Italian Easter Bread or Pane di Pasqua is a slightly sweet braided bread with an incredibly soft and light texture.
This bread is similar to challah, which I thought I should never attempt. But after baking this bread, challah is on my list! You will be pleasantly surprised by how easy this is to make.
I surprised myself that I baked such a pretty loaf of bread. No, really I’m not kidding. I called the family into the kitchen just to admire my accomplishment.
This bread is sure to impress your guests by appearance, taste, and texture.
Just look at how gorgeous they came out. Who knew I could make this myself? Not me.
- Always measure your flour properly. Aerate, spoon, and swoop level.
- Room temperature eggs and dairy will incorporate better into the dough. In this case, the milk and butter are heated so there is no need to being them to room temperature.
- If the bread starts to brown too much while baking cover loosely with aluminum foil.
How to Make Italian Easter Bread
In a small saucepan, add the milk and butter to the pan. Heat the milk to 120 to 130°F, stirring the milk until the butter melts.
In a large bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine the yeast, salt, eggs, and sugar. Add the warmed milk and butter mixture.
Add 2 cups of flour to the mixing bowl. Attach a dough hook to the mixer and combine until smooth on medium speed, for about 2 minutes. Scrap the side of the bowl with a spatula as needed.
Slowly add the remaining 2 cups of flour to the mixing bowl, kneading the dough on medium-low speed, and scraping the sides as needed. Knead until smooth and the dough is stiff, no longer sticky, about 14 minutes.
Shape dough into a ball and place it into a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise for an hour in a warm place until the dough doubles in size.
While the bread dough is rising, dye the eggs. For the colored eggs you will want to use raw eggs, they will cook in the oven.
Also, dye them enough in advance so they have time to dry completely. I used 1/2 cup room temperature water + 1 tablespoon vinegar and food coloring to dye these Easter eggs.
After the first rising. Punch the dough down, and divide it into 12 equal pieces.
Roll each piece to form a 1-inch thick rope about 14 inches long. You do not need a floured surface for this step. Too much flour will make the rolls heavy and tough.
Twist two ropes together to form a “braid”, then join the ends to loop into a circle while pinching the tips together. Place on a prepared baking sheet.
Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Brush with egg wash, top with sprinkles, and place one dyed egg in the center of each one.
How pretty and fun are these bread wreaths?!? You can also make one big braid.
Sweet breads are always a great addition to any holiday meal!
Yes. You can make the dough one day ahead. Wrap tightly and store in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, remove it from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Shape it into the nests.
You can also shape the nests, cover them with plastic wrap, and refrigerate them overnight. The next day, remove them from the fridge, let them come to room temperature, and complete the final rise before baking.
You should be able to freeze the dough stored properly but I have not tested this procedure. If you would like to try it I would recommend shaping the dough, placing them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and freezing for about one hour, or until hard. Once frozen, wrap each individual twist in plastic wrap, and place in a freezer-safe container or bag.
Thaw in the fridge overnight. Remove from the refrigerator, let them complete the final rise, and follow the baking instructions.
Italian Easter Bread Recipe
- 2 1/4 teaspoons rapid rise instant yeast (1 package)
- 1-1/4 cup milk
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 cups all-purpose flour (more as needed for dusting and kneading)
- Vegetable cooking spray or vegetable oil for greasing proofing bowl
- 1 large egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water
- 6 dyed Easter eggs they do not need to be boiled, they will cook as the bread bakes
- Colored sprinkles
- In a small saucepan, add the milk and butter to the pan. Heat the milk to 120 to 130°F, stirring the milk until the butter melts. Do not allow the milk to go above 130°F.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast, salt, eggs, and sugar. Add the warmed milk and butter mixture. Add 2 cups of the flour to the mixing bowl. Attach a dough hook to the mixer and combine until smooth on medium speed, for about 2 minutes. Scrap side of the bowl with a spatula as needed.
- Slowly add the remaining 2 cups of flour to the mixing bowl, kneading the dough on medium-low speed, scraping the sides as needed. Knead until smooth and the dough is stiff, no longer sticky, about 14 minutes. Shape dough into a ball and place into a lightly greased bowl (vegetable cooking spray or oil). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise for an hour in a warm place until the dough doubles in size.
- Punch the dough down, and then divide into 12 pieces. Roll each piece to form a 1-inch rope, about 14 inches long. Taking 2 pieces, twist the pieces to create a braid shape, pinching the ends together and loop into a circle.
- Place the shaped dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet (3 per sheet), spacing the braided dough, so that it has enough room to rise. Loosely cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 hour, until it doubles in size.
- Brush each braided bread with the beaten egg wash. Top with sprinkles, as desired. Gently place one dyed Easter egg in the center of each braided bread ring.
- Bake the bread at 350°F until golden brown, approximately 18-20 minutes. Quickly transfer the baked bread to a cooling rack. Enjoy!