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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Easter Eggs

I suppose I should feel somewhat embarrassed that I believed in the Easter bunny far far longer than I
believed in St. Nicholas. Understanding those major holiday icons (the big guns) while living as a kid in Austria was a bit odd. The local folks took both holidays very seriously.  In my book, it came down to their figure heads, St Nicholas and the Easter Bunny. While I loved the notion of St. Nicholas, he came with so much baggage, both literally and figuratively. Naughty. Nice. Good. Bad. Rules. On the other hand, the Easter bunny just showed up and dropped a few eggs. Done. No expectations. Pretty cool. It was no brainer. I believed.

Easter morning. Boom. Baskets of candy, chocolate bunnies, and Easter eggs littered our living room floor. Carnage. When the hoopla settled down, Frau Olga always slipped into the kitchen and quietly prepared soft boiled eggs with toasted soldiers. Perched atop white porcelain eggs cups, the warm runny yolks and jiggly soft whites oozed through the gently cracked shells and dripped into warm yellow puddles. Dip. Swipe. Lick. Repeat. Toast soldiers. Finger food. I still dream about those Easter eggs.

Soft Boiled Eggs With Toast

Soldiers.
So, I could have gone all artisanal with the bread, but purposely kept it very simple.

Basic white bread.
After warming 1 cup milk and 1/2 cup water, I added 3 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter and 2 tablespoons sugar. When the sugar dissolved, I poured the combined liquids over 1 package of fast rising yeast and set it aside to proof. I scooped 2 cups bread flour into a stand mixer attached with a dough hook, added the gurgling yeast, and beat the mixture for 5 minutes before adding another 2 1/2 cups bread flour. I let the dough knead in the mixer for 8 minutes until it formed a loose ball. After scraping down the sides of the bowl and gathering up the dough, I plopped it onto a floured board, kneaded the dough by hand for 10 minutes, covered it with a dish towel, and let it rise for 45 minutes.
When the dough doubled in size, I punched it down and divided it in half. Working with one half at a time, I formed the dough into 10" rectangles, folded the sides into each other, and placed the two loaves (seam side down) into loaf pans. I covered the pans with dish towels and slid them aside to rise for 45-50 minutes.

After preheating the oven to 400 degrees, I brushed the tops of the loaves with an egg wash, placed an oven safe bowl filled with ice cubes onto the bottom shelf of the oven to create steam, and slid the loaves into the oven to bake for 45 minutes.

When they browned on top and sounded hollow when thumped, I pulled the loaves from the oven and transferred them to a wire rack.  When the bread cooled to room temperature, I used a serrated knife to slice the bread into 1/2" pieces and toasted them. While they were still warm, I brushed the crusts with melted butter, dusted them with ground parmigiano reggiano cheese, and sliced them 1/2" soldiers.

Eggs.
The great boiled egg debate. Boiled and rested, boiled, simmered, or steamed? Pick your poison. It seems everyone has the perfect solution for perfectly boiled eggs.  Of course, many factors come into play with the ultimate outcome depending on the size of the eggs, the freshness of the eggs, the degree of heat, and the desired doneness (soft, medium, or hard).

I love hard boiled eggs. While they're great for salads, deviled eggs, and snacks, I was shooting for the warm goo of  soft boiled eggs.  After filling the bottom of a small sauce pan with 3/4" cold water, I brought the water to a boil, lowered large Elmwood Stock Farm organic eggs into the water, cover the pan, and let the eggs steam/poach for exactly 5 1/2 minutes before pulling them from the heat and running them under cold water.

Salad.
To brighten things up a bit, I tossed a few spring greens, fried capers, and fresh herbs with a light lemon vinaigrette. After tumbling the salad to the side of the toasts, I tucked the soft boiled eggs into egg cups, used an egg-topper to snap open the eggs, sprinkled the yolks with cracked black pepper, and finished with delicate sprigs of fresh dill.

Easter eggs.
Toast the yolks.




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