Jesus vs. the Easter Bunny

Photo: Phillip Shippert Photo: Phillip Shippert

Lamb bread helps win the contest

By Michelle Sessions DiFranco

With all of the marketing and commercialized clutter that herald Easter these days, the Easter Bunny rules supreme. Kids know it well. To them, it’s all about the candy embedded in the fake grass. For many, with the exception of a Lenten resolution and going to Easter Mass, there isn’t much out there to remind them of the true meaning of Easter.

When my husband was growing up, there was one tangible item on the dinner table every Easter that was symbolic of our Savior, though. It might not be as sugary as a Cadbury Egg or jellybeans, but kids love it because it is creative and recognizable. The “lamb bread” takes the shape of an actual lamb. If we parents take the time to explain its symbolism, it puts a few more points on the home-team scoreboard in the annual Jesus-vs.-Easter Bunny rivalry.

Bread is, of course, representative of the body of Christ. The shape of the lamb symbolizes the sacrifice of Jesus. To the kids, the whole thing is “neat,” “cute” or “cool” — and the boys usually vie for who gets to eat the head. But with a little explanation before the bread is broken, kids can be given a little seed of understanding into the miracle of Christ — a seed that will hopefully one day bloom into an adult Catholic faith.

Lamb bread
• 1 1/2 packages active dry yeast
• 1/2 cup warm water (not hot)
• 1/2 teaspoon sugar   
• 3/4 cup warm milk
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1/4 cup butter (softened)
• 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
• 3 to 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
• 1 raisin

Egg wash
• 1 egg white
• 1 tablespoon water

Dissolve yeast, then sugar, in warm water. Let stand for 10 minutes until frothy.

In a large bowl, combine warm milk, sugar, butter and salt. Stir in yeast mixture. With a mixer or by hand, slowly mix in half of the flour until well blended. Continue to mix in more flour until a stiff dough is formed. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic.

Place in a bowl lightly greased with cooking oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and store in a warm place until dough doubles in size (about an hour).

Punch down the dough and separate into four even portions.

Roll first portion into a 9-inch-by-6-inch oval (body) 1/4 of an inch thick. Trim an inch off across the top and place onto a greased cookie sheet.

Roll another portion into a 9-inch rope. Divide as follows: one 4-inch section (head), two 1-inch sections (tail and ear), and two 1 1/2-inch sections (legs). Shape head into an oval and attach to body. Pinch to seal. Shape nose and flatten head slightly. Roll each leg to 2-inch-long ovals and attach to bottom of body. Pinch to seal. Shape tail and ear and attach. Pinch to seal.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk egg white and water in a small bowl. Set aside.

Using the remaining dough, make 24 to 26 1-inch balls and then several 1/2-inch or smaller-sized balls. Arrange the 1-inch balls over the main body leaving a 1/4-inch border exposed. Arrange smaller balls between the larger balls and on top of the head. Insert a raisin for the eye and cut a vertical slit into each leg.

Brush with the egg wash and bake for 10 minutes. Quickly brush on more egg wash and sprinkle sesame seeds over the head and body. Bake 15–20 minutes longer or until lightly brown on top. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly. Enjoy!

Michelle Sessions DiFranco is a designer and the mother of two children.