Italian Easter Bread

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

I’m not sure of the exact history of Easter bread in Italy, but I know that it has been around for a long time. The eggs are said to have meaning related to fertility, rebirth/spring, etc. blah blah blah. The Easter miracle in our family was that somehow there were always enough loaves for everyone to enjoy – this bread gets gobbled FAST! It’s no wonder – my husband claims it tastes like Hawaiian sweet rolls and we all know how delicious those are! Hmmm, that gives me an idea… Gah! I digress!

Anyway, this is one of those family recipes that has been in our family since before my grandparents were even married. My grandma says that Aunt Tressie (her sister-in-law who lived in Italy before coming to the US) perfected this recipe. I don’t know about perfect, but it is so good… Thank goodness I needed to make several batches for the blog – no short supply at our house! :) When I was little we always ate this on Easter morning for breakfast (along with Hard Boiled Eggs on Toast, of course!) before heading to church and then to my Grandma’s for the main meal, where there was even MORE Easter bread – yay!

I know it looks like a long recipe, but the steps are very simple, the bread requires minimal kneading and only 2 hours total rising time. Do NOT be intimidated by this recipe.

A note on decoration: In my family, we always baked colored raw eggs into the loaves (more about that later). However, instead of colored eggs (or in addition to), you can also use powdered sugar icing glaze and/or colored sanding sugar to decorate the loaves of bread. This is also very traditional in the Italian culture :)


MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

Prep a medium mixing bowl by lightly greasing it with butter or oil. I used olive oil.

Also, go ahead and warm the milk in the microwave. Since microwaves vary, start with about 45 seconds on high, then heat in additional 10-15 second increments until the milk is warm to the touch, but not hot. If you have a thermometer (even a clean meat one will work!), check for about 105-115 – no hotter than that, otherwise you’ll kill the yeast. If it gets too hot, just let it cool a bit.

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!**If you are using fresh yeast, skip this step and the next two.**

In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon sugar with the instant yeast. (My grandma’s recipe originally listed fresh, but I’ve always used the instant equivalent and it works just as well. See my notes for yeast substitutions.)

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

Add about half of the warm milk (the exact measure is not important) and stir a bit to help dissolve the yeast. 

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

Let it sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. This let’s you know that the yeast is alive and ready to do it’s job. IT’S ALIVE!!!!!!!

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

In the meantime, add the butter pieces to the rest of the warm milk so it can melt a little. It probably will not melt all the way – that’s totally fine.

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

While the yeast is working and the butter melting, put the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, the salt, as well as 2 1/2 cups of flour into a medium mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Briefly stir to combine.

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

Add the milk/butter mixture, beaten eggs, and the foaming yeast/sugar/milk mixture to the bowl with the flour. Mix on low with the paddle attachment (or stir manually with a spoon if you are going that route) until the mixture is like a thick cake batter.

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

If you are using a stand mixer, at this point you’ll want to scrape the paddle and switch it for your dough hook.

Add flour in 1/2 cup increments, stirring well in between additions.

Keep adding flour until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and starts to form a ball. It’s ok for it to be a little sticky at the bottom of the bowl, but not on the sides. For me, this took a little over 3 1/2 cups, for a total of about 6 cups flour.

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

I can tell you right now, this is one of those occasions where a stand mixer really comes in handy, but this recipe can definitely be made by hand, so if no mixer – get to it, muscles!

Knead an additional 4-5 minutes on level 2 (or 6-7 minutes by hand on a slightly floured surface) until the dough is smooth and elastic (pictured above).

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

If you used a stand mixer, after you’ve kneaded the 4-5 in the mixer, go ahead and turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead only long enough to pull the dough together nicely. Tuck any shaggy ends underneath and form the dough into a rounded ball.

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

Place into the bowl you pre-greased and rub a little more butter or oil over the top of the dough.

Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rise in warm place. I have a fun “warm/proof” setting on my new oven that worked perfectly, but you can also preheat your oven on low for 5 minutes and then turn it off. A sunny spot by the window will also work if your weather is warm enough.

** Now would be a perfect time to dye your eggs if you haven’t already :) The number you’ll need depends on how you plan to form the dough before baking.

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

When the dough has approximately doubled in size (after an hour or so), this is what it looks like.

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

Now, punch it down. Kids (and husbands) LOVE this part!

Ok, I do too… ;-)

Turn the dough out again onto a very lightly floured surface and knead slightly to bring together any loose ends. You’ll notice that the dough won’t need lots of flour because it isn’t very sticky – even though it looks like it will be.

Here is where you can get super creative. Braids, braided rings, round loaves, etc. The choice is yours!

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

For this batch, I’m making one medium braided ring, plus three smaller round loaves, so I divided the dough in half and each half into 3 (pictured here) for a total of 6 pieces. Alternatively, this amount of dough will make 6 small round loaves or 3 medium large loaves (the size my grandma used to always make).

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

For my braided ring, I rolled three of my pieces into “snakes” about 12 inches long.

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

I tucked them together at one end…

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

…and then braided them like I would hair, overlapping one over the other.

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

Until it looks like this!

 

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

I transferred the braid to my Silpat (you can use parchment) lined baking sheet and formed the it into a ring, tucking the ends nicely underneath.

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

Gently push a raw dyed egg into the middle (these will cook when baked) and brush/rub a little more oil or butter over the exposed dough. Cover loosely as before, placing in warm place to rise again – about another hour.

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

For the smaller loaves, I just roll each piece into a small ball, placing an egg in the middle of each. Oil, cover and let rise as well.

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

Once the loaves have risen and doubled in size, bake at 350* F for about 25 minutes until the loaves are golden brown. 25 minutes in my oven was great for the smaller loaves, slightly longer for the ring, and a bit longer for any shapes/sizes larger than that. The shape/size of the dough as well as how hot your oven runs will dictate baking times, so make sure you watch carefully not to over bake.

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

Gorgeous!

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

As you can see, I got a little creative and labeled the eggs before I dyed them :) They do get a little wonky in the oven, but still beautiful!

Shhh… Don’t tell Grandma I’m sending her a loaf in the mail!

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

The best way to eat this bread is toasted with a little butter. Simple and delicious!

 

MacSuzie | Italian Easter Bread: Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!

For a real treat, serve with some whipped honey butter – get the easy recipe here >> Whipped Honey Butter

 

Happy Easter from my family to yours!

♥ Lindsey aka “MacSuzie”

 

P.S. Wondering where the beautiful braided ring is? Yeah… this girl got the Easter bread munchies and totally ate a good chunk of it and then realized she forgot to photograph it first! My bad! I’ll update next year, or maybe the next time I’m craving Easter bread…

Notes:
* Rapid rise yeast will also work in this recipe in the exact same measure. You can also use fresh yeast in the correct equivalent measure, just skip the yeast “foaming” part of the recipe and add the yeast in with the salt and sugar in the first addition of flour.
* The dyed raw eggs should cook completely when baked with the bread and are safe to eat as long as you refrigerate the loaves if not eating them right away. In my family, we always fought over who was going to eat the egg so it didn’t last long anyway ;-)

Italian Easter Bread
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Make this delicious Italian Easter Bread for a simple Easter morning breakfast or a great addition to your main holiday meal. For a real treat, pair it with a little of my Whipped Honey Butter!
Author:
Recipe type: Bread
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • oil/butter for greasing, about 1 tablespoon
  • 1⅓ cups milk, warmed (see directions for temperature)
  • 2 packets active dry yeast (see notes)
  • ¾ cup, plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
  • ⅓ cup butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt (see notes)
  • 5-7 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • Choice of decoration: colored raw eggs, royal icing, sanding sugar, etc. (see notes)
Instructions
  1. Prep a medium mixing bowl by lightly greasing it with butter or oil. I used olive oil.
  2. Also, go ahead and warm the milk in the microwave. Since microwaves vary, start with about a minute, then heat in additional 10-15 second increments until the milk is warm to the touch, but not hot. If you have a thermometer (even a clean meat one will work!), check for about 105-115 - no hotter than that, otherwise you'll kill the yeast. If it gets too hot, just let it cool a bit.
  3. **If you are using fresh yeast, skip this step and the next two.** In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon sugar with the instant yeast. (My grandma's recipe originally listed fresh, but I've always used the instant equivalent and it works just as well.)
  4. Add about half of the warm milk and stir a bit to help dissolve the yeast. Let it sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.This let's you know that the yeast is alive and ready to do it's job!
  5. In the meantime, add the butter pieces to the rest of the warm milk so it can melt a little. It probably will not melt all the way - that's totally fine.
  6. While the yeast is working and the butter melting, put the remaining ¾ cup sugar, the salt, as well as 2½ cups of flour into a medium mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Briefly stir to combine.
  7. Add the milk/butter mixture, beaten eggs, and the foaming yeast/sugar/milk mixture to the bowl with the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon or mix on low with the paddle attachment until the mixture is like a thick cake batter.
  8. If you are using a stand mixer, at this point you'll want to scrape the paddle and switch it for your dough hook. Add flour in ½ cup increments, stirring well in between additions.
  9. Keep adding flour until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and starts to form a ball. It's ok for it to be a little sticky at the bottom of the bowl, but not on the sides. For me, this took a little over 3½ cups, for a total of about 6 cups flour. I can tell you right now, this is one of those occasions where a stand mixer really comes in handy, but this recipe can definitely be made by hand, so if no mixer - get to it, muscles!
  10. Knead an additional 4-5 minutes on level 2 (or 6-7 minutes by hand on a slightly floured surface) until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  11. If you used a stand mixer, after you've kneaded the 4-5 minutes in the mixer, go ahead and turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead only to pull the dough together nicely. Tuck any shaggy ends underneath and form the dough into a rounded ball.
  12. Place into the bowl you pre-greased and rub a little more butter or oil over the top of the dough. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rise in warm place. I have a fun "warm/proof" setting on my new oven that worked perfectly, but you can also preheat your oven on low for 5 minutes and then turn it off. A sunny warm spot by the window will also work if your weather is warm enough.
  13. ** Now would be a perfect time to dye your eggs if you haven't already :) The number you'll need depends on how you plan to form the dough before baking.
  14. When the dough has approximately doubled in size (after an hour or so), punch it down. Kids (or husbands) LOVE this part! Turn the dough out again onto a very lightly floured surface and knead slightly to bring together any loose ends. You'll notice that the dough won't really need flour because it isn't sticky - even though it looks like it will be.
  15. Here is where you can get super creative. Braids, braided rings, round loaves, etc. The choice is yours! This batch of dough makes enough for one medium braided ring, plus 3 smaller round loaves. Alternatively, you could make 6 small loaves or 3 medium/large loaves. To make a braided ring plus 3 small loaves, divide the dough in half and each half into 3 for a total of 6 pieces.
  16. For my braided ring, I rolled each of my three pieces into "snakes" about 12 inches long. Tuck together at one end and then braid together as you would hair, overlapping one over the other.
  17. Transfer the braid to a Silpat (you can use parchment) lined baking sheet and form it into a ring, tucking the ends nicely underneath. Gently push a raw dyed egg into the middle and brush/rub a little more oil or butter over the exposed dough. Cover loosely as before, placing in warm place to rise again - about another hour.
  18. For the smaller or medium loaves, just roll each piece into a small ball, placing an egg in the middle of each. Oil, cover and let rise as well.
  19. Once the loaves have risen and about doubled in size, bake at 350* F for about 25 minutes until the loaves are golden brown. 25 minutes in my oven was great for the smaller loaves, slightly longer for the ring, and a bit longer for any shapes/sizes larger than that. The shape/size of the dough as well as how hot your oven runs will dictate baking times, so make sure you watch carefully not to over bake.
  20. The best way to eat this bread is toasted with a little butter. Simple and delicious! For a real treat, serve with Whipped Honey Butter - get the recipe at MacSuzie.com :)
Notes
* Rapid rise yeast will also work in this recipe in the exact same format. You can also use fresh yeast, just skip the yeast "foaming" part of the recipe and add the yeast in with the salt and sugar in the first addition of flour.
* If you are using sea salt or Himalayan pink salt, increase the amount to 2 teaspoons instead of 1 teaspoon.
* The dyed raw eggs should cook completely when baked with the bread and are safe to eat as long as you refrigerate the loaves if not eating them right away. In my family, we always fought over who was going to eat the egg so it didn't last long anyway ;-)
* Instead of colored eggs (or in addition to), you can also use powdered sugar icing glaze and/or colored sugar sprinkles to decorate the loaves of bread.

 


Looking for more Easter fun?

S’Meeps! – A fun twist on the classic s’more and a great way to use up leftover Easter candy. :-D

MacSuzie | S'Meeps! - A fun twist on the classic s'more and a great way to use up leftover Easter candy. :-D

 

Jellybean Easter Centerpiece – Make this adorable floral arrangement for under $10!!!

MacSuzie | Jellybean Easter Centerpiece

 

Whipped Honey Butter – Kick those dinner rolls up a notch with this delicious (and easy!) whipped honey butter. Done in less than 5 minutes and SO good!

MacSuzie | Whipped Honey Butter

 

Hard Boiled Eggs on Toast – one of my favorite simple and healthy breakfasts any time of year, but especially around Easter. Plus, see my tips for cooking the perfect hard boiled egg!

MacSuzie | Hard Boiled Eggs on Toast

5 Responses to Italian Easter Bread

  1. […] this honey butter is on my family’s Italian Easter bread – get the recipe here >> Italian Easter Bread. You will definitely want to bake up a batch before your family’s holiday meal! (Thank […]

  2. So here’s a really dumb question, but an honest one? What is fresh yeast? I’ve always just used the packets.

  3. […] wheat sourdough from a local bakery, but for a real Easter treat you should definitely try it with Italian Easter Bread like my grandma always made. Here is a fun photo of a cookbook recipe that she has used in the […]

  4. Mac Suzie Mac Suzie says:

    Fresh yeast comes in small cake like bricks – it kind of looks like a light brown butter. Honestly, the only time I’ve ever used it is when I used to bake bread with Grandma. I’ve never used it in any of my other baking. I don’t even know if you can purchase it anymore. If you wanted to, I bet it would probably be in the dairy case near the butters? Or maybe the prepackaged cookie dough? I have no idea, hahaha :)

  5. Mac Suzie Mac Suzie says:

    And totally not a dumb question!

Let me know what you think!

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