Italian Easter Bread
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Step 1 (Starter)
- 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cool water
- 7 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
- 2/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature (very soft), cut into 6 pieces
- 2 tablespoons lukewarm whole milk
- 2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
- 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (very soft), cut into 12 pieces
- 3 tablespoons lukewarm whole milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1 1/2 cups chopped candied orange peel* (about 10 ounces)
- 1/2 cup (about) all purpose flour
- 2 dove-shaped paper baking molds (size C3)
Step 6 (Glaze and baking)
- 1/2 cup whole unblanched almonds
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 1/3 cups sliced almonds
For step 1 (Making starter)
Combine water and sugar in bowl of heavy-duty mixer. Stir in yeast. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 10 minutes. Using rubber spatula, mix in flour (dough will be firm). Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let starter rise until puffy, about 45 minutes. (Initially, the starter, or biga is firm and compact, but it softens and becomes puffy and spongy after rising.)
For step 2
Attach dough hook to mixer. Add all ingredients in step 2 to starter. Beat until blended, scraping down sides of bowl often, about 5 minutes (dough will be soft and thick). Scrape dough off hook; remove hook. Cover bowl with plastic. Let dough rise at room temperature until puffy and bubbly on top, about 1 hour. The dough will look thick, shiny, and slightly puffed.
For step 3
Reattach clean dough hook. Add first 5 ingredients in step 3 to dough; beat until blended. Add flour. Beat at low speed until smooth, scraping down bowl and hook often, about 5 minutes (dough will be firm and compact). Cover bowl with plastic; let dough rise at room temperature until lighter in texture and slightly puffed, about 3 1/2 hours. The dough will double in volume and become lighter in texture but less glossy.
For step 4
Reattach clean dough hook. Mix water and yeast in small cup. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 10 minutes; add to dough. Add 1 1/3 cups flour, half of butter, sugar, and 2 yolks; beat until dough is smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down dough hook and sides of bowl. Add remaining 2 yolks, milk, vanilla extract, and salt. Beat at low speed until blended, about 3 minutes. Scrape down hook. Add remaining 2/3 cup flour, remaining butter, and orange peel. Beat dough until well blended, about 5 minutes. Scrape dough into very large (at least 4-quart) buttered bowl. Cover with plastic. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled and indentation remains when 2 fingers are pressed about 1/4 inch into dough, 8 to 10 hours.
For step 5
Sprinkle 1/2 cup flour onto work surface. Scrape dough out onto floured work surface (dough will be soft and sticky). Gently toss dough in flour until easy to handle. Brush away excess flour. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Divide 1 piece in half; shape each half into 10-inch-long log. Arrange 1 log crosswise in each paper baking mold, curving ends to fit. Roll each remaining dough piece into 11-inch-long log, slightly tapered at ends. Place 1 log across dough in each mold. (If using 2 springform pans, divide dough in half; place half in each prepared pan). Cover molds (or pans) with plastic. Let stand at room temperature until dough rises to top of each mold and indentation remains when 2 fingers are pressed about 1/4 inch into dough, about 3 1/4 hours.
For step 6 (Glaze and baking)
Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 375°F. Finely grind sugar and whole almonds in processor. Add egg whites and almond extract; blend 10 seconds. Peel plastic off dough in molds. Spoon half of almond glaze over top of each. Sprinkle each with sliced almonds. Sift powdered sugar over. Slide rimless baking sheet under molds; slide molds directly onto oven rack.
Bake breads until brown on top and slender wooden skewer inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool breads completely on rack. DO AHEAD Can be made ahead. Wrap; let stand at room temperature up to 2 days or freeze up to 1 week.
* Candied orange peel can be found in some specialty foods stores. Dove-shaped paper baking molds can be found at Sur La Table (800-243-0852) and some other cookware stores, or you can order the molds, along with fine-quality candied orange peel, from Emporio Rulli (888-887-8554).
Italian Easter Bread
This Italian Easter bread is a fun and festive recipe similar to a challah egg bread. It’s a slightly sweet yeast-leavened baked treat that yields soft and tender slices with colorful sprinkles on top. You can work through each step, mixing, proofing, shaping and have time in between to decorate Easter eggs.
The eye-catching egg in the center will have your guests saying “oohs, and ahhs” about your beautiful creation. This recipe has been a family tradition starting with my husband’s grandmother Rose who made this every holiday. I love the vibrant colors and the fact this bread can be shaped in a variety of designs.
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Individual Italian Easter Bread Rings
Recipe by Christina Conte (adapted from my doughnut recipe) Makes 6 rings
Full printable recipe below
FOR STAND MIXER DIRECTIONS, SEE BELOW.
Heat milk and butter gently, in a small saucepan, just until butter melts.
Remove from heat and place in bread machine pan.
Beat eggs, just to break yolks, then add to milk and butter in pan, then add the dry ingredients: flour, salt and sugar.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the yeast.
Set machine for “dough” and press “start.”
This is what the dough should look like after it is finished kneading. It should be very soft and pliable, but not sticky. If it is very wet or very sticky, add a little flour and let it knead again.
IF USING A STAND MIXER: place lukewarm milk in a jug and sprinkle the yeast on top with a pinch of sugar, and allow to rest for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place the rest of the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Melt the butter, (but make sure it’s not hot when you add it to the bowl or it can kill the yeast), and slightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl.
Pour the milk and yeast mixture, melted butter and beaten eggs into the well in the flour. Using the dough hook, start the machine slowly, until a dough begins to form, then increase the speed a little and allow to knead for about 10 minutes. Dough should be smooth, and a bit firm. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled. If it is cold in your kitchen you can place the bowl, uncovered, in your oven, along with a jug of boiling water alongside it (or just keep it covered with the plastic wrap).
If you do warm your oven at all, please just turn it on for 1 or 2 minutes, then turn it off, as the bread won’t turn out correctly if it rises under overheated conditions). These directions can also be followed if you want to make these by hand.
WHETHER USING THE BREAD MACHINE OR STAND MIXER, CONTINUE HERE…
Put the dough onto a lightly floured mat or counter and knead gently, then cut into 6 equal pieces.
Cut each of the 6 pieces in half and roll out to about 9 inches long. It doesn’t have to look pretty at this point.
Now twist the two ropes together like this. Again, it won’t look very pretty, but it’s okay pinch the other end together.
Next, join the ends to each other to form a ring, twisting as necessary to keep the ropes from undoing themselves. Place a colored egg into the center of the ring. If you’d like to make ONE large Italian Easter bread ring, do so by using all of the dough to make one large twisted ring. Afterwards, place the 5 eggs nestled evenly into the dough.
Place the ring on a silicone sheet or parchment lined baking tray and continue with the rest of the dough and eggs.
Once you have made all six, place them in a slightly warm oven to rise for about an hour.
After they have risen, remove the tray from the oven and turn it on to 350°F (175°C).
When the oven is at the correct temperature, bake the rings for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown, turning the tray midway through baking, if necessary, for even browning.
Remove from the oven and place the Italian Easter bread rings on a cooling rack.
When the bread rings are cool, mix together confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and milk to make a slightly runny glaze. Glaze rings, adjusting with more sugar or milk for correct consistency.
See the photo below: the drip in the forefront ran too quickly, so I made the icing thicker, and you can see it looks much better as it pours onto the ring.
The glaze should slowly drip down the side of the ring.
Immediately add colored sprinkles, if desired, and allow glaze to harden/dry before serving.
See? They’re not difficult to make at all!
NOTE: due to the fact that these are made from brioche dough, iced and have an egg in the middle, I don’t advise making these too far in advance. In fact, I usually have the dough ready and shape and bake them on Easter morning because I love them fresh. If you do make them in advance, try to make them the night before, but if keeping them out for longer than a few hours, or if it’s really warm, they should be refrigerated because of the egg.
- 1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup water (100 F)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup milk
- 4 large eggs (at room temperature)
- 1 teaspoon anise seeds
- 1 1/2 tablespoons anise extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon extract
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 6 tablespoons butter (melted)
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more as needed)
How to Make Pane di Pasqua
I’ve given detailed instructions on how to make Italian Easter bread in the recipe card below, but here are the basic steps for making this Easter sweet bread:
- Dye the Easter eggs.
- Mix together the yeast and warm milk. Set aside until foamy.
- Add the eggs and vanilla to the milk mixture.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, lemon zest, and salt.
- Using an electric mixture with a dough hook attachment, add the milk mixture to the flour mixture.
- Add the butter to the dough a little at a time.
- Once the dough comes together, turn it onto a floured surface and shape into a ball. Place in an oiled bowl and let rise for an hour to 90 minutes.
- Once risen, gently punch down the dough and shape into the braided Easter bread (I’ve given specific instructions on how to shape the dough in the recipe card below).
- Brush the braided dough with egg wash, then let rise for a second time.
- Bake the Italian Easter bread until golden.
1. Place the 4 raw eggs into a natural liquid dye and refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Add the warm milk to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Stir in the flour, butter, 2 eggs, orange zest, orange juice, raisins, fennel, and salt until thoroughly combined and a dough is formed.
3. Knead the dough by hand on a well floured surface for about 5 minutes. Add a little bit more flour if dough is too sticky.
4. Form the dough into a ball and place in a large clean bowl. Drizzle the dough ball with the olive oil and flip the dough a few times to cover in the oil. Loosely cover the bowl and set in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour.
5. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
6. Punch the down the dough to deflate and separate into 8 equal size balls. Roll each dough ball into a rope roughly 12-inches long. Lay two of the ropes side by side and twist them together then wrap the ends around to meet to form a round nest shape and pinch together at the ends to seal. Lay the nest shaped dough on the lined baking sheet and continue the same process with the remaining dough ropes.
7. Brush the tops of the dough nests with the beaten egg. Nestle a dyed raw egg vertically in the center of each dough nest and let sit for 30 more minutes.
8. Bake the breads in the preheated oven until bread is golden brown and eggs are hard cooked, 20 to 25 minutes.
YELLOW DYE: Mix 1 cup water, 1 TBSP turmeric, and 1 TBSP white vinegar together in a jar. Place the egg(s) in the jar and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. The longer it sits the darker the dye will be on the egg.
RED DYE: Mix 1 beet juice and 1 TBSP white vinegar together in a jar. Place the egg(s) in the jar and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. The longer it sits the darker the dye will be on the egg.
Casatiello | Traditional Stuffed Easter Bread
Maricruz Ava of M.A. Kitchen
Casatiello is a traditional stuffed bread with cheese, salami and eggs. It is from from the neapolitan cuisine. The name Casatiello comes from the Neapolitan dialect “case” which means cheese, referring to one of its main ingredients.
Every year my family and friends gather at my house to celebrate Easter. We have family and friends from north to south Italy so everyone shares their favorite recipe. From ‘torte salate’ (savoury pies) to sweet treats, antipasti, desserts, pasta, etc. There’s so much food at our table that we always end with leftovers, but actually is a nice thing because we can take them next day to our pasquetta picnic.
Casatiello is one of our favorite recipes. My friend Antonella always brings two to enjoy during Easter breakfast and lunch and one more for pasquetta but we always end by eating all three the same day! Slice by slice, Casatiello rarely make it to our picnic.
A Sicilian Easter Tradition
Now as an adult I know the correct name for this simple bread is Pane di Pasqua (literally translated as “Easter Bread”). What always amazed me as a kid was how my nana got those dyed Easter eggs into that bread! Of course, I didn’t realize you color the eggs raw, and then weave them into the Italian Easter Bread before baking. The eggs cook in the oven right along with the bread, and turn out as perfectly hard boiled (baked, actually).
Pulling the Italian Easter Bread apart is the most fun part, especially for kids. Since the dough has been braided and forms an Easter wreath of sorts, the eggs are tucked in about the braids. When you pull the bread apart, the braids unwind and loosen the eggs. All around each egg, the colors of the dyes have usually bled a little into the bread dough. Each piece ends up soft, slightly sweet and multi-colored. So much fun for a kid!
We dyed the eggs the night before so they were ready to weave into the Italian Easter Bread.
How to Make Italian Easter Bread
My Nana never wrote down recipes, so we had to watch her carefully and then scratch down the proper ingredients and measurements on a nearby pad while she made the dish. Her recipe and directions for making Italian Easter Bread are super easy, but it does take a while to make.
Whenever you make bread from scratch, you have to let the dough rise for a bit. I like to get the recipe started so the bread can rise, and then go on and do something else in the mean time. After all, I end up with an least an hour to kill. Plenty of time to watch an episode of Game of Thrones. Or depending on your sense of humor, Gay of Thrones is a hilarious watch as well.
Italian Easter Bread, or Pane di Pascua, is one of my favorite childhood memories of Easter with my Sicilian Nana.
Here’s the recipe – I had to modernize and improvise a bit for current tastes.
- ½ cup milk, warmed slightly
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp orange zest
- ½ cup orange juice
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 tbs anise seeds (optional)
- 6 raw eggs, dyed various colors
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- 1 tbs milk
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
Instructions for Making Italian Easter Bread
- In a small bowl dissolve the sugar in the warm milk. Add the yeast, mix well and set the mixture aside.
- While the yeast is taking action, mix together 3 cups all-purpose flour and salt in a large bowl.
- In another bowl, whisk together the orange juice and zest, eggs, melted butter, and anise.
Optional: When the Italian Easter Bread is completely cooled, mix together powdered sugar, almond extract and milk in a small bowl. Drizzle mixture over bread, avoiding the eggs. Sprinkle almonds on top of drizzle in order to stick.
Serve by allowing guests to pull apart bread in pieces. Eggs can be peeled and eaten alongside, or saved for later.
Mini Braided Easter Bread Recipe
Mini Braided Easter Bread Recipe – sweet easter breads with a colored egg in the middle. Cute, festive and easy to make. Soft, stringy bread that pulls away, flavored with vanilla, lemon and orange zest and topped with sugar for a sweet, crunchy finish.
This Mini Braided Easter Bread Recipe is perfect for Easter gifts or to add to your holiday table.
I celebrate Greek Orthodox Easter as well and some of you may not know, but it is this Sunday.
Since I’m on a low carb diet, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to bake Easter bread. But a friend told me that my Bulgarian Easter Bread is the best one she’s ever tried, so I can’t afford to not make any this year!
I love baking and using the easiest Easter bread recipe I have, I created these mini braided sweet breads.
Adding a hard boiled colored egg in the middle of each bread makes them fun, colorful and festive. The recipe is straight forward and makes 4 mini Easter breads.
Each bread is enough for 2-3 people, but who likes to share?
This Mini Braided Easter Bread Recipe is made with yeast and requires rising time and also proofing the yeast. I sometimes use live yeast, but it is not widely available and easily stored, so I made today’s breads with dry yeast. I like to proof it because I hate wasting ingredients…
Ever wonder why won’t your Easter bread rise? I’ve had quite a few failures.
Sweet Easter Bread became my friend in the recent years. Before that, even though I took some lessons from my grandmother, things kept going wrong and my Easter bread dough rarely rose.
- The yeast is not good. From time to time yeast is not active, has expired or is defective. There is nothing you can do. I’ve never had this issue with live yeast, but as I mentioned before, it is not widely available here in the US, this is why I’ll stick with dry yeast.
- The ingredients are too cold. Temperature matters. They need to be at room temperature.
- The liquid, where you are dissolving the yeast for proofing is too cold or hot. This seems to be a common problem. With my experimenting I’ve found that “luke warm” milk or water won’t do it. I always have to measure the temperature of the liquid and it has to be between 100 F and 115 F. Nothing above – because it will “kill the yeast” or under, because it will not activate it to proof.
Tips for baking easter bread:
- Preheat your oven at least 30 minutes in advance. You can also set a rack under the one you’ll be baking on and place a pan, filled with water. This will create extra steam and make the bread rise even more.
- Don’t over bake the Easter bread. This will make it dry and crumby. Always aim for stringy sweet Easter bread. To achieve that, bake just until done. Toothpick inserted should come out clean and the bread should be golden on top. If the bread starts to brown too quickly, while baking, make sure you cover the top with aluminum foil and continue baking, then remove the foil at the end and let it brown until done.
- Different pans, ovens and bread sizes require different baking time. You need to make a decision and know when to take the bread out.
Optional Easter Bread dough mix ins:
I suggest that you add these after the initial dough rise, before you shape the braids.
- nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts
- candied citrus peel (I have a recipe for candied orange peel)
Easter Bread flavorings:
I like to use vanilla extract and lemon zest. The combination is fresh and screams “sweet bread” to me.
Other possible flavorings are orange zest, orange liqueur, rum, almond extract, mahleb (spice), cardamon.