I have been asked by numerous people to post this Italian Easter bread recipe. I’m excited to do so! Easter is a celebration of “Rebirth” in the religious context as well as in nature.
“Spring was considered a very magical time and it was a wondrous time for the ancient Mediterranean people along with Northern Europeans to give rise and celebration to the “new life” that the spring season brought with it, after difficult and long winters. The Easter we celebrate today stems greatly from this mindset and is the basis of the whole Christian religion… “Life after Death”… a complete rebirth, exactly what happens in nature after winter passes. Life begins anew, fresh and as wonderful as ever before!”
Springtime celebrations have always included things that were colorful, such as flowers, and colorfully dyed eggs, keeping in mind the vast array of colors that spring and Easter time bring with it each year.
In the case of these celebratory breads, it is the same. The Italian and Greek versions are the most well-known and are always festively decorated with dyed eggs. The Italian style uses many different colors, while the Greeks tend to stick to their traditional red dyed eggs weaved into or adorned on their Easter bread.
Whatever style you prefer the Easter bread is a braided bread with whole colored eggs nestled within the braids. This is extremely fun to make with children. Children get a kick out of the whole process and you can rest assured that they will gobble up the end result, it is just that delicious!
Italian Easter Bread: Preheat oven to 350° F, 200° C
- 3 cups All-Purpose flour
- 1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
- 1 package Active Dry Yeast (Rapid Rise)
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 2/3 cup Whole Milk (120-130°F) lukewarm
- 1/4 cup unsalted Butter (at room temperature)
- 2 Eggs, plus 4-6 more for decorations
- 1/2 cup Candied Fruit, finely chopped & soaked in brandy (this is optional depending on your taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon Anise Seed or Extract (The seeds are more authentic. You can substitute Almond Extract, as well.)
- 2 Tablespoon unsalted Butter (melted) or Extra Virgin Olive Oil (try using the olive oil, once again its more authentic. Use a high-quality EVO; it makes a big difference.)
- Combine 1 cup of the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add milk and butter. Beat for 2 minutes on medium speed.
- Add in 2 eggs and another 1/2 cup of flour. Beat 2 minutes on high-speed. Stir in fruit, nuts and anise seed; mix well.
- Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (you will not need to use it all if you have a good quality flour).
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 7-11 minutes. (You could also use the dough hook on your mixer for 5 minutes, then knead by hand for 1-2 minutes)
- Place in a warm bowl, greased with olive oil. Turn the dough once so that it is lightly coated in oil.
- Cover the bowl with a dampened cloth and let rise for 75 minutes in a draft-free, warm place until doubled in size.
- The remaining eggs (uncooked and kept in their shell) should be dyed in pastel colors, then dried and lightly sprayed with cooking oil.
- Once dough has doubled, punch it down, and then divide in half; roll each section into a 24-inch rope. Loosely twist the 2 ropes together. With a knife trim each end of the braid, then line the two ends up together in a wreath shape.
- Pinch the ends together carefully to alleviate any noticeable seam. Next, take a small knife and make slits on top of the ropes and tuck uncooked (dyed) eggs into the openings. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, another 30 minutes.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.
- Slide from pan onto a wire rack to cool. Brush top of bread with melted butter straight from the oven.
- Let cool slightly and serve.
Now let’s go and simply enjoy SPRING!
To read further on the history of the word “Easter” and its origins click here.