Sweet Bread. If you've never had it, it's quite possibly some of the best of anything you've ever eaten. I'm sure I could say this about a lot of foods. But seriously, Sweet Bread is the best.
For as long as I can remember, it's been a tradition that's come hand in hand with Easter. As a kid, I always loved watching my mom make it. We would activate the yeast, melt the butter/milk/sugar and let it cool, and then mix it all together with the flour. I used to be so amazed at how the dough would puff and bulk up after just a few hours. My mom would dump it out of the bowl, and split it up. She always would braid it and fit it into the baking pans. Then, it would rise again. Once in a while, she would take some hard boiled eggs and put those on top, too.
My sister and I were altar servers and usually would have to serve at Easter Vigil mass, and when we got home, my mom would be pulling the bread out of the oven. The smell - delicious. The taste, indescribable. Hot out of the oven or even a little stale (toasted, with butter). No matter what, amazingness.
I remember the first time I ever made sweet bread by myself. I don't remember WHEN it was, but I remember the situation. We were all at home, it was the day before Easter. My mom was home, but she had a migraine and was sick in bed and not able to make it herself. We were all so upset, because we have always associated sweet bread with Easter and didn't want to go to a year without it. Being that I love to bake, I decided that I was going to try to make it myself. And I didn't let anyone down. I remember being really nervous about it....Bread can be really tricky. But ever since then, I've always made my own bread. I think that it's a tradition that I'll never get away from. I've had store-bought Sweet Bread before, but it's just not the same.
When I make it now, certain things always come to mind. When we were young, we were big fans of the "Strega Nona" books written by Tomie DePaola. There is one book, 'Strega Nona's Magic Lessons" where Strega Nona is teaching Bambalona, the Baker's Daughter, how to be a Strega. Big Anthony, who never listens, wants to be a Strega, but he can't so he decides that he's going to work for the Baker, instead. Well, instead of baking the bread like he's supposed to, he eats his way through the bakery, until he realizes what time it is and that he's late for baking the bread. Well, one of the taglines in the book is, "The yeast makes the dough rise." The Yeast DOES make the dough rise, but Big Anthony put a LOT of Yeast, in order to catch up on time. Without giving EVERYTHING away, we'll just say that Big Anthony got fired, and leave it at that. Let's just say that every time I activate the yeast, all I can think is, "The yeast makes the dough rise." :o)
So as long as the dough rises (and you don't forget the sugar), you're in for a treat with some yummy sweet bread.