Grand Mom Sidotti's Easter Bread

Recipe contributed by Phil Sidotti

 

Large varieties of bread are a specialty of the towns built in the hills of the Nebrodi Mountains. In fact the wheat produced in this area is loaded with protein and consequently the flour obtained is high in gluten, when kneaded the dough acquires a molecular structure, resulting in bread with a soft texture, a golden and crunchy crust and it is delicious and tasty even a few days after it is baked.
Montalbano Elicona is a town located in the Nebrodi hills, with the Etna volcano in the background on the southern side and a clear view of the Aeolian Islands at the north side. The town is dominated by a castle built on the top of the mount by Fredric the II in the XIII century; it is an imposing construction and a tourist attraction. The water of the Elicona River, down the valley, has made this land rich in agricultural products and livestock and the bread made with this water has unique features.
San Pier Niceto is a small town 55 miles east of Montalbano Elicona and 12 miles west of Messina, the province’s capital. In San Pietro di Niceto, the religious observance of the Corpus Domini, forty days after Easter is celebrated with a feast called ‘nciurata, infiorata when most of the streets of this clean and quaint town are decorated with flowers by the inhabitants, who, with love and artistry, renew this yearly tradition by creating marvelous works of art with religious or allegoric scenes. Parts of the celebrations are religious processions, music, fireworks and food fairs. 
Most of the housewives are excellent bakers and besides making their own delicious bread, over 30 years ago they established a new event La Sagra del Biscotto, the Sanpiroto Biscuit Festival, in the first 15 days of August. These biscotti are flavored with sesame seeds, wild fennels and anise and go well with the sherbet made with the local lemon.  
Mr. Phil Sidotti, whose grand parents were born in Montalbano Elicona and in San Pietro di Niceto, is so kind to share with us the “Grand Mom Sidotti Easter Bread”, a recipe for biscuits that has been in his family for generations.
We thank Mr. Phil Sidotti and his family for their courtesy.


Mr. Sidotti has a great web site containing Sicilian recipes and some recipes popular in the Italian- American community.  The site is also interesting for the many features presented among them the Forum, News and some remarkable articles.


We invite you to visit the site at:  http://www.italiansrus.com

 

 

Servings: Makes 100 biscuits

 

Ingredients:

 

  • 5 pounds flour sifted
  • 1 1/2 cups Crisco melted
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 12 eggs (reserve 6 egg whites for glaze)
  • 6 packages dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 quart milk
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ounce anise seed or to taste
  • Toasted sesame seeds

 

 

Preparation


Scald milk. Set aside to cool and add sugar. Add melted Crisco, reserving enough Crisco for final kneading--set aside. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of warm milk. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of sugar and set aside to proof. Beat eggs thoroughly. Mix flour and salt and baking powder in a large pan. Make a well in center -- add cooled milk mixture. Add eggs and yeast. Incorporate flour gradually until liquid is absorbed and knead until smooth - About 10 minutes. Place in a large greased pan - cover with waxed paper and put in a warm place to rise - About 4 - 5 hours - until doubled in size. Punch down and cover again and let rise until doubled in size again. Punch down and let rest while greasing cookie sheets. Roll dough into braids or other shapes, cover and let rise again briefly - on baking trays. Bake on greased cookie sheets - 375 degrees for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool and brush with beaten egg white and return to oven for about 5 - 10 minutes.