This Braided Easter Bread, known in Italian as Pane Di Pasqua, has become a family tradition. Although we have no Italian ethnicity in my family what so ever, adopting traditions is a great thing, right? Growing up, we always proudly placed this bread on our Easter Sunday breakfast table as a colourful and tasty centrepiece that we would quickly devour. Typically this recipe is flavoured with orange or lemon, and anise and often decorated with icing, sprinkles, or with dyed eggs. It is an eggy, fluffy, slightly sweet, rich and soft, brioche like bread that is yummy with butter!
This year, I decided to make braided Easter bread to start the tradition with my own daughter. And since I hadn’t made this recipe for years, it was a bit of an experiment. We decided to avoid icing and sprinkles so we could have it for breakfast, (although it does look pretty). And we decided to dye eggs, *(not an essential step but a fun one), for our bread, but we chose to do yet another experiment (why not!) and I quickly researched how to make natural dyes — using foods like red cabbage, onion skins, blueberries, coffee, beetroot. It was so fun. In the future I would also try brighter yellow and orange colours with spices like tumeric and perhaps some flower petals as well.
It was also a good thing we dyed eggs the day before the bread baking because both projects have a few stages. But we loved the dyeing and the fabulous surprise colours we got (the science of it is fascinating!). And knowing the dyes were all organic and natural food based just makes sense on food we will be eating!
Then the following day as we began to make the bread, I instantly remembered that same yummy smell that would fill our home each Easter. My mother used to make numerous loaves on the Thursday before each Easter, and I loved helping her with it. Today my daughter told me she hopes to make this recipe with her children one day, and that alone was worth it! (Heart melting moment. :))
It is a slightly involved recipe, with resting (and proving time) but use that time to dye more eggs, make Easter crafts, play with the dough, learn to braid dough, and most of all to chit chat.
Good luck, and please look up Pane di Pasqua if you would like to see how other cooks interpret this recipe.
Braided Easter Bread :
This recipe makes 2 loaves, takes 3 hours of prep time, and 1 hour of cooking time, egg dyeing not included.
*For the Dough
8 cups (1134 grams) all-purpose flour *(plus extra for dough and also for flouring boards, etc)
1½ cups (360 ml) whole milk
½ cup (99 grams) granulated sugar
2 organic oranges or lemons, zested & juiced (we used 1 orange and 1 lemon!)
4½ teaspoons (2 envelopes) active dry yeast
1 cup (227 grams) butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (for brushing) or *2 egg yolks
Multi coloured sprinkles…or… Raw eggs that are dyed. (We used 5-6 per bread). Note that the eggs cook in the oven when the bread goes in!
Make the Dough:
Notes: *While I mix this by hand, you could certainly use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook instead.
I hope you love this bread. If only I had remembered the egg yolk brushed on top of the bread, to give polished shine. But it was super fun to make and as they say, practice makes perfect! 🙂
Happy Easter and Spring,