Italian Easter Bread
Just like the Irish have their soda bread for Saint Patrick’s Day, Italians have a special bread made once a year for Easter. Italian Easter bread is a slightly sweet, braided bread adorned with hard boiled eggs and sprinkles. Some Italians will even dye the eggs before placing them in the bread but we do not. My mom doesn’t use sprinkles either. Her bread looks similar to a challah, lightly scented with anise seed. Very plain, like a swaddled baby, and delicious toasted up on Easter morning with butter and jam.
This year, my mom and I decided to make the bread together. I have never made my own before so I decided to make some additions like sprinkles, lemon zest, a bit of sugar and almond extract to my mom’s recipe for a sweeter, more colorful bread. Also, I made mine into a wreath like I have seen in Italian bakeries. She stuck to her tried and true Calabrese recipe. Both came out wonderfully and I’m so happy I finally learned to make it.
If you make mine, it will be more of a sweet bread that doesn’t really need any jam. My mom’s is great toasted and served with frittata on Easter morning.
Sweet Easter Bread
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
½ cup milk
2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast (one envelope)
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup warm water
½ cup sugar
1 tsp almond extract
zest of one lemon
5 cups AP flour
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
6 hard boiled eggs
egg wash, 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
In a small sauce pan, melt the butter with the milk. Remove from heat once butter is melted.
In the bowl of a standing mixture, add warm water and yeast. Add tablespoon of sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes.
Add the melted milk/butter mixture to the bowl and allow to cool. Then, add eggs, sugar, extract and lemon zest. Mix until combined.
Add flour and salt and mix until a sticky dough ball forms.
Turn out onto a floured surface and knead into a soft ball, about ten minutes.
Allow to rise for one hour, in a warm place.
Once it has doubled in size, cut dough into four equal pieces. Roll into log ropes and then attach two ropes and loosely braid. Tuck three eggs into the braid and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place a ball of paper towel in the middle to maintain the hole while it rises one more time, another hour.
Once it has risen again, egg wash the top and add sprinkles.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Turn it after ten minutes for even browning.
Nonna Gina’s Easter Bread
7 cups AP flour
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups warm water + mixed with 2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon anise seed
6 hard boiled eggs
In a large bowl, add flour, butter, olive oil and salt. Make a well and add yeast mixture. Sprinkle with anise seed and mix until all combined.
Turn out on a floured surface and knead for ten minutes.
Roll out five logs from the dough and bend in half. Add an egg and then wrap the dough around to resemble a swaddled baby.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.