Classic Italian Easter bread is one of our favorite braided breads, thanks to its creative use of colorful Easter eggs between woven layers of dough. The design is a nod to the early Catholic tradition of forbidding eggs until the close of Lent, and Italian Easter bread can be enjoyed in both sweet and savory form. Elaine McCardel, the voice behind The Italian Dish, knows how to bring new life to all aspects of classic Italian fare—so naturally, her take on Italian Easter Bread is no exception.
Italian Easter Bread Recipe
▪ 1 package Rapid Rise (instant) yeast, about 2-1/4 teaspoons
▪ 1 1/4 cups milk
▪ pinch of salt
▪ 1/3 cup butter
▪ 2 eggs, beaten
▪ 1/2 cup sugar
▪ 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (approximate)
▪ 1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water
▪ 6 dyed Easter eggs
▪ sprinkles or pearl sugar
1. In a small saucepan, warm the milk and butter together, until the butter melts.
2. In a large mixer bowl, combine yeast, salt, eggs and sugar. Add the warm (not hot – it will kill the yeast) milk and butter. Add about half the flour and beat until smooth with dough hook. Slowly add the remaining flour to form a stiff dough. Add flour until the dough is no longer sticky.
3. Knead until smooth with dough hook attachment or turn out on floured board and knead. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour. Punch dough down, divide into 12 pieces.
4. Roll each piece to form a 1 inch thick rope about 14 inches long. Taking two pieces, twist to form a braid. Pinch the ends, and loop into a circle. Place on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper or Silpats. Cover and let rise until double, about an hour again.
5. Brush each bread with beaten egg wash. Put on the sprinkles or pearl sugar. In the middle of each bread ring, gently place an Easter egg, making an indentation with the egg.
For more bread recipes that are fantastic for Easter, see below.