Italian Easter Bread

Italian Easter Bread or Pane di Pasqua is a slightly sweet braided bread with an incredibly soft and light texture.

Italian Easter bread on a baking sheet.

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.

Italian Easter Bread on a parchment lined baking sheet.

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.

Tips

  • 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.
Bread dough risen in a red bowl.

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.

Dough shaping on a wooden cutting board.

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.

Risen, shaped dough with dyed eggs in the middle on a 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.

Italian Easter bread on a parchment lined baking sheet.

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!

Happy Easter!

FAQ

Can this dough be made ahead?

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.

Can you freeze them?

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 on a baking sheet.

Italian Easter Bread Recipe

This bread bakes up incredibly soft and slightly sweet. It's perfect for Easter morning!
4.71 from 17 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Bread, Breakfast
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: bread, Easter, italian, spring
Prep Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Servings: 6 individual loaves
Calories: 563kcal
Author: Leigh Harris

Ingredients
 

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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!

Notes

If the bread starts to brown too much while baking cover loosely with aluminum foil.
Nutrition information includes dyed eggs.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 563kcal | Carbohydrates: 81g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 285mg | Sodium: 202mg | Potassium: 198mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 704IU | Calcium: 66mg | Iron: 5mg

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48 Comments

  1. They came out pretty! I’ve seen these around Pinterest and have always wondered how to place in the eggs in the middle 😉 Following from This is How We Roll!

  2. Love this! The recipe and directions look very easy to follow! Thanks! Happy to be your neighbor at the Linkup at Wordless Wednesday!5 stars

  3. I would be surprised too, if I made such beautiful loaves of bread. =D Love seeing the dough rise in the pan. Thanks so much for sharing with us at Weekend Potluck. May you and yours enjoy a wonderful Easter weekend.5 stars

  4. These look amazing. I wish I had found this a bit earlier as I may well have given this a try for our family Easter celebrations tomorrow. I love the brightness of the egg against the bread.

    Sally @ Life Loving
    #LifeLovingLinkie5 stars

  5. This is one of my favorite breads. It’s not Easter without at least two bread rings! Thanks so much for sharing your recipe with us at Funtastic Friday.

  6. These are so pretty, I would be amazed if something I made turned out this gorgeous too! So cool! I’ve pinned, stumbled and yummed, I am bound and determined to try this, what a showstopper on the table!5 stars

  7. Oh my gosh! So pretty! Thanks so much for linking up at the You Link It, We Make It party and we hope you’ll link up your favorites with us again!

  8. These look AMAZING! The presentation and pictures are great! Making bread can be a little intimidating to me sometimes so I don’t have much experience with it. Thanks for linking up with us at Friday Funday and please come back again next week!

    1. Thank you so much, Carrie! Homemade bread has intimidated me in the past too. Practice, practice, practice and a lot of failures! 😉

  9. It sure does look pretty and I bet it was good!! Thanks for sharing on My 2 Favorite Things on Thursday!! Hope to see you again tomorrow! Pinned!

  10. Wow this is soooo amazing for Easter. I love this idea. I have tried making breads before and never good at it. Might have to give this a go. Lovely for holidays and guests over. Thanks for linking up to Share With me #sharewithme5 stars

  11. Hi 🙂 Looks amazing ! Can i do everything the night before ? prepare the individual buns and leave it to rise all night and bake it in the morning ?

    Thank you !

    1. Hi, Menna! I’ve never tried that and I think they might become over risen. You could try refrigerating the dough, pull it out early in the morning. Let it come to room temperature and rise. Then bake. Let us know if you try it and it works or not!

  12. Hi, I am planning to do this tonight and finish it tomorrow.. so at which step should I stop today and how can I keep the dough fresh for tomorrow?
    Thank you

    1. I would recommend refrigerating after the shaping. Cover with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out.

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