This traditional Italian Easter Bread recipe makes the most tender braided wreaths of soft, tender and slightly sweet yeasted bread. Decorated with colorful eggs and sprinkles, this Italian bread loaf is a great addition to your Easter festivities.
Italian Easter Bread
Italian Easter Bread or Pane di Pasqua is one of those impressive breads that is actually very easy to make. This fun and festive Italian sweet bread is similar to brioche or challah bread dough with the addition of sweet nonpareil sprinkles which add a nice texture to this yeasted bread.
What makes this braided Easter bread extra fun and special is the addition of a decorated Easter egg in the middle top. You can color and decorate the egg and make it as unique as you want.
Italian Sweet Bread Ingredients
- Milk: I use whole milk.
- Butter: I prefer to bake with unsalted butter.
- Yeast: I use rapid rise yeast.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar.
- Salt: I usually bake with Kosher or sea salt.
- Eggs: I use large eggs to make this sweet bread recipe.
- Flour: All-purpose flour.
- Dyed Easter Eggs: You can decorate raw or cooked (soft or hard boiled) eggs.
- Sprinkles: I use nonpareils. You can get bright or pastel colors.
How To Make Italian Easter Bread
- Make the Dough: Warm up the milk and butter together. In a mixer, combine the yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the eggs and whisk together. Add the warmed milk and butter mixture. Add 2 cups of flour.
- Knead: With the dough hook attachment, knead the dough and slowly add the remaining flour. Knead until the yeasted dough is stiff and slightly sticky.
- Shape: Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.
- Braid the Bread Dough: Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Roll each piece to form a 1-inch wide rope. Taking 2 pieces, braid the rope, pinching the ends together and then loop into a circle.
- Rise: Proof (meaning let it rise) until the dough doubles in size.
- Decorate: Make a quick egg wash. Place a dyed egg in the center of each wreath. Brush the wreaths with the egg wash and top with sprinkles.
- Bake: Bake in a preheated oven until golden brown.
- Cool: Quickly transfer the baked bread to a cooling rack.
How Do You Shape And Decorate Easter Bread
Shaping this sweet egg bread is easy. This recipe makes 3 large bread wreaths or 6 smaller ones.
- After resting the dough for about 10 minutes, divide the dough into 6 pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope (about 14-inches long). Take two of the ropes and braid them. Loop into a circle to form a ring and pinch the ends together to secure them.
- Place the decorated Easter egg in the middle. You don’t need to press it down. The egg will sink a bit while it bakes.
- Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with nonpareils.
Do You Need To Cook The Eggs Before Baking?
The eggs will cook in the oven but only to medium-boiled consistency. The yolks will still be soft after baking. If you want, you can soft boil the eggs in a pot before placing it on the bread.
How Do You Decorate The Egg For Italian Sweet Bread?
You can decorate the eggs while the dough rises. Use raw or soft boiled eggs. You can use natural dyes, plant-based coloring kits like Color Kitchen or conventional Easter egg coloring kits like Paas. Pastel and shimmering colors both look beautiful.
Storing and Freezing
Store the baked bread in an airtight container, paper bag or resealable bag for 3-4 days. Before storing, remove the egg. The eggs will need to be refrigerated if you are planning on eating it.
This Italian sweet bread can be frozen. Remove the dyed easter egg first. Wrap the bread tightly to prevent freezer burn.
Easter Breads Around The World
Filled with tradition and symbolism, many countries bake special breads for their Easter festivities and gatherings. Here are a few examples:
- Tsoureki – Greece
- Kulich – Russia
- Paska – Ukraine
- Hot Cross Buns – England
- Choereg – Armenia
- Pan de Pascua – Chile
- Osterbrot and Hefezopf – Germany
- Pan Dulce and Pan de Anis – Peru
Easter Bread Recipe Tips
- Don’t overheat the milk. The milk rehydrates the dormant yeast turning it active but extreme temperatures (too cold or too hot) kills the yeast. Yeast dies at temperatures above 138 degrees Fahrenheit. In this recipe, the milk is heated to no higher than 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
- If using decorated or colored raw eggs, they will be soft boiled after baking. If you use soft boiled eggs, they will be hard boiled after baking.
- You can make 3 wreaths or 6 smaller ones.
Take A Look At These Other Bread Recipes:
Take A Look At These Easy Easter Recipes:
- Easter Bunny Cookies
- Slow Cooker Ham
- Spring Asparagus Salad
- Crispy Parmesan Roasted Asparagus
- Robin’s Eggs Easter Cupcakes
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Italian Easter Bread
- 1 ¼ cups 300 ml milk
- ⅓ cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes (74 grams)
- 2 ¼ teaspoons rapid rise instant yeast (1 package)
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
- 2 large eggs beaten
- 4 cups all-purpose flour divided, plus more for kneading (568 grams)
- 1 large egg beaten plus 1 teaspoon water
- 3 dyed easter eggs raw or soft boiled
- colored sprinkles (nonpareils)
- In a small saucepan, combine the milk and butter over medium-low heat. Heat to 120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring until the butter melts. Don’t allow the milk to go above 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Too much heat can kill the yeast.
- In the bowl of a stand up mixer, combine the yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the eggs and whisk together. Add the warmed milk and butter mixture. Add 2 cups of flour.
- With the dough hook attachment, knead on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape the sides with a spatula as needed to incorporate the flour.
- Slowly add the remaining 2 cups of flour to the mixer on medium-low speed and scrape the sides as needed. Knead until the dough is stiff and slightly sticky, about 12 minutes.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 3 to 4 minutes, adding a little more flour to prevent sticking. Don’t use too much flour, 1/4 cup at the most.
- Shape dough into a ball, place the dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Roll each piece to form a 1-inch wide rope, about 14-inches long.
- Taking 2 pieces, braid the rope, pinching the ends together and then loop into a circle. Make sure the ends are securely joined together.
- Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet (2 per sheet), providing enough room to rise.
- Loosely cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap or a dish towel and allow to rise in a warm area, or proofing box, for 45 to 60 minutes or until it doubles in size.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177ºC). Set the rack in the middle position.
- Make an egg wash by whisking together the large egg and 2 teaspoons of water.
- Place a dyed uncooked egg in the center of each wreath (if desired) You don’t need to press the egg into the dough. The egg will sink as it bakes.
- Brush the wreaths with the egg wash and top with sprinkles, if desired. Bake one tray at a time until golden brown, approximately 15 to 18 minutes.
- Quickly transfer the baked bread to a cooling rack.
- The recipe makes 3 Easter breads that serve about 6 people. You can also make 6 small rings. If making smaller rings, baking times need to be adjusted.
- Raw or soft-boiled dyed eggs can be used.