Yesterday I shared with you a traditional Italian Easter Bread recipe from my Chief Culinary Consultant’s family; today I share with you my grandma’s famous bacon and cheese Easter bread. Growing up, this was by far my favorite Easter recipe in our family. (It should come as no surprise that I love the combination of bacon and cheese nearly as much as peanut butter and chocolate.) Between this and her pigues, I think I sustained myself with dough, cheese, and bacon for the entire week of Easter. A pretty delicious week, no doubt. My grandma always referred to this as “bacon and cheese Easter pizza” and I have seen it mentioned that way in a few other places as well, but I couldn’t find any background regarding the name. All I know is that swirls and swirls of bacon and cheese packed into a light, tender dough is pretty much my savory heaven. My mom always jokes that my grandma’s knack for baking skipped a generation to me, and the more that I work my way through her recipes, the more I realize how similar our tastes are. We are definitely kitchen soul sisters, my grandma and I.
This is a fairly simple bread to bake up, as it only requires one rise and the dough is very forgiving. Once the dough is mixed together (you can do it by hand or with a mixer), you roll it out very thin, into a large rectangle, then sprinkle it with copious amounts of Romano cheese and bacon. I chose to use peppered bacon because I always feel like sharp cheese flavors and bacon pair well with pepper, but you can certainly use regular bacon, my grandma always did.
Once you have the cheese and bacon in place, you roll it up jelly roll-style into a thick log. I never knew this, but my mom told me that my grandma always baked these loaves in pie plates, which helped them keep their round, spiral shape. Genius! You very gently coil the roll of dough into a pie plate and let it raise until about doubled in size. Then all that’s left is to bake and eat!
Below is my grandma’s handwritten recipe for this bread. I just love reading through her old written recipes, and they never fail to give me a chuckle each and every time. This one in particular I love for a few reasons…
First, there are no directions. They are not located on the back of the card – they don’t exist. I think most ladies back in the day just knew how to do things like make bread, so you didn’t need instructions for doing so, you just needed ingredients for different variations.
Second, this is a recipe for “Bacon + Cheese Pizza”. Do you see an ingredient listing for cheese? One of the two primary ingredients? Nope. I asked my mom earlier this week why it was missing and how much was needed. She said it was because my grandma never measured the cheese, she just sprinkled it on the dough until she felt like there was enough.
Lastly, and quite possibly my favorite, is the measurement of “1 whiskey glass oil”. I love it! I wanted to be as authentic as possible when making the recipe, so I actually pulled out an old whiskey glass that came from my grandma’s house, and measured the oil in there. I think she probably smiled at me for doing so :)
When my mom got to sample the bread, she said that the house smelled just like my grandma’s house used to smell the week of Easter, and that the bread tasted exactly like hers. That’s the best compliment I could ever receive. To be able to recreate something of my grandma’s, that I’ve loved since I was a little girl, is a great feeling. And I know she would love that I am sharing her recipe with all of you.
I hope you enjoy this little pillow of bacon and cheese heaven as much as I do!
Place the flour in a large mixing bowl; set aside.
Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it is warm to the touch, but not hot. If you have an instant-read thermometer, the temperature of the milk should be between 110 and 115 degrees F. Once the milk reaches the correct temperature, remove from the heat, add the yeast, stir, and let sit for 10 minutes.
Add the milk and yeast mixture to the flour and begin to mix it into a dough (it will be shaggy at this point). Next, add the vegetable oil and melted shortening and continue to mix. Now, add the eggs and continue mixing until the dough forms a rough ball.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it, adding more flour as necessary, until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Divide the dough into two and cover one half with a dish towel while you work with the other.
Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll it out very thin, into a large rectangle about 12x24-inches. Sprinkle the dough with half of the cheese, and then with half of the bacon, leaving a half inch border around all of the edges.
Starting with a long end facing you, roll the dough up into a tight cylinder jelly roll-style, pinching the seams and ends to seal. Once you have finished rolling the dough, gently coil it into a spiral into a pie plate. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
Once both loaves have been shaped and placed into pie plates, brush them with melted butter and then cover loosely with plastic wrap. Place in a draft-free area and allow to rise until almost doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature and humidity.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the bread until golden brown on top, about 35 to 40 minutes. Allow to cool to warm room temperature before slicing them (ideally, let them cool completely, but sometimes I just can't wait!). Leftovers should be wrapped in plastic wrap and can be kept at room temperature for up to 5 days. The bread can also be frozen - be sure sure to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and then in aluminum foil.