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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Iannelli-Rubin

Italian Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua)

Italian Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua) is a soft, sweet brioche bread formed into wreaths or braided and is very similar to challah bread.



It can be made up to 5 days before Easter Sunday, and makes your Easter table colorful. The bread is a yeast bread which means you will need patience and time to make it. This process is not difficult whatsoever. Be sure you have about 3 hours before you get started because you'll need two and a half hours for prep and 18 minutes to bake. The aroma in the house while this bread is baking is intoxicatingly sweet.


What is the significance of Easter Bread? When baked into the shape of a wreath, Italian Easter Bread symbolizes the crown of thorns worn by Jesus Christ. When the dough is braided with three pieces it represents the Holy Trinity. Adding an egg to the bread represents rebirth, Christ rising from the dead.


How to Store Italian Easter Bread. Be sure to store the Brioche Bread in an air tight container or bag for up to 5 days. The breads can also be frozen again in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 2 months. Just be sure to remove the egg before freezing.



Enjoy!

 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk

  • 1 packet active dry yeast (1/4 ounce envelope)

  • 4 eggs , room temperature

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (may need more as mixing)

  • 1 Tbsp. lemon zest

  • 1 tsp kosher salt

  • 8 Tbsp. butter , melted and cooled

  • 7 dyed eggs (follow instructions on the food coloring)

Egg Wash:

  • 1 egg

  • 1 tablespoon water


Directions

  1. Color your eggs. If you are adding colored eggs, now is the time to boil & color them. Using only water, vinegar, and food coloring. Boil 3 cups of water, then divide it between 6 teacups, mugs, or small bowls. Add 2 teaspoons of vinegar to each cup, then add 4 to 6 drops of food coloring. Stir until the food coloring's dispersed throughout the water, then add one hard-boiled egg into each cup. Let the eggs sit and soak up some color while you prepare the dough.

  2. In a small saucepan heat the milk over medium to 110 F (I just test the water with my finger and know it’s the right temperature…warm like the temperature of a baby bottle, not hot). Add the yeast to a small bowl with the warm milk and whisk it around with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Let sit until foamy (about 5 minutes).

  3. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla and set aside.

  4. In a large bowl whisk together the rest of the sugar, flour, lemon zest, and salt.

  5. Pour the flour mixture in the bowl of a mixer. With dough hook attached and mixer on medium speed, slowly add the milk mixture (*the milk mixture has the milk, yeast, 1 tbsp sugar, eggs, vanilla) to the flour mixture.

  6. Hold onto your mixer! Now you will add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. I tell you to hold onto it because it will move around if you are mixing it on too fast of a speed. Start on medium-low speed. If you notice the mixer moving too much, you can lower the speed and let the butter get gently incorporated into the dough. If you have the mixture at a faster speed at this point…do not leave it alone while it’s mixing. It could bounce off the counter.

  7. Be sure to mix well when all the butter is added (about 3-5 minutes). You may need to add more flour. (Start with 4 1/2 cups of flour. If you need more flour, add more a Tablespoon at a time until it is no longer sticky. Don’t worry about the total amount of flour, keep adding until your dough is stiff and elastic, and it is not sticky.)

  8. Put a little flour onto a clean counter and scrape the dough out of mixer onto the counter. Knead the dough a little and shape the dough into a ball (you won’t be kneading the dough too much…just a bit to shape it into an elastic ball of dough).

  9. PROOF 1 - Oil a large mixing bowl and place the dough into the bowl. Rub a little oil on top of the dough and cover it to rest in a draft-free area for a bout 1-1 1/2 hours.

  10. Punch down the dough.

  11. Divide the dough into 14 portions. Roll each portion into a strip about 12 inches long. You could also make one large braid with this dough. If you are making one large braid, roll each piece into strips about 15 “ long. If you are making two braids, the strips will be a bit smaller (sorry, I did not measure the strips)

  12. Start with two pieces: pinch the ends together of the first 2 ropes to secure the strips together Bring one side over to the other and tuck it in to make a small ring shape. You’re making a little nest for your colored egg to nestle into. Make sure your ring is not too big and not too tight.

  13. Preheat oven to 350 F.

  14. Repeat process with the next 6 sets of 2 ropes that you will make. You will have 7 little nests to hold your eggs.

  15. Place on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper (or a silpat mat).

  16. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water for the egg wash. Brush on the egg wash.

  17. PROOF 2 - Cover the dough with a kitchen towel to proof for about 40-45 minutes.

  18. When dough is ready to bake, brush on some more egg wash. Sprinkle on the sprinkles. Place an egg in the middle of each little nest.

  19. Bake for about 18-20 minutes. If you are making one very large wreath, it should be done in 25-30 minutes.

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