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Pane di Pasqua - Italian Easter Bread

Pane di Pasqua - Italian Easter Bread
Italian Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua)is one of our all-time favorite breads! It seems to never fail that when I’m finally over the shock of a new year beginning, it is already time to plan for Easter and to bake some Italian Easter Bread (pane di pasqua). And when I say plan, it’s usually all about our baking production!! I couldn’t wait to tackle this lovely Italian Easter Bread (pane di Pasqua) another time. It’s a recipe I’ve been making for years.



It’s a recipe my mother-in-law makes for us when she is here visiting from Italy for Easter. She is not too much into the colored eggs or even the sprinkles. But she does know how to make some really cool designs and shapes. She cranks out this bread and I am finally starting to catch up with her speed, well, just a little.
Pane di Pasqua - Italian Easter Bread
We were so lucky to have my in-laws spend a few Easters here with us. Since we couldn’t go to Italy, it was just as good to have a little taste of Italy here as soon as they arrive a the airport. My mother-in-law is just the best! She barely brings any clothes (totally no-fuss, low-maintenance kind of a lady)and brings a suitcase just FILLED with goodies for all of us. And I mean, GOODIES! When I say goodies, I mean just food things. Like pasta and different chocolate. She brings us various canned goods that she makes. Oh, and a ton of hot peppers she grows! She makes a sauce with them and also brings them whole and dried. There are still some left from their visit to us last April.

Since my in-laws couldn’t make it to visit this year for Easter, I had to get started a little early on the baking! Because the kids were wondering when we would color eggs and when they could shape their own rolls. The bread is so wonderful, my mother-in-law does make it even in the summer when we are there (minus the eggs). It’s the perfect bread to enjoy with a hot cappuccino!
Pane di Pasqua - Italian Easter Bread

Pane di Pasqua - Italian Easter Bread
Our host this month is Rossella from Ma ch ti sei mangiato, and our theme is Italian Breads. For more bread recipes, visit the #TwelveLoaves Pinterest board, or check out last month’s mouthwatering selection of #TwelveLoaves Olive Breads!


Another wonderful Easter idea is a Pastiera Napoletana. It is quite a pie! Not a typical American pie, by any means. It’s made with a pasta frolla dough and the filling is rich ricotta and another surprise (hulled wheat berries)!

Some notes: When you make the ropes, make sure you don’t make them too long, otherwise your little nests to hold the eggs will be too wide. The dough ropes do shrink as you roll them and then shrink again when you stop. I would measure them and make sure it’s not over 12 inches long. If the ropes are too skinny, the nests will be too wide. Flour: I use between 4 1/2 and 5 cups of flour, never more than 5 cups. If you add more than 5 cups, the dough will be too dry. I do mention in the recipe to start with 4 1/2 cups and add a tablespoon more of flour at a time until it is a pliable dough, not too sticky, and not dry. For the sweetness, 1/2 cup of sugar is perfect for our taste. You could add another 1/4 cup if you like your dough more sweet. You could also add a powdered sugar glaze on top after baking and add sprinkles on top (if you do the glaze, don’t add sprinkles before baking). The sweetness depends on your taste.

Some photos to show the assembly process:
assembling Pane di Pasqua - Italian Easter Bread
* I slightly edited this post of this gorgeous Italian Easter bread from last year. I hope you bake it this year!!


Pane di Pasqua-Italian Easter Bread

by Savoring Italy
Prep Time: 1 1/2-2 1/2 hours
Cook Time: 18-20 minutes

Ingredients (14 rolls)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (1/4 ounce envelopes)
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (may need more as mixing)
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon zest
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 8 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
  • 7 dyed eggs (follow instructions on the food coloring)
  • egg wash:
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
Instructions
If you are adding colored eggs, now is the time to color them. Follow the dye directions on the box or use natural dye and let the eggs sit for an hour. The longer they site the more vibrant the color.
In a small saucepan heat the milk over medium to 110 F (I just test the water with my finger and know it’s the right temperature…warm like the temperature of a baby bottle, not hot). Add the yeast to a small bowl with the warm milk and whisk it around with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Let sit until foamy (about 5 minutes).

Whisk in the eggs and vanilla and set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the rest of the sugar, flour, lemon zest, and salt.

Pour the flour mixture in the bowl of a mixer. With dough hook attached and mixer on medium speed, slowly add the milk mixture (*the milk mixture has the milk, yeast, 1 tbsp sugar, eggs, vanilla) to the flour mixture.

Hold onto your mixer! Now you will add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. I tell you to hold onto it because it will move around if you are mixing it on too fast of a speed. Start on medium-low speed. If you notice the mixer moving too much, you can lower the speed and let the butter get gently incorporated into the dough. If you have the mixture at a faster speed at this point…do not leave it alone while it’s mixing. It could bounce off the counter.

Be sure to mix well when all the butter is added (about 3-5 minutes). You may need to add more flour. (Start with 4 1/2 cups of flour. If you need more flour, add more a Tablespoon at a time until it is no longer sticky. Don’t worry about the total amount of flour, keep adding until your dough is stiff and it is not sticky.)

Put a little flour onto a clean counter and scrape the dough out of mixer onto the counter. Knead the dough a little and shape the dough into a ball (you won’t be kneading the dough too much…just a bit to shape it into an elastic ball of dough).

Oil a large mixing bowl and place the dough into the bowl.

Rub a little oil on top of the dough and cover it to rest in a draft-free area for a bout 1-1 1/2 hours.
Punch down the dough.

Divide the dough into 14 portions. Roll each portion into a strip about 12 inches long. You could also make one large braid with this dough. If you are making one large braid, roll each piece into strips about 15 “ long. If you are making two braids, the strips will be a bit smaller (sorry, I did not measure the strips)

Start with two pieces: pinch the ends together of the first 2 ropes to secure the strips together Bring one side over to the other and tuck it in to make a small ring shape. You're making a little nest for your colored egg to nestle into. Make sure your ring is not too big and not too tight.
Preheat oven to 350 F.

Repeat process with the next 6 sets of 2 ropes that you will make. You will have 7 little nests to hold your eggs.

Place on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper (or a silpat mat).

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water for the egg wash. Brush on the egg wash.
Cover the dough with a kitchen towel to proof for about 40-45 minutes.

When dough is ready to bake, brush on some more egg wash. Sprinkle on the sprinkles. Place an egg in the middle of each little nest.

Bake for about 18-20 minutes. If you are making one very large wreath, it should be done in 25-30 minutes.

Don't forget to eat the yummy eggs that are baked in the middle of the bread. My kids fight over them! In order for the raw eggs to cook, they will need 18-20 minutes in the oven. If you prefer to add eggs already cooked, hard boil them and color them (according to color instructions)and add them already cooked to the bread. *If you have left bread out with eggs for a couple hours, just discard the eggs, and eat the bread.

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