So, what to do with all those egg yolks you were left with after making the meringues from our last post? Well, one thing James likes to do is make a traditional eastern European Christmas/Easter bread called hoska. A fancy-looking braided bread, James learned to make this with his mother in their Milwaukee kitchen. He first shared it backstage with his colleagues at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC at an Easter potluck during a run of The Beggar’s Opera. “We also did an Easter Egg hunt on the Derek McClain-designed set. There were lots of piles of rubble and debris which gave us perfect places to hides the eggs.” I have to wonder if one or two weren’t found until sometime during the show that night!
For all you theater folks out there, you know how the holidays go – generally we have MORE shows. And especially in regional and Off-Broadway shows with limited runs, you often find yourself eating a potluck holiday meal backstage between shows. James recalls this Easter potluck being one of many held during the run. “I usually brought dessert, which is how the cheesecake bake-off began (more on that in a later post.) But for Easter, of course I brought hoska.”
I give you James’ family recipe with all its charming, old country instructions (to make the dough rise, it recommends putting a piece of buttered waxed paper over the bowl, placing a tea towel over the waxed paper and then placing the covered bowl under a feather pillow. Really James? Really??) But I’ll also tell you that I’ve halved the recipe and made this dough very successfully in my bread machine.
Hoska (Braid) Bread
Makes two braided loaves
2 cups milk
½ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 cake yeast
1 cup butter
2 teaspoons salt
8 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
5 egg yolks
1 whole egg
¼ teaspoon mace
¼ teaspoon lemon rind
1. Place 1/2 cup lukewarm milk in a small bowl and mix in yeast cake with 1 teaspoon sugar. Let bubble for about 30 minutes.
2. Heat 1 1/2 cups of milk and add 1 cup butter, 2 teaspoons salt, and ½ cup sugar to hot milk. Mix thoroughly with a spoon until butter is completely melted.
3. In a large mixing bowl put in 4 cups sifted flour. Make a well in the center of the flour in bowl, add 4 egg yolks, plus 1 whole egg, 1/4 tsp. mace and 1/4 tsp. lemon rind. Add yeast mixture and milk mixture to flour & eggs. Mix well with mixer. Then add 4 more cups flour. Knead by hand until flour is well blended or use your Mixmaster hooks to knead the dough. Let the dough rise for about 1-2 hours until doubled in size. (Tip for making the dough rise. Put a piece of buttered waxed paper over the bowl and place a tea towel over the waxed paper. Place the covered bowl under a feather pillow.)
4. After dough rises, divide dough into two portions. Each portion will make one loaf (FYI, each hoska consists of two braids.) Working with one portion of dough, divide it into two parts, one part a little bigger than the other. Cut the bigger portion into 3 pieces. Roll each piece about 10 to 12″ long then form into a braid. With the smaller piece of dough, also divide that into 3 pieces but take a walnut size ball off first and reserve than. This time roll each piece only about 8″ long before making into a braid. Place the smaller braid on top of the larger. Take the walnut sized ball and roll that out into a long piece a few inches longer than the hoska. Lay this rope-like piece of dough on top of the other two and tuck the ends under the ends of the bread. You now have one hoska made. Do the same with the other portion of dough. Remember, this makes two braided loaves.
5. Let rise about 1/2 hour. Brush the hoska with 1 egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of cold water for a golden brown finish just before baking.
6. Bake at 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
**Caroline’s note: I’ve halved this recipe, warmed the milk and melted the butter separately, then put all the ingredients in my bread machine at once. Then, I set it on the ‘Dough’ setting for about two hours and proceed with step #4 above.