RECIPES

Braided Easter Bread — A Family Tradition

 

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.

Ingredients:

*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
8 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (for brushing) or *2 egg yolks 

*Decorations:

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:

  1. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl, set aside.
  2. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it is warm to the touch, but not hot. If you have an instant-read thermometer,the temperature of the milk should be between 110 and 115 degrees F.
  3. While the milk is warming, place the sugar in a small bowl and add the orange zest. With your fingertips, rub the zest into the sugar until it is completely incorporated and the sugar is moistened.
  4. Once the milk reaches the correct temperature, stir in the sugar and zest mixture, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the yeast, stir, and let sit for 10 minutes. (Beatrice thought the smell of the yeast was fascinating!)
  5. Add the milk and yeast mixture to the flour and begin to mix it into a dough (it will be shaggy at this point).
  6. Next, add the melted butter and continue to mix. Then, add the orange juice to the dough and mix to combine.
  7. In a small bowl, use a fork to lightly beat together the eggs and salt.
  8. Add to the dough and continue mixing.
  9. At this point, you may need to add more flour to the dough, depending on how much juice you get out of your oranges. (I added quite a bit more to get the dough to come together.) Once you have a sticky ball of dough formed, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 – 10  minutes, adding a small amount of flour at a time as needed, or until the dough is soft and elastic. It will remain slightly tacky. This is so much fun for little helpers!
  10. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turning to coat, and cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap to prove. Place in a draft-free area and allow to rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

  1. Shape the Bread: (see photos)
    1. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and divide into half.
    2. Then divide those two balls into thirds so you have six similar size balls.
    3. Roll the dough into 24-inch long ropes. Loosely braid the ropes together.
    4. Transfer the braided rope to one of the prepared baking sheets and bring the ends together to form a ring, twisting and pinching the ends together to seal.
    5. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough so that you have two circular, braided loaves.
    6. Brush the tops of each with the melted butter, (or egg yolk, which I forgot my mother always used and creates a shiny and polished look!) then tuck the dyed eggs into the braids, if you are using those. Cover the bread loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise until nearly doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake one at a time until golden brown on top, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  3. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

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,

Lara xx


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Comments (2)

Bronagh
April 27, 2017

This looks delicious 👌


Lara in London
May 4, 2017

It is! Thank you!


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