This traditional Italian Easter bread is a beautiful and fun way to celebrate the Easter story.
This year of homeschooling has been such a blessing! My youngest daughter loves to bake, and we have really enjoyed tasting different recipes as we travel the world in our cultural studies. This Easter we tried something new and brought out an old Italian recipe for Easter bread given to us by a friend. We all agreed this will be a new family tradition for years to come.
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The meaning behind Italian Easter Bread
Italian Easter bread is a sweet yeast-leavened bread with a colorful egg nested in the middle. The bread is rich in meaning and symbolism. The wreath shape represents the crown of thorns worn by Christ at the crucifixion. The three-ropes in the braid stand for each person of the Holy Trinity. Lastly, the egg in the center reminds us of the resurrection of Jesus and the rebirth of Spring. This was the perfect way to showcase our decorated eggs and was a great hands-on activity for celebrating the Easter story.
How to make Italian Easter Bread
- 1 package yeast (we used quick rise)
- 1 1/4 cup warm milk
- 1/3 cup butter room temperature
- 2 eggs
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 1/2 cups white flour
- milk or egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water)
- 6 dyed uncooked eggs
- icing sugar and milk glaze (optional)
Make the dough. Mix together your yeast, warm milk, butter, eggs, salt, and sugar. If you have a mixture, attach the dough hook to your mixer and on low speed gradually add 2 cups of flour until well incorporated. Continue adding the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl but remains slightly tacky. My kids love to mix so we often forgo using the machine and combine our ingredients by hand.
Knead dough and let rest. Transfer dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Add additional flour and knead until dough is smooth and elastic. You may need to add more flour depending on your humidity. Cover with a dish towel and let rest.
Dye your eggs. Mix 1/2 cup of boiling water, 1 tsp of vinegar, and your choice of food grade dye into mason jars. This is a great time for some color theory review! Test the color of your dye water mixture by placing a few drops onto a white paper towel. Add your eggs to each jar and let sit in the fridge while you continue on with the recipe.
Braid your dough wreaths. Separate your dough into 6 balls. Each ball will be further divided into 3 sections to create dough-ropes. Show your kids how to roll out the dough into long 1 inch wide ‘snakes’. For each wreath, start by pinching the three rope ends together. Show your children how to braid, crossing alternating outside ropes over the center until they reach the end. Loop into a circle and pinch all the ends together.
Let rise. Place each braided wreath onto an baking tray, lined with parchment paper, to rise. Cover with a dish towel and set in a warm or sunny spot for about 1 hour.
Check on your eggs! Test the color of your eggs. This is a good time to take them out of their water baths and place on a tray in the fridge to dry.
Decorate your wreaths. Preheat your oven to 350 ºF. Make an egg wash (by whisking 1 raw egg together with 1 tsp of water) or paint with milk. Place your colorful egg in the center of your wreath and press down lightly. They will ‘sink’ as the bread cooks in the oven. Sprinkle with your favorite shaped baking sprinkles.
Bake. Bake in your preheated oven until golden brown and the dough sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. About 20 minutes depending on the size of your wreaths.
Let cool and glaze. Transfer your cooked Italian Easter bread creations onto a cooling rack. For an extra bit of sweetness, drizzle with a milk and icing sugar glaze.
Talk about the symbolism behind the Italian Easter bread with your children as you enjoy this delicious treat.
Happy Easter from our family to yours!
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The statements contained on A HEART TO KNOW have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is for general informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Please consult a health care professional before making any changes to your or your child’s diet, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, have a medical condition, or on any medications. See my disclaimers for more details.