Italian Easter Bread- Solemnity of Easter
Updated: Feb 4
Happy Eastertide, Friends!
It has been a whirlwind over here in Quarantine-ville! We had a glorious Holy Week, even with the deep sadness of not being able to attend Mass, Good Friday was particularly somber and prayerful for me. Mostly I've been learning how to teach Theology online which comes with its ups and downs, build some self-care tools into my routine, and spend time (5 minutes min) in silence everyday. All things considered, I have been counting my blessings and realizing that I may not be as extroverted as I thought I was, maybe that changes as you get older, who knows. Needless to say, I've grown more comfortable with silence, I've rediscovered the joys of delving into the adventures of a good book, and I've spent hours laboring over delicious loaves of bread. This Easter I made Pane di Pasqua, Italian Easter Bread, and it was a huge success, after the first couple of tries.
There is something so comforting about making bread, except when you forget the yeast and have to throw your beautiful little unbaked lump of dough in the trash. Yes, the one thing that absolutely has to go in RISEN bread was forgotten, but I tried again with great success. Given that we are still celebrating the joy of the Resurrection I thought this would be a great recipe to make with or for the family! It's also the perfect addition to a Springtime table with its fresh, citrus taste and its bright colored eggs.
Before we get started this bread has dyed Easter eggs tucked into it, this is optional, but if you do want them make sure you have an Easter Egg Dye Kit on hand or some vinegar and food coloring.
Prep Time: 45 min
Rise Time: 1:30-2:00
Bake Time: 20 minutes
This is for a large loaf which will feed about 10-12 people. You can half the entire recipe for a small loaf or keep the proportions the same and make two smaller loafs. A small loaf will feed about 5-6 people.
For the Bread
1. 1/2 cup milk, warmed to about 105F
2. 1/4 cup sugar
3. 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
4. 4 cups flour
5. 1 tsp salt
6. 2 oranges zested and juiced (about 1/2 cup juice)
7. 2 egg, beaten
8. 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
9. 1/2 tsp anise extract
For the Egg Wash
1. 1 egg, beaten
2. 1 tsp water
Begin by measuring the 1/2 cup milk and warm it in the microwave to about 100-105F.
Put the warmed milk and the 1/4 cup sugar in a bowl and stir it until its dissolved.
Whisk, whisk, whisk!
Add the whole packet of yeast to the milk mixture.
Whisk it in, cover it with a tea towel, and set aside for 5-10 minutes to activate the yeast.
Take a little peak! Yup, it's resting there just as expected.
Next up will be our dry ingredients so grab a large bowl.
Measure out 3 cups flour into your large mixing bowl.
Add 1 teaspoon salt to the flour.
Mix it in real good like! ; )
Set that aside with your yeast mixture and get a medium bowl for the wet ingredients.
First, lightly beat one egg... not too much it didn't do anything to you!
Then put 1/4 cup buttah in a glass bowl to melt in the microwave.
Set the melted butter aside and in another glass bowl zest two oranges.
Take your orange and juice 1/2 cup it into the bowl along with the zest. This is the best part and gives the bread that fresh spring flavor!
Add the beaten egg to the orange zest and juice like so!
Then add the melted butter to that mixture!
Measure 1/2 teaspoon of pure anise extract. My family loves this flavoring, we use it in pizzelles too, it tastes like licorice and makes a delicious flavor combination with the orange.
Whisk the ingredients together and bring your three bowls back center stage. You should have a bowl with the orange mixture, another with the flour mixture, and a third bowl with the yeast mixture.
Your yeast mixture should look like this now, foamy!
Pour the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and give it a little mixing, then pour the orange mixture in too.
I started with a whisk and then changed my mind, grab a wooden spoon for this step. If you don't want as much of an arm work out you can always throw this into the stand mixer.
Add the remaining 1 cup flour a little at a time, mixing it in until it is all moistened.
Lightly flour your surface and turn the dough out so you can knead it for 5-10 minutes.
You'll know it's ready to rise once it has all come together in a soft, smooth ball of dough. It should feel soft and tacky!
Oil a large, clean bowl, then place the dough inside and roll it around so it gets a nice top coat of oil too.
Cover it with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm environment to rise for 45 min to an hour.
Here is my risen dough after an hour!
Note: If the dough is not doubled in size within the hour give it more time. If you need to you can also put it in the refrigerator overnight, this will slow the down the activity of the yeast but it won't stop it so you may have to punch down the dough. When you are ready to bake the bread, take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it get to room temperature.
Lightly flour your surface again so that you can make the braid ring.
On your floured surface cut the dough into three equal parts.
Roll each piece into 24" ropes. I have learned that if the dough continuously springs back, cover the dough with a damp towel for about 5 minutes to relax the gluten.
3- 24" ropes!
Pinch the ropes together so that you create one unified end.
Braid the dough on your floured surface and connect it at the ends to form a ring.
Now you can add your beautifully decorated eggs. I do a little trick by tucking one egg into braid where it is connected to hide that part.
I only added two eggs to this one, but my larger loaf I did four eggs. Feel free to go crazy with it, it's Easter for goodness sake!
Make your egg wash by beating one egg and adding a splash of water. A 1 tsp splash if you like to be exact!
Brush the egg wash on the braid for a little added color and shine, be careful not to let it touch the dyed egg because the coloring will bleed onto the bread as it bakes.
Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let the ring rise until almost doubled for about 45 minutes to an hour. Preheat your oven the last 5 minutes of your rise time to 350F.
Bake the bread for 15-25 minutes. 20 minutes in my oven is sufficient but check on it often until the ring is golden brown. You can check to see if it is finished by tapping the bread, if it sounds hollow then it is done.
Let it rest a few minutes on the baking sheet before placing it gently on a wire cooling rack. This. is. perfection!
Cooled and ready to cut open! This is the best little loaf for a spring or summer brunch and should be light, airy, fluffy, and rich.
This is one of our favorite cultural Catholic traditions, give it a try and see if it works for your family too. This is also a fun recipe to do with kids, while a little lengthy, it has many parts for them to join in on. Nothing brings people together like food!
He is Risen!
Did you make this recipe? If so I would love to see it, drop a picture in the comment or send it to me on social media Facebook @HisGirlSunday.
For more Catholic tradition resources check out the blog section of my website or follow me on Facebook to see what Catholic things I am doing to celebrate feast days.