Author Archives: internationalcookingwithenglishpcvstyle

About internationalcookingwithenglishpcvstyle

50 + Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Romania teaching English as a foreign language and assisting with community development projects.

Natalie’s Italian Easter Bread Braids


1 cup milk
1 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp. pure anise extract (can be found at pharmacies in the cities, or, if you cannot find that, use 2 Tbsp. of brandy)
1/2 cup pure vegetable oil (something light like sunflower-not corn or olive)
1 package active dry yeast or one block of drojdie fresh
1/2 cup tepid water
5 cups unbleached white flour
3 whole eggs 1 tsp. salt
One beaten egg for glaze
Mini colored sprinkle dots
Some nice clear cellophane to wrap the breads in with pastel ribbons

Let’s Begin:

First, scald the milk in a small pan on the stove until bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in the anise extract, the sugar and the oil. Let stand until lukewarm and not hot. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a large bowl.

Now add the milk mixture to the yeast and mix well. Then blend in the 3 well-beaten eggs.

Next, add in the salt. Then, mix in the flour with a wooden spoon, one cup at a time, until a soft dough forms. If you need to add more flour (the humidity and flour quality will determine this) then do, but sparingly. Add a bit more flour to a flat, clean surface and knead until smooth about 1o minutes. The dough should not be dry, pitted, or hard.

Time to Rest:

Let rise in an oiled bowl covered with a clean towel in a warm place until doubled in bulk. This should be at least 1 hour to 1 hour and a half.

After that, punch down the dough and cut into two pieces. Take each piece and knead out into a tube and cut into three more pieces each. Roll into tubes for making a braid by hand. You will make two large braids with this recipe. (You can make small braided rounds if you like to make the dough go farther that take about 25 minutes to cook thoroughly).

Place each on a cookie sheet lined with baking paper (the braids each should be almost the length of the pan) and let sit 30 minutes covered with a clean towel.

Bake to Perfection:

Bake in a moderate oven for 40-50 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center. The loaves should be a very light golden brown. The gas ovens here are tricky and super hot so watch carefully!

When you remove the breads from the oven, take them with the paper out of the pan to limit further cooking and brush each with a beaten egg a few times to get a nice golden, rich color and to soften the crust. The aroma will be wonderful!


Sprinkle on the colored dots while the egg is still wet and then let cool completely away from drafts. Wrap in cellophone and pretty Eastertime ribbons to give as gifts on Easter Day after post is broken.


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Natalie’s “O-Canada” Old-Fashioned Winter Fruit Crumble

7-8 medium-sized assorted apples
200 grams of butter
3 Tsps. cinnamon
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Cup of musli cereal with dried fruits and nuts (any kind you like)
1/2 Cup of apple juice or pear juice
Pinch of salt
Sweetened whipped cream (of course, homemade is best!)

First, cut up into small chunks 7-8 washed and peeled apples of different varieties into a large bowl.  Add in 1 Tsp. cinnamon.

Next, melt about 4 Tbsp. butter and sautee the apples until fairly soft.  This should take about ten minutes on low heat.  Mix in 1/2 Cup of the apple juice or pear juice. Then place the mixture in a large, round glass buttered pie pan. Set aside while making the topping.

Now melt about 4 more Tbsp. of  butter in a large pan on the stove.  Take off the heat and add 1 Cup of musli cereal with dried fruits which has been coated with 2 Tbsp. of flour. Add in ½ cup sugar, 1/4 cup light brown sugar and the remaining two tsps. of cinnamon.  Mix well until it looks like large beads.

Top the apples with this crumbly topping and then add some extra pats of cold butter on top.  Bake for 20 minutes in a medium oven.  The top should be somewhat crispy.

Serve warm with fresh sweetened whipped cream, if you like.  I do!  It’s amazingly easy and so good for a warm and cozy treat on a blustery, northern winter day.

And congratulations, Canadians, on winning the Ice Dancing-Gold 2010!

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Filed under Desserts

Natalie’s Italian Foccaccia Bread

1 packet of active dry yeast
½ cup lukewarm water
1 Tbsp. sugar
½ Tsp. salt
½ cup olive oil
1 cup whole wheat flour.
3 cups white flour
2 red onions, sliced very thin,
that have been soaked in Olive Oil
Dry (or fresh if you have them) rosemary leaves
salt and pepper, to taste
grated sharp  cheese(if you like, as an extra topping)

First, make the foccaccia ( a whole grain bread) dough.  Combine one packet of active dry yeast with ½ cup lukewarm water and 1 Tbsp. sugar and let dissolve. Do not use hot water-it will cause the yeast not to rise. Now add in ½ Tsp. salt, ½ cup olive oil, and 1 cup of whole wheat flour. Next, add in three more cups of white flour a little at a time, just until it makes a soft ball. Knead on a floured board until smooth-about ten minutes. Let rise in an oiled bowl until doubled-about one hour and a half. Next, punch dough down and line a cookie sheet to make a large rectangular foccaccia (pizza).

Next, top with two red onions sliced very thin which have been soaking in a small amount of  olive oil and some dry (or fresh if you have them) rosemary leaves to top off the foccaccia. Season with salt and pepper and bake for 25 minutes in a moderate oven just until the bottom of the foccaccia is light golden and crispy.

You may top with grated sharp  cheese (anything like sheep or goat’s milk cheese is good and very tasty:  I like “coaje de brad” myself…the strong and firm cheese that is wrapped in fir tree bark…amazing stuff!) after baking or make the dough with all white flour and no sugar for traditional pizza and top as you wish.

Will keep in an airtight container for one week. Can be reheated for ten minutes in the oven before serving to regain crispness. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Great for a side dish with various cheeses, some roasted peppers or other grilled vegetables, and fresh tomatoes.  Best of all, now you can make your own pizza anytime you want!

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Filed under Breads, Side Dishes, Vegetarian