3 loaves of easter bread on a wooden surface. They're glazed with a sugar coating with easter sprinkles. There's a dyed egg in the middle of each loaf.
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Traditional Sweet Italian Easter Bread

Traditional sweet Italian Easter bread is braided and baked with a hint of lemon and anise. It’s made with Easter eggs baked in the middle, then glazed and decorated with sprinkles.
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword easterrecipes, homemadebread, italianeasterbread, traditionaleasterbread
Prep Time 3 hours
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Servings 6 small loaves
Author Wine a Little Cook A Lot

Ingredients

For the Easter Bread:

  • ¾ cup Whole Milk
  • ¼ cup Granulated Sugar
  • 2 ¼ tsp 1 packet Active Dry Yeast
  • 5 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Salt if using salted butter, use 1/4 tsp
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 tsp Anise Extract
  • Zest of 1 Lemon
  • 1 Stick of Butter melted
  • 6 Eggs dyed (see recipe notes)
  • 1 egg whisked (for brushing)

For the Glaze:

  • 1 Cups Powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp Milk
  • ½ tsp Vanilla
  • Sprinkles for decorating

Instructions

To make the dough:

  • Heat milk in small saucepan, stirring occasionally until warm. (It should warm to the touch, not hot or boiling!). If you have a thermometer it should read between 110 and 115 degrees.
  • Remove from heat and whisk in sugar until dissolved. Stir in the yeast and let rest for 10 minutes. (The yeast should be slightly foamy on top).
  • In a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, mix together the flour and salt.
  • In small bowl whisk together eggs, anise and lemon zest, set aside.
  • Add the yeast/milk mixture to the flour and mix on low speed for about 1 minute until combined.  The dough will look shaggy.
  • Add in the melted butter and continuing mixing for another minute or until fully incorporated. Then add in your egg mixture.
  • Increase your mixer to medium and keep mixing the dough until a ball starts to form and the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. You may need to gradually add more flour until it comes together. It should be slightly sticky. This should take about 5 minutes.
  • Remove dough and place onto a floured surface. Knead 4-5 times until smooth. Place in an oiled bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Keep in a warm place to rise until doubled in sized, about 1 hour (see recipe notes).
  • Now is a perfect time to dye your eggs if you haven’t done so already!

To shape the bread:

  • Lightly punch dough down to release air. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Divide each of the 6 pieces into 3 pieces for a total of 18 pieces (3 pieces of dough per loaf=6 loaves).
  • Working with 3 pieces at a time: roll each piece into a rope about 9” long. Pinch one end together and braid or twist. Pinch the other end and join the two ends together to create the wreath shape. The hole in the middle should snugly fit 1 egg. (about 2” wide).
  • Repeat this process for the remaining 5 loaves.
  • Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (or lightly grease) and place 3 loaves per sheet. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and place in warm place again to rise, about 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Once loaves have risen, brush gently with egg wash and bake for 20-25 minutes until loaves are golden. Remove and place on cooling rack until completely cooled.

For the Glaze

  • Mix together sugar, milk and vanilla. The glaze should be slightly thick; add more powdered sugar or milk to adjust the consistency as needed.
  • Once loaves are completely cool, brush glaze onto the loaves (I use a pastry brush to spread it out evenly). Sprinkle with decorations if desired.

Notes

*You can color the eggs raw or you can hard boil them and color them; I’ve done both ways and either way works!