aka Easter Bread
This may be the happiest-looking bread I’ve ever made. Sprinkles on bread? Yes… so much yes.
A bit of backstory before we start….
I’ve had Italian Easter Bread on my bake list for ages, but each year the holiday seems to pass by too quickly, or I just plain forgot about it. So, this past Saturday night, I decided to drop everything and just make it already!
Because of my late start I was babysitting rising bread until 11 pm, and then rolling it into loaves at 11:30, but it was all worth it because at midnight we were pulling apart hot, feathery bread with our fingers. I’ve always thought that dessert tastes better after midnight. It feels like you’re doing something secretive or getting away with something. The same goes for freshly baked bread. I mean, Italian Easter Bread makes a nice brunch, but after midnight it tastes AMAZING.
Trust me, I would never lie about something so important.
My favorite thing about this bread, besides the sprinkles of course, is the colorful egg in the center. You don’t have to worry about hard boiling the eggs before adding them to the bread. They cook perfectly as the bread bakes in the oven!
I used vinegar, water, and food coloring to dye uncooked eggs and allowed them to dry completely on paper towels before placing them inside the dough rounds. Most loaves turned out perfect, but the eggs in two loaves speckled a little during baking, so we ate those imperfect ones first. Just a heads up that you might experience the same result.
This bread is slightly sweet – the perfect sweetness for me – but my husband said he’d appreciate a glazed version next time. To increase the sweetness factor, you can make a simple glaze from 1 cup confectioners’ sugar mixed with 2 tablespoons milk. See the recipe notes for other variations on this bread. And If you need a little help understanding the bread-twisting and whatnot, refer to the process shots below the recipe.
Happy Spring, Chicks! (#momjokes)
Italian Easter Bread
Yield: 6 bread loaves
Prep: 25 minutes, with raising and baking about 3 hours
This is a very basic version of Italian Easter Bread. The dough can be endlessly varied with your choice of dried fruit and citrus zests. Some common toppings are pearl sugar, nonpareils and sweet milk glaze (see note). I sprinkled one loaf with fleur de sel and was quite content to call it lunch.
It’s a good idea to plan ahead – have the eggs dyed, thoroughly dried and ready to go in the loaves!
What You Need:
- 1 1/4 cups half and half
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter
- 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
- Pinch of salt (about 1/16 teaspoon)
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 to 4 cups bread flour (approximate)
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon water
- Rainbow nonpareils
- 6 raw eggs, room temperature, dyed in rainbow colors
What to do:
- Combine the milk and butter in a small saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Warm just until the butter is completely melted and remove from the heat. Let cool until just warm.
- Combine the yeast, salt, eggs, lemon zest, and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the warm milk and half of the flour. Knead with the dough hook until combined.
- Add more flour gradually until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the mixer. You may not have to use all of the flour (but I did!). Knead the dough about 3-5 minutes longer, or until completely smooth and elastic.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl and turn it over once to coat the top. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm place, about 1 hour (my dough took longer, about 1 hour 30 minutes to raise).
- Gently deflate the dough with a fist. Turn it out onto a floured work surface and pat it down slightly so that the dough has an even thickness. Cut the dough into 12 even pieces. Roll each piece to form a 1-inch thick rope about 14 inches in length. Take two lengths and twist them together; loop the twist into a circle and pinch the ends together. Place the circle onto parchment lined baking sheets. Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and let rise again for 1 hour, or until doubled.
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Combine the egg and 1 teaspoon water in a small condiment cup. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the loaves with the mixture. Sprinkle on the nonpareils and gently place a dyed egg in the middle of each loaf.
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until the bread is golden and fragrant. Let cool until warm, if patience allows. The burned fingers were worth it to me!
- For a simple milk glaze, mix 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar with 1-2 tablespoons of milk. Whisk together until smooth. A little vanilla extract couldn’t hurt, either.
- After the dough is raised and turned out onto a work surface, 1/2 cup mixed candied fruit and 1/4 cup blanched almonds can be mixed in. 2 tablespoons of citrus zest may be added to the dough also.