Italian Easter bread is a tradition in my house. The bread is made of a yeasted sweet dough with colored eggs nestled inside a circular two-rope braid.
Almost as eagerly anticipated as the coveted candy-filled basket, we would eat slices of it smeared with salty butter followed by the baked eggs. It was an Easter morning ritual that I still love to this day.
The bread is soft and tender, similar to brioche but without a ton of butter and sugar. A confectioners glaze goes over top with a smattering of colored sprinkles for festivity.
The bread is lightly flavored with anise seeds, candied fruits and almonds; if you don’ t like anise or candied fruit you can omit them and use fresh lemon zest and raisins or another dried fruit instead.
This was always baked ahead of time and marked as off limits until Easter morning. It was a true testament of our willpower to keep from cutting into it before then and something I recall as being torturous in nature. I’m surely exaggerating because childhood food memories are usually like that.
- In a large bowl combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt and un-dissolved yeast. Heat milk and 2 tablespoons of margarine in a saucepan over low heat just until warmed and margarine melts.
- Add to dry ingredients and beat for 2 minutes on medium speed scraping bowl occasionally.
- Add eggs and 1 and 3/4 cup flour. Beat at high speed 2 minutes. Stir in enough additional flour to make a soft dough. Turn onto floured board. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and turn to grease top. Cover, and let rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size in a warm place.
- Punch dough down and turn out onto a floured board. Knead in fruits, almonds, and anise seed. Divide in half. Roll each half into a 24-inch rope. Twist ropes together loosely. Form into a ring on a baking sheet. Brush with melted butter and place the raw, colored eggs into the spaces in between. Cover and let rise until doubled about one hour.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until golden brown on top. Allow to cool.
- Whisk 2 teaspoons of milk into the confectioner's sugar in a medium size bowl. It should be thin in consistency. You can add a little more milk if needed or confectioners' to reach desired consistency.
- Glaze top of bread and decorate with sprinkles. Store in refrigerator, bring to room temperature before serving.
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