1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon aniseed
Grated peel of 1 orange
3/4 cup water
Make a flavoring extract by bringing to a boil the water, orange peel and spices. Boil away a third of the water. Strain liquid into a small bowl to cool until very warm to touch. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons (packets) of yeast over this and allow to soften and bubble. Meanwhile, begin the bread.
1 teaspoon mahaleb (optional)
2 tablespoons yeast
1 cup milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Grated peel of orange
1 cup plus 7 to 8 cups flour
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Red Easter eggs (dyed red, but preferably not boiled)
Heat milk, butter, sugar and salt over medium heat until butter melts and bubbles form. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.
Beat 3 eggs until fluffy in a large bowl. Add milk mixture, yeast and extract. Slowly beat in 1 cup flour. Blend well to make a smooth batter. Add grated rind of second orange. Slowly add more flour until a very soft dough is achieved. Turn out onto a floured surface. Knead about 10 minutes, adding only enough flour to keep dough from sticking to hands. Place dough in a greased bowl, turn it over to coat completely. Cover loosely with 2 sheets of plastic wrap and cover with a damp towel. Set in a warm place to rise until doubled in volume, 2 to 3 hours.
Punch dough down. Knead briefly and divide in half. Cover 1/2 with a damp towel. Shape 3 ropes with the other half of the dough. Roll in a light sprinkling of sesame seed. Braid ropes and shape into wreath, if desired. Place a red egg on loaf. Shape a thin cross with 2 strips of dough and decorate egg, if desired. Repeat with second half of dough. Place loaves on greased cookie sheet. Cover loosely with plastic film and allow to rise in warm place, about 1 hour.
Uncover, brush with egg and water mixture and bake in at 325 degrees F, about 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Loaves should give a hollow sound when rapped with fingers.