Italian Easter bread is sweet, lemon-y, and festive with brightly dyed eggs. Make this the star of your brunch table!
Each year I look forward to Easter. I love any excuse for our family to gather together, to slow down, catch up and spend time together. Along with any good family gathering of course, comes food. I really feel that food is love. Baking and cooking for my family is how I show them my love.
Easter is always a fun time filled with the excitement of dying eggs vibrant colors then getting to seek them out, hidden in tall grass, under a porch swing or even tucked inside the mailbox. Hiding eggs for the kids to find is probably my favorite family tradition. The excitement on their faces when they come upon that brightly colored egg in some obscure spot is just priceless.
Inevitably one of the young babes tries to eat one of those eggs, shell and all, coming away with dye on their lips, and making a priceless photo opportunity for the family to remember for years to come.
But before all the festivities of the egg hunt begin, we always gather to have a large family brunch. Fresh fruit, eggs, pancakes and usually a sweet bread of some sort are all spread across the dining room table. This year I decided to make a new-to-us bread recipe.
Last Easter, a friend of mine who happens to be Italian brought a lovely braided bread into work. It reminded me very much of Challah. It had a beautifully golden exterior while inside was soft and airy. But what intrigued me so much about this braided loaf of bread was that tucked inside the braids were bright, beautiful colored eggs! It was an Italian Easter bread.
We loved plucking out the colored eggs that once baked with the bread are cooked to perfection. The dough had a bright, but ever so slight lemon flavor to it, and it was mildly sweet. Having discovered this bread, I knew I had to learn how to make it myself! Thanks to a step-by-step baking session with my friend, I share this Italian Easter bread recipe with you. This bread will be the perfect addition to your Easter brunch or dinner.
Begin by dyeing 6 raw eggs, allow them to sit at least one hour to achieve a brilliant color then let them dry while preparing dough.
Place warm milk in a medium bowl. Sprinkle yeast into milk and let it sit until frothy, about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, whisk together flour, sugar, lemon zest and salt. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly drizzle in the milk mixture. Knead until combined then add butter, one cube at a time. After all the butter is added, continue kneading the dough until everything is combined well and a stiff and only slightly sticky dough has formed, adding more flour if necessary.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball. Transfer dough ball to a large bowl lightly sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise at warm room temperature for 1 1/2 hours until doubled in size.
Punch down the dough then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll the dough pieces into 3 logs, about 15-inches long each.
Gather the three strips together at their tops and pinch together then being braiding. Once you reach the end, pinch the bottom strips together and tuck under. Add dyed eggs into the folds of the braid wherever you’d like.
Cover the dough with a linen fowl and let rest for 45 minutes to an hour. Preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together remaining egg with 2 teaspoons water and brush egg wash over dough, avoiding eggs. Bake in preheated oven 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
Kate babbles about all things food on her own blog, Food Babbles, and about feeding her girls the best way. Here on Food Fanatic, she wows us with her commitment to homemade, fresh baking, week after week.