiastically helped me start the dough. I actually read all the way to the end of the instructions at the outset this year, so I started the dough in the stand mixer and didn't have to bear a sticky sticky mess by hand this time. That was very nice. Something must not have gone quite right, though—maybe the milk was too hot? Maybe I should have followed the instructions more exactly and oiled the bowl instead of oiling the dough? For some reason, after an hour sitting next to the fireplace with a roaring fire going, the dough had still barely risen. I moved it closer to the fireplace doors, gave it another 20 minutes, and then decided I was tired of waiting and began shaping it anyway.
It did rise up nicely while the oven preheated, and even more while baking.
"I have a problem," I told Matt as the bread was cooling. "Just a little one. There's leftover frosting from the Hot Cross Buns..."
"...And you want to eat it?"
"No. Well, yes, kind of. But no, the problem is that I need frosting for the Italian Easter Bread, and I already have a dish of leftover frosting so I should use that, but the Easter Bread frosting is supposed to have almond extract in it and the Hot Cross Bun frosting has lemon juice!"
He was quiet for a moment, possibly reflecting on how crazy his wife can be when she's pregnant. "I don't think the Italian Easter Bread police are going to come after you, dear."
Voilà: Italian Easter Bread, lemon frosting and all. The lemon wasn't bad, and no, the Easter Bread police didn't come after me, but I'll try to make less Hot Cross Bun frosting next year so that I can make the almond frosting for the Easter Bread.