Hope you had a Happy Easter yesterday! I have to share this recipe for lovely little Italian Easter breads, which I made over the weekend. I grew up with a similar bread that my aunts made – they shaped the recipe into one large wreath loaf with the eggs nestled around the ring. Very pretty!
This recipe makes individual little loaves that resemble a bird’s nest, so each person gets their own bread and their own egg! I thought that was a cute presentation, as it’s great for kids and for kids at heart (like me). ;)
The bread is slightly sweet and very reminiscent of challah. The leftovers make fantastic French toast (scroll down for the food porn) – just remove the colored egg and slice into nice, thick rounds before dipping into egg batter. Drizzle with real maple syrup and you are off to an Easter breakfast from heaven. Yummy!
ITALIAN EASTER BREAD
Adapted from The Italian Dish blog
1 package Rapid Rise yeast
1.25 cups scalded milk, cooled to room temperature
pinch of salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
3.5 cups flour (or more—up to 5 cups)
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water
6 dyed Easter eggs
Note: the Easter eggs do not need to be hard boiled. They cook when the bread bakes. I usually just dye the eggs without hardboiling them. Just be sure the eggs are brought to room temperature first, and dyed in warm (not hot) water so they don't crack!
In a large mixer bowl, combine yeast, warm (not hot) milk, salt, butter, eggs and sugar. Add about half the flour and beat until smooth with dough hook or wooden spoon. Slowly add the remaining flour to form a stiff dough. You may need more than the 3 ½ cups of flour -- Don't worry about how much flour it ends up being, just keep adding until the dough is not sticky anymore. Knead until smooth with either dough hook attachment or turn out on floured board and knead with your hands (that’s what I did). Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.
Punch dough down, divide into 12 pieces. Roll each piece between your palms to form a 1-inch thick rope about 14 inches long and, taking two pieces, twist to form a "braid", pinching the ends, and loop into a circle.
Place on a greased baking sheet (using parchment paper will result in burned bottoms, trust me, I learned from experience!) Cover and let rise until double, about an hour again. Brush each bread with beaten egg wash. Put on the sprinkles. In the middle of each bread ring, gently place an Easter egg, making an indentation with the egg.
Bake at 350 degrees until golden - about 20 - 25 minutes. Cool on rack.
Make chewy, challah-like French Toast with the breads the next day(!!):
(I sprinkled mine with sweetened coconut flakes because I'm a coconut junkie.)