Yiayia’s Greek Sweet Bread

We make this delicious, slightly sweet bread for Easter and New Year’s, but it’s enjoyable year round. Click here for the Taste of Greece article and other Greek recipes.

Makes 2 loaves

1½ cups milk

1½ cups sugar

1½ sticks (¾ cup) butter

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla

Rind of 1 orange

2 packages (1½ tablespoons) yeast

½ cup warm water

2 large eggs

6–7 cups flour (may need additional flour if dough is too sticky to knead)

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk until bubbles form around the edges. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar and butter, salt, vanilla and orange rind. Cook to lukewarm.

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let sit until foamy. Beat eggs in a large bowl until fluffy or foamy. Slowly beat in the milk mixture, dissolved yeast and 2 cups flour. Blend well. Add more flour as needed and beat with a wooden spoon until you have a soft, sticky dough. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes, then coat with flour and place into a greased pan. Cover with waxed paper and a cloth, then put in a warm place and let rise for about 3 hours.

Punch down the dough, then knead a few times. Select your pans: I often use one regular loaf pan and one 9-inch round pan. The larger loaves will take longer to cook, but the round shape is so celebratory. Either way, grease your pans and distribute the dough so that all pans are filled no more than halfway. Let the loaves rise in a warm place again for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 325°. Brush the tops with a little milk and bake for 30 minutes. If the tops brown too quickly, cover with foil. Test with a toothpick or skewer—no raw dough should come out when you poke the center of the loaf. The larger pans can take closer to an hour. The loaves will give a nice hollow sound when tapped.

Laura Booras is the general manager at Riverbench Vineyard & Winery in the Santa Maria Valley. She lives on the vineyard, where she regularly hosts food writers, celebrity chefs and wine critics for unique meals prepared with locally sourced ingredients.

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