Easter Lamb (sweet yeast dough)


It's Easter and I had plenty of time to try out another holiday themed recipe. This one is a cute little Easter Lamb made of yeast dough. It is basically the same dough that is used for burger buns. I have also used a yeast dough for my Homemade Dinner Rolls, the Challah Easter Nests, and My Mom's Hefeküchle.

Yeast dough is not the easiest dough to work with. I have a lot of respect for it. If treated wrong (e.g., overproofing, overkneading), it can result in very hard bread and may fail to rise.  On the other hand, if you are too scared and don't knead it enough, it may result in bread that also fails to rise and tastes too doughy...

Here are 2 things I have learned:

  • Kneading and stretching the dough will result in very fluffy bread and helps the yeast to activate and rise. Do not cut down on that step, it does take several minutes to knead.
  • Shaping the dough is also important. Do not be scared to handle and knead the dough after the first proofing while forming the little dough pieces for the lamb. In the end, the surface should be really smooth. Find more instructions on shaping in the recipe.

 

Ingredients:

  • 200ml milk (warm, not hot)
  • 30g yeast (fresh - or substitute with 2 packages instant or active dry yeast)
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 500g flour
  • 50g sugar
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon peel
  • 1 egg (lighly beaten)
  • 75g butter (melted, but not hot)
  • 1 egg (beaten, as egg wash)
  • 2 raisins
  • 2 Tbsp pearl sugar (a.k.a. hail or nib sugar)

 

Preparation:

Use all ingredients at room temperature.
Preheat oven at 180 degree celsius (Ober- und Unterhitze) / 350 degree Fahrenheit (convection oven).

Activate the Yeast

Do not use metal for the milk and yeast as it will prevent/ slow down activation. Warm up the milk in a glas or plastic bowl to about 30 degree celsius. It should not be too hot for your own skin if you try to dip in your finger. Add 1 Tbsp sugar and crumble the fresh yeast in. Stir (with a wooden spoon) till it is dissolved and let stand for about 10 minutes. It will activate and you will see bubbles, the volume will increase.

Prepare the Dough - First proofing

In a big bowl, add the flour, sugar, salt and lemon peel. Mix. Create a little well in the middle. Pour in the beaten egg and the melted butter. Now, also pour in the milk-yeast mix. Give it a stir with a fork by adding the flour from the sides, bit by bit. Either continue mixing with the fork or use the machine with a dough hook. Keep mixing for about 5 minutes, the dough should not stick to the sides of the bowl any more and be realtively smooth. Take it out of the bowl and keep kneading and stretching it by hand for another few minutes.

Now, form a smooth dough ball, place it in a bowl and cover it. Let it rest in a warm place till it doubles in size. This will take about 30-60 minutes. If you do not have a warm place, you can put warm water in a tray and place the bowl in it.

Shaping the Dough   ** VERY IMPORTANT**

When the dough has doubled in size, take it out of the bowl and quickly beat it down again. Now, divide the dough in about 22 pieces. I usually devide the dough in half, then each half again in halves, etc. Use a scale to weight the pieces. For me, each piece was about 45-50gram.

Shaping the dough is a very important step! I did not know how to do it at the beginning, and my first try of the Easter Lamb resulted in a lamb with lots of wrinkles and creases, looking like a very old lamb ;) I recommend maybe watching a Youtube video on homemade burger buns. They also use a yeast dough, the method is the same. I like the video from Joshua Weissman - "How to make the best burger buns of all time".

For each little dough ball/ piece: Grab a section of the dough and gently stretch and fold it to the center. Repeat it around the whole segment of the dough and then flip it over so that it's seam side down. Roll it with the seam side on your counter top a bit, to smooth out the bottom side. Now you should have a dough ball with a very smooth surface.

First try vs. Second try

Forming the Lamb - Second proofing 

Build the lamb directly on your baking tray, lined with a baking sheet. For the lamb, you will need:
  • 16 little balls for the body of the lamb 
  • 2 balls for the head, combined in a rectangle with round corners, maybe running a little tighter downwards
  • 1 balls for the front legs, divided in 2 legs
  • 1 ball for the hind legs, divided in 2 legs
  • 1 ball for the ears, divided into 2 ears
  • 1 ball for the tail and the hair of the lamb (3 tiny balls)

Form the lamb, but do not place the pieces too close to each other as they will rise again. Use the egg wash and brush the entire lamb with it. Add two raisins as eyes and cover the body of the lamb and the hair with pearl sugar, spare the head, the ears, the legs and the tail. Let sit for another 30-40 minutes (second proofing), it will rise a bit more. Do not cover it, as it would stick to the dough. It will not dry out as you have brushed it with the egg wash.

Bake the Lamb

Place the lamb in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes till it is golden brown on top. Exact time depends on your oven, so keep an eye on it.







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