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Bunny Bread: Easter Picnic Basket Must and Self-Medication for Homesickness

I am incredibly homesick. I wish I could say I reached this realization in a respectable, rational way, but that would be a lie. I actually recognized it while reading The Hunger Games series.

Donna Curie's much cuter bunny that accompanied the original recipe on Serious Eats.

I’m not especially proud of it. This is a typical example of how I tend to freely indulge my erratic emotions.

Intrigued by the hype that surrounded the movie’s release, I decided to read The Hunger Games. I like to tell people that I stopped reading and started watching TV in college. I do realize the irony in this, but when I read, I stay up late, unwilling to put down the book; TV shows end in a specific time and, in a dorm that only had Internet through an Ethernet cable, going to sleep was easier that starting another show. The Hunger Games was no exception, and I read the entire trilogy in two weeks. When I closed the final book yesterday, I discovered that I had slowly curled up on my couch. And was crying. A lot. Without spoiling too much of the plot, my train of thought went something along the lines of the following:

Katniss went through SO much. Pause for sobs. Her POOR FAMILY!!!! Pause to blow nose. She needs a hug. Just a big hug to make everything okay.This continued for longer that I’d like to admit. When I finally talked to my parents later that night, I realized that it was really me that wanted a big hug. From my parents. As upsetting as the fictional life of Katniss Everdeen is (and it really is!), my sobs were primarily the result of not being able to be with my family for Easter.

My mom decorates the house for every holiday. From the standards like Halloween to the less typical like Advent, we have one very festive house. So, I know exactly how the rooms in our home look right now, which Easter baskets are where, what Kindergarten artwork has been hung on what.

Without decorations of my own to make myself feel at home, I decided to ease my homesickness with the next obvious choice: Easter themed food. Specifically, bunny bread. My rabbit turned out much flatter (fatter) than the picture on the recipe I followed, but hopefully I’ll have mastered it by Easter, so I can nibble on a well-risen, chubby bunny.

Picnic tip: If your Easter meal involves a few picnic baskets, rather than an Easter basket, this bunny bread is great to throw in. It’s great bread for tearing, which is always good for a picnic.

Bunny Bread
From Donna Curie’s recipe on Serious Eats

1 1/4 cups water
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 3/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon olive oil

Put the water, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Stir to combine then add the flour. Knead with the stand mixer fitted with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add the salt and olive oil and continue kneading until the oil and salt are fully incorporated and the dough is smooth, shiny, and very elastic. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until the dough has doubled in size.

When the dough has doubled, flour your work surface, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Turn out the dough and knead it briefly to knock out the air. Cut off about 2/3 of the dough, and form it into an egg-shaped ball. Place this piece on the parchment paper, seam-side down.

Cut the remaining piece of dough in half. Form one of those halves into a teardrop shape. This will become the bunny head and ears. Begin rolling the thin end so you end up with a ball about 3 inches in diameter on the fat end attached to a thick rope (think of the shape of a Tootsie Pop) about 6 inches long. Using a bench scraper, pizza cutter, or sharp knife, slit the rope in half all the way up to the ball. Form the two pieces that you just created into ears. Set this aside.

Cut about 1/3 of the dough off of the remaining piece of dough. Form this into a rope about 6 inches long. Form it into a U-shape and slide the U under the narrow end of the egg-shaped piece of dough on the parchment. Leave the loose ends sticking out about 2 inches. (This doesn’t have to be exact – arrange it so it looks pleasing to you. The important thing is that the base of that U is anchored under the body.) Those loose ends will be the front paws.

Form the last piece into a rope about 9 inches long. As you roll, leave a fatter bit in the center then thin it out, and leave the ends fatter. Fold the dough in half and form that center fat bit into a ball. This will be the bunny’s tail.

Position the tail at the back end of the bunny, then tuck the thin portion under the body, leaving the thicker parts – the bunny’s back legs – sticking out on either side of the bunny.

On the narrow part of the egg-shaped body, press down just behind the edge of the dough to form an indentation where the head will rest. Put the head on the body, and adjust the front paws and ears as desired. Sprinkle the bunny with flour and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside until doubled in size – about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350° while the bunny is rising.

Uncover the bunny. Using small, sharp scissors, snip the ends of the paws to form toes. Cut slits for the eyes. Pinch the front of the dough to form a nose.

Bake the bunny at 350° until nicely browned, about 40 minutes. Let it cool completely  before slicing.

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