NOTE: First you have to decide about the eggs. Traditionally, you dye raw eggs and they cook in the oven right in the middle of the bread. This is fabulous (and amazing!) if you're going to serve the bread right away as breakfast or brunch. However, I usually found that the yolks were still a little "fudgy" - fine when hot and probably being slathered with butter, salt & pepper, but not so fine if served room temperature later on. As I have been making these for grade-schoolers for some years now, I have taken the chance of over-cooked yolks and hard-boiled the eggs first. I don't get many eggs back, so it must be OK! (N.B.: I find that simple, all-one-color eggs are all this presentation needs; fancier ones wouldn't hurt, but it's up to you if it's worth the egg-stra effort...)
Next, decide on your presentation: rainbow rings (6 eggs in a round "braid"), baskets (eggs in a bread ring, with or without "handle" across the middle), or bunnies. Now you'll know what to do at the end!
Decor note: You can use the tiny multi-colored hard sugar balls that decorate cakes and cookies so well, jimmies, sparkly sugar, or the flat sugar shapes (King Arthur has had a "barnyard mix" which is great - pink pigs, yellow chicks, green ducks, white rabbits and, so help me, shiny brown cows!) which you otherwise might sprinkle on cupcake tops. Whatever isn't too big to stick onto the egg glaze.
Now, for the bread:Scald the milk; add sugar, salt, butter & lemon oil or peel. Cook to lukewarm (it's good to toss it into your big mixing bowl if that bowl needs to be warmed up!). Sprinkle yeast on top of the warm water, stir to dissolve. Add to milk mixture along with the 2 eggs and 2 1/2 cups of flour.
Beat until smooth (120 strokes is traditional and effective).
Stir in enough of the remaining flour, a little at a time, to form a dough that is easy to handle. turn onto lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, 5-8 minutes. Place in lightly greased bowl; turn dough over to grease top. cover and let rise in a warm place free from drafts until doubled, about 1 hour.
For individual breads:Divide into 12 even portions. Roll out a portion between your hands into an 8-10" rope. Cut off about a quarter of the rope if making bunnies, about an eighth if making baskets with handles. Pinch remaining dough into a circle, securing dough well. Put an egg onto the prepared baking sheet, and stretch the dough around it. If you've reserved some dough, roll it into a long enough rope to make the basket handle or two bunny ears (make it long, cut in half, fold it double; pinch into bottom of bread ring above one long end of egg).
For rainbow rings:Roll bread out into two ropes as long as possible. Leaving "tails" about long enough to go around the last egg, cross the two ropes and put one end of an egg against the joint, running lengthwise. Make the ropes cross over/under at the end of the egg and place the next egg at the joint of the ropes. Keep on truckin' until you get to the sixth egg. If you're truly compulsive (as I am) you will have, of course, arranged the eggs in rainbow order so there's no beginning or end to the color wheel. As you tuck the last egg into the last of the ropes, pinch the ends together securely.
Finishing notes on the bunnies: take your freezer marker (the one you label your leftover packages with) and draw eyes and two back-to-back fishhooks for a bunny nose/mouth. Here comes the obsession part: cut 1/4" or so wide strips of paper about 3" long (a 3 x 5" card works fine for this). Then cut the strips ALMOST all the way lengthwise into three very narrow strips. You've left an approximately square "tab" at one end, and especially if you used the cards, you've got curly whiskers. Take a glue stick and stick one set of whiskers beside each side of the "nose" and you've got BUNNIES! (Yeah, I know glue stick and permanent marker aren't edible, but they're on the egg SHELL for pete's sake. No one has sued me yet...)
Whether you take the elegant or the obsessive route, these lovelies will brighten your springtime celebrations!
NOTES : Well, it's time to send a recipe instead of just free advice. I am making a couple dozen of these tonight as our public schools level the playing field by allowing NO celebrations of ANY "organized" religion ... so I am slipping in a little Wicca (?) and celebrating the solstice instead.
This is basically turbo-charged Challah wrapped around a dyed egg... makes a very lovely presentation in any of the assembly options.