No Italian Easter dinner table would be complete without the traditional Easter Bread.
This bread, similar to panettone, can be baked in a variety of ways, including twisted or braided into a log, a large ring, smaller ring for individual consumption, or even into the shape of a dove (a pagan symbol of the coming of spring and the sign of the holy spirit).
The sweet bread, representing Christ the “bread of life” and the eggs, representing the origins of life, rebirth, hope and new beginnings. It holds true religious significance!
Easter Bread is truly much easier to make than it looks. Give this recipe a try and see what you think. Believe me, it’s delicious!
This bread is best fresh out of the oven so serve it right away.
6 dyed eggs for decorating (unboiled, eggs will cook as they bake)
6 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1¼ cup milk
1 package active dry yeast
½ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
About 4 cups flour
1 egg mixed with 1 teaspoon of water for egg wash
Sprinkles for decorating
In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Add the milk and scald, do not boil. Allow the milk mixture to cool to room temperature.
Mix in the yeast, 2 eggs, sugar, and salt with the milk mixture. Add half of the flour mixture. Keep adding flour, a little at a time, until the dough forms a ball and is no longer sticky (you may need more or less flour than specified).
On a floured surface, knead and punch down the dough until smooth. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let sit in a warm spot until doubled, about an hour. I place mine in the microwave with the door left open.
Once the dough has risen, knead and punch it down again.
Cut the dough into 12 pieces. Roll out each piece into a long ropes, about 14-inches long. Using two ropes at a time, pinch the ends of the dough together and twist. Loop into a circle and pinch the dough to connect the ends.
When the 6 circles of braided bread are finished, place them on a greased baking sheet, cover, and let sit in a warm place to rise for about another hour.
While you're waiting, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Once the dough has risen again, brush the bread rings with the egg wash and coat with colored sprinkles, if you wish. Carefully place an egg in the center of each bread ring.
Place the bread rings in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top.
After preparing the dough and allowing it to rise, divide it into 12 equal pieces and roll them into 14-inch ropes. Braid the ropes, in pairs of two— starting by pinching two ends together.
Bring one end of the “ropes” around, creating a circle and pinch the ends together. These are your bread rings. Continue until you’ve used all 12 ropes. Place bread on parchment paper lined cookie sheets or silpat liners. Allow dough to rise again.
Brush the tops of the bread rings with the egg wash and top with festive colored sprinkles. Carefully place one pre-dyed egg in the center of each bread ring. Make sure the eggs are raw inside because they will cook during the baking period. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.