I do not know who Aunt Martha is, but I do know she was a relative of Bob's grandpa Di Pietro, most likely his dad's sister. All I know is that my mother-in-law used to make this every year for Easter. She is now celiac, really doesn't have anyone to cook or bake for anymore, so she rarely makes this or many other foods anymore.
This may seem time-consuming, but in reality, it just seems so as there is a long rest time. What is nice is you can make it up the night before and then form, raise, and bake the next day. This sounds like a lot of work, but it isn't as so much of it is raising time.
I don't allow it to raise for the 6 hours in the beginning because that is excessive. If a dough raises too much it will fall and be ruined.
I imagine you could change the extracts and use lemon or orange or even butter rum, whatever you'd prefer, but for Italians, anise is the oil of choice.
I will give this recipe as given, but in brackets you will see how I made this.
If you don't like anise, you could substitute lemon extract instead. This makes good toast slathered with lots of fresh butter.
Aunt Martha Di Pietro's Easter Bread
1 medium potato
1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1-2 oz block yeast (I used 4 tsp dry yeast)
*1/2 handful salt (I used about 1 1/2 tsp Real Sea Salt)
*1 cup oil (I used 1 cup olive oil)
*1 1/2 cups sugar
*1/2 box raisins (I used about 6-8 oz, as I buy in bulk, so I used 1/2 lb, about)
*2- 1 oz bottles anise extract (the anise oil would be stronger, if you like it)
9 beaten eggs
6 cups unbleached flour ( I used an additional 4-6 cups flour)
a bit of milk
Peel and chop potatoes and cook till tender. Run through a ricer. (I just mashed the potatoes) and add enough water to make a pint (2 cups). When cool (to around 110-115 degrees), add yeast, 2 eggs, and 1 1/4 cups flour. Let raise 6 hours (I only let raise about 30-45 minutes).
Combine oil, sugar, anise and raisins in a pan. Heat to lukewarm.
Beat the 9 eggs together and add to cooled oil mixture (I added eggs and oil mixture to the original raised yeast mixture). Add salt.
Beat two minutes. (you can use electric mixer or by hand~I did by hand)
Add 6 cups flour gradually to mixture; beat additional 2 minutes on low. (I beat by hand with a spoon, and I added more like another 4-6 cups flour as it was way too wet to knead!)
Knead 8-10 minutes, till elastic and smooth.
Raise overnight (I did in garage, which is cool and keeps it from raising too fast and falling).
Punch dough down, divide into 5 equal parts (I used a kitchen scale and weighed them out into 5 equal parts) and form into loaves, cover with a towel, and place in greased loaf pans.You can roll out into a rectangle and make traditional looking loaves, or you can divide dough into thirds and make into braids.
Use 8" x 4" or 9" x 5" loaf pans.
Raise 1 1/2 hours.
Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.
Take egg and some milk and combine together to make an egg wash. Brush tops of bread before putting in oven. About halfway through, brush again. Will give a shiny look.
Original recipe just says to brush with an egg yolk, but I prefer to use the egg/milk wash.
*I always use eggs from a farm.
*I used Redmond's Real Sea Salt.
*My mother-in-law used vegetable oil, but I use olive oil in all my baking where oil is called for.
*I used cane sugar, but Succanat or Rapadura could be used.
*Bob said it needed more raisins, though I used what the recipe called for. Don't be afraid to use 12-
16 oz of raisins.