Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Easter brings the scent of fresh breads

Cathi Litzenberger reflects on the history of Easter and Passover and how the dates came to be selected

Easter will be early this year, as it is not celebrated on a fixed date. I know that I’ve stated several times in years past that, “Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the first full moon after the spring equinox.”

I’ve since learned that Easter Sunday is the Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon date, and that is determined from historical tables and doesn’t necessarily correspond to lunar events. These shifting dates came about because early church leaders wanted to always celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus after the Jewish Passover. Since the Jewish Passover is based on solar and lunar cycles, the dates move from year to year. Easter can vary as  much as two days from the date of the actual full moon, with dates ranging from March 21 to April 18.  Because of this, Easter can be anywhere from March 22 through April 25 in Western Christianity.

However, regardless of when we celebrate Easter, one thing that is a certainty is the smell of freshly baked Easter breads wafting through our homes during the Easter celebration. Breads have a significant place in Easter feasts and today I’m offering two you can easily make in your bread machine.

Delicious

Cinnamon Rolls

1/4 cup warm water

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/2 (3. 4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix

1 cup warm milk

1 egg, room temp.

1 tbsp. white sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups bread flour

1 pkg. active dry yeast

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

4 tsp. ground cinnamon

3/4 cup chopped pecans

4 ounce package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1-1/2 tsp. milk

In the pan of your bread machine, combine water, melted butter, vanilla pudding, warm milk, egg, 1 tablespoon sugar, salt, bread flour, and yeast. Set machine to Dough cycle; press Start.

When Dough cycle has finished, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 17×10- inch rectangle. Spread with softened butter.

In small bowl, stir together brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture over dough. Roll up dough, beginning with long side. Slice into 16 one-inch slices and place in 9×13 buttered pan. Let rise in warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

While rolls bake, stir together cream cheese, softened butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and milk. Remove rolls from oven and top with frosting.

Pull-apart

Hot Cross Buns

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

4-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1-1/4 cups lukewarm milk

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 egg

1/4 cup golden raisins (optional)

1/4 cup dried cherries (optional)

1/4 cup dried cranberries (optional)

2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup milk

1/4 tsp. almond extract

Sprinkle yeast over the warm water and let stand until dissolved, about 5 minutes.

Place flour, salt, sugar, cardamom, 1-1/4 cups milk, butter and egg into bread machine. Pour yeast mixture on top. Close lid and set machine for the Dough setting. If using raisins, dried cherries or dried cranberries, add them at the beep.

When the dough has finished, divide into 12 portions and shape into balls. Place them into a greased 9×13-inch baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap from the rolls. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Make frosting by whisking together confectioners’ sugar, 1/4 cup of milk and almond extract until smooth. When buns are cool, drizzle frosting over them in a cross shape.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and one Sunday per month.