Italian Easter Bread

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This Italian Easter bread (Pane di Pasqua) is made from a rich, buttery brioche dough. Soft, tender and lightly sweet, it’s sprinkled with crunchy nonpareils. Each piece of Easter egg bread is braided and formed into a wreath. It features a colorful dyed Easter egg in the center.

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Small braided loaves of Italian Easter bread with a dyed egg in the center of each.

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👩🏻‍🍳 Why This Recipe’s a Keeper

  • Symbolism and Tradition: Italian Easter bread with dyed eggs holds deep symbolic meaning, representing rebirth, new life, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, making it a cherished tradition for Easter celebrations.
  • Save money making it at home. Our local bakery makes this specialty item in the shape of a 14-inch tall bunny. They call it Bunny Bread, and it sells for $18.95 each. But with this easy recipe you can make Italian Easter bread at home in the shape of wreaths or bunnies – for a fraction of the cost of store bought.
  • Fun to Make: Braiding or shaping the dough and placing the dyed eggs can be a fun and engaging activity for the whole family, fostering togetherness and creating lasting memories.
  • Perfect for Sharing: When you’re invited to an Easter brunch at someone’s home, this is an excellent recipe to make and bring. With its festive presentation, Italian Easter Bread is a stunning addition to the serving table.
  • Delicious Flavor: This Easter bread is tender and slightly sweet. If desired, for additional flavor you can add some citrus zest to the dough, or a touch of lemon or orange extract. I’ll usually make a second batch of Easter egg bread without the colorful candy sprinkles. After the bread is baked and cooled, I drizzle the top with a simple sugar glaze – a mix of powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract.
A bite taken out of Easter egg bread to reveal its tender fluffy texture.

🛒 Ingredients

For Dyed Easter Eggs

We’re using a classic method for dying eggs – water, vinegar and food coloring. If you have an Easter egg coloring kit on hand, feel free to use it.

  • Boiling Water: This is needed to dissolve the food coloring.
  • Distilled White Vinegar: The acid in vinegar causes a chemical reaction that helps achieve vibrant-colored Easter eggs.
  • Food Coloring: I use AmeriColor gel food coloring in Violet, Soft Pink, and Wedgewood. Gel food coloring results in speckled eggs. For smoother more evenly-colored eggs, use liquid food coloring instead.
  • Soft Boiled Eggs: I use large eggs, but feel free to use medium eggs instead. Some Italian Easter bread recipes call for uncooked eggs, as they cook in the oven. But when I’ve experimented with raw eggs in the bread, they ended up baking to the texture of soft-boiled eggs.
Traditional Italian Easter bread with a purple Easter egg in the middle.

For Brioche Dough

  • Whole Milk: Adds richness and moisture to the dough, so the bread is tender. It actives the yeast. If desired, you can use 2% milk or water instead.
  • Granulated Sugar: Adds a bit of sweetness to the dough and acts as food for the yeast.
  • Active Dry Yeast: Helps the dough rise so the bread is nice and soft. Yeast also provides a delicious flavor and yeasty aroma.
  • Large Eggs: Add moisture and richness to the dough while helping to bind the ingredients together. One egg is reserved for making an egg wash to help the sprinkles stick to the bread.
  • All-purpose Flour: Gives the dough structure. I use all-purpose flour because it’s what I always have on hand in the pantry. But bread flour will also work.
  • Kosher Salt: Enhances the flavor of the other ingredients.
  • Butter: Enriches the dough while adding a delicious buttery flavor. Make sure the butter is fully softened so it can incorporate smoothly into the dough.
  • Vanilla Extract: Enhances the flavor of the bread with its sweet and aromatic notes. It adds depth to the overall taste profile.
  • Orange Extract (optional): If desired, you can add a light burst of citrus flavor the dough by adding a drop of orange extract or lemon extract.
  • Rainbow Nonpareils: Are used for decorating the wreaths. But feel free to use sprinkles, white (coarse) sparkling sugar, pretzel salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, or sliced almonds instead. Or after baking, you can drizzle the bread with a delicious sugar glaze.
Ingredients for Italian Easter bread recipe.

📖 Recipe Steps

Dye the Easter Eggs

  1. In a heat-proof bowl, stir together the hot water, white vinegar, and food coloring. Add 1 soft boiled egg (or hard boiled egg) and let it sit until it reaches the desired shade – about 3 minutes.
  2. Remove the dyed egg to a plate. Keep a separate plate for each color. Repeat the coloring process for the remaining 5 eggs.
  3. Allow the eggs to dry completely. We don’t want to tuck colored eggs with wet shells into the Italian Easter bread.

Note:  If using soft boiled eggs, the eggs will finish cooking to a hard-boiled-egg texture in the oven. But if you want to be extra sure the eggs are fully cooked, then by all means start with hard boiled eggs.

A small bowl with neon pink food dye and 2 Easter eggs.

Make the Brioche Dough

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer whisk together warm milk, sugar and yeast. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes or until the yeast is foamy.
  2. Whisk in the eggs, vanilla extract, and orange extract, if using.
  3. Add 3 cups flour to the bowl. Mix on low speed using the dough hook attachment. Once the dough has come together into a loose ball, start adding the softened butter – 1 tablespoon at a time. When the dough sticks to the sides of the bowl (usually after adding 3 to 4 tablespoons butter), add another 1/4 cup flour. Continue alternating butter and flour until all of the ingredients have been added.
  4. Continue mixing until the dough comes together into a smooth, elastic ball – about 2 to 3 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, gradually add more flour until it’s smooth and elastic and springs back when pressed. Place the dough into a lightly-oiled boil and cover it with a dampened cloth. Set it aside in a warm draft-free place. Allow it to rise until doubled in size – about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

HELPFUL KITCHEN TOOL: A dough-rising bucket is a closed container that promotes a better rise. It creates the ideal warm, humid environment for soft and supple yeast dough. Because it’s translucent with markings on the side, you can more easily gauge when the dough has doubled in size.

How to make brioche dough for Italian Easter bread, step by step.

Form & Bake Italian Easter Bread

RECIPE PREP: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Set them aside.

  1. Transfer the dough to a lightly-floured surface and divide it into 12 equal portions. Roll each piece into a 12-inch long rope.
  2. Twist 2 ropes together.
  3. Shape the braided rope into a circle. Pinch the seams together – we don’t want the wreath to unwrap in the oven.
  4. Gently tuck a dyed soft-boiled egg (or hard boiled egg) into the center of each wreath.

BAKER’S TIP: Feel free to shape the dough into various designs. Some years I’ll shape it into an Easter Bunny, placing a dyed egg into the center of its tummy.

How to form Italian Easter bread dough into wreaths with a dyed egg in the middle.
  1. Transfer the wreaths to the prepared baking sheets. Make sure to place them at least 3-inches apart. Cover the wreaths with a clean kitchen towel and let them rise for another 30 to 60 minutes, until slightly puffed.
  2. In a ramekin (or small bowl), beat 1 large egg with a splash of water to create an egg wash. Brush the edges of the wreaths with egg wash to give them a shiny finish. Be sure to avoid the dyed egg or the color may bleed onto the dough. Sprinkle the wreaths with rainbow nonpareils.
  3. Bake the Easter egg bread for 25 to 28 minutes, or until golden blonde. Allow the wreaths to cool completely on the pan.
  4. Slice and enjoy with whipped butter or your favorite spreads.
How to braid brioche bread dough into Easter egg bread wreaths with dyed eggs in the middle.

🧑🏼‍🍳 Recipe FAQ

It’s a special brioche bread enjoyed for Easter. The bread dough is braided using 2 or 3 pieces, representing God the Father and Son, or the Holy Trinity. The braided bread is formed into a wreath representing the crown of thorns placed on the head of Jesus Christ. Dyed eggs in the center represent spring, rebirth, and the resurrection of Jesus.

Yes, you can substitute instant yeast for active dry yeast in this recipe. However, you typically need to use less instant yeast compared to active dry yeast. Use about 25% less instant yeast than the amount of active dry yeast called for in the recipe.

It’s not recommended. It’s difficult to knead by hand. And we don’t recommend using a hand mixer as the motor can heat up and give out. But if you must make it by hand – have patience as you work to achieve the perfect consistency, kneading the bread for about 10 minutes.

Yes, you can prepare the dough ahead of time and refrigerate it overnight for a slow rise. Alternatively, you can bake the bread a day in advance and store it in an airtight container at room temperature. However, for the best texture and flavor, it’s recommended to bake the bread the same day you plan to serve it.

In a kitchen with an ambient temperature of 75°F to 78°F, the dough can rise in a bowl on your countertop. But if your kitchen is cold, preheat your oven to 200ºF for 1-2 minutes – just until lightly warm and cozy. Turn off the oven. Place the bowl of dough inside and let it rise there. Or you can use a dough bucket, and cover the closed lid of the bucket with 2 kitchen towels.

Remove the eggs from the Easter egg bread. Eat or refrigerate the eggs. Transfer the wreaths to an airtight container. Store the bread on the counter (at room temperature) for up to 3 days, or refrigerate for up to 1 week. To freeze the bread, wrap it well in plastic wrap and then in a layer of foil before freezing it for up to 1 month.

Yes. The acidic properties in vinegar help achieve brightly-colored eggs. Without it, the colors will be pale. If you don’t have vinegar on hand, use lemon or lime juice (fresh or bottled) as a 1 to 1 replacement.

Several pieces of Easter Egg bread arranged on a serving platter.

These are the special recipes my family requests year after year when planning our Easter get-togethers. Add them to your collection. Make and enjoy them throughout the spring season.

Three Italian Easter bread wreaths on a platter.

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Flavor testers raved about this easy recipe for home bakers. It’s simple to make, has a rich buttery taste, tender texture, and a festive presentation.

If you agree this Italian Easter bread recipe’s a real winner, give it a 5-star rating in the comments. Then be a recipe hero. Share it with friends on Facebook. 📌 Pin it to Pinterest.

Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com

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Traditional Italian Easter bread with a purple Easter egg in the middle.

Italian Easter Bread


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5 from 15 reviews

  • Author: Denay DeGuzman
  • Total Time: 2 Hours 35 Minutes
  • Yield: 6 Large Wreaths 1x
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Description

Italian Easter bread is a festive family tradition. It’s light, fluffy, and slightly sweet. The braided wreaths are sprinkled with crunchy nonpareils, and a colorful Easter egg is tucked into the center. This easy recipe brings warmth and joy to any holiday table.


Ingredients

Units Scale

Dyed Easter Eggs

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • Food coloring – gel or liquid (or an egg dying kit)
  • 6 soft-boiled eggs (or hard boiled eggs)

Brioche Dough

  • 3/4 cup milk, warmed to 100-110ºF
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract or lemon extract (optional)
  • 44 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 large egg (plus a splash of water), for the egg wash
  • 1 tablespoon rainbow nonpareils

Instructions

Dye the Easter Eggs 

  1. In a heat-proof bowl, stir together hot water, white vinegar, and food coloring. Add 1 hard-boiled egg. Let it sit until it reaches the desired shade – about 3 minutes. Remove it to a plate. 
  2. Repeat the coloring process for the remaining 5 eggs. Allow them to dry completely. 

Prepare the Brioche Dough

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer whisk together warm milk, sugar and yeast. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes or until the yeast is foamy. Whisk in 3 eggs, vanilla extract, and orange extract (if using). 
  2. Add 3 cups flour to the bowl. Mix on low speed using the dough hook attachment. Once the dough has come together into a loose ball, start adding softened butter – 1 tablespoon at a time. When the dough sticks to the sides of the bowl (usually after adding 3 to 4 tablespoons butter), add another 1/4 cup flour. Continue alternating butter and flour until all of the ingredients have been added.
  3. Continue mixing until the dough comes together into a smooth, elastic ball – about 2 to 3 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, gradually add more flour until it’s smooth and elastic and springs back when pressed.
  4. Place the dough into a lightly-oiled boil and cover it with a dampened cloth. Set it  aside in a warm draft-free place. Allow it to rise until doubled in size – about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Transfer the dough to a lightly-floured surface. Divide it into 12 equal portions. Roll each piece into a 12-inch long rope. Twist 2 ropes together. Shape the braided rope into a circle. Pinch the seams together – we don’t want the wreath to unwrap in the oven. Gently tuck a dyed soft boiled egg into the center of each wreath.
  6. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Transfer the wreaths to the prepared baking sheets. Make sure to place them at least 3-inches apart. Cover the wreaths with a clean kitchen towel and let them rise for another 30 to 60 minutes, until slightly puffed.
  7. In a ramekin, beat a large egg with a splash of water to create an egg wash. Brush the edges of the wreaths with egg wash to give them a shiny finish. Be sure to avoid the dyed egg or the color may bleed onto the dough. Sprinkle the wreaths with rainbow nonpareils.
  8. Bake the Easter egg bread for 25 to 28 minutes, or until golden blonde and cooked through. Allow the wreaths to cool completely on the pan. Slice and enjoy with butter or your favorite spreads.

Notes

Baker’s Tip: Feel free to shape the dough into various designs. Some years I’ll shape it into an Easter Bunny, placing a dyed egg onto its tummy.

How to store Italian Easter bread: Remove the eggs from the center of the bread. Eat or refrigerate the eggs. Transfer the wreaths to an airtight container. You can store the bread on the counter for up to 3 days, refrigerate the bread for up to 1 week, or freeze it for up to 1 month. 

  • Prep Time: 35 Minutes
  • 1.5 Hours: Rise Time
  • Cook Time: 30 Minutes
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: Italian
Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com

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