Literally translated as “Easter Bread,” the Pane di Pasqua with its colorful eggs is Italy’s signature version of the holiday staple. We chose it to star on the cover of our March/April issue (where you can find even more traditional Easter bread recipes from Greece, Russia, and the Czech Republic!) Sometimes designed to resemble a doll or newborn, the intricately braided loaf symbolizes the rebirth of the spring season and Christ’s resurrection. This soft, slightly sweet bread with its iconic brightly colored eggs (we used blue) can be found well beyond the borders of Italy as a symbol of the season.
Note: This recipe requires the use of an instant-read thermometer. We like the Thermapen Mk4.
Pane Di Pasqua
Makes 1 (12-inch) wreath or 8 individual twists
- 3 cups (720 grams) boiling water
- ½ teaspoon (2.5 grams) liquid royal blue food coloring
- 1 tablespoon (15 grams) distilled white vinegar
- 5 to 8 large eggs (280 to 448 grams), in shell
- Sweet Bread Dough (recipe follows)
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) whole milk
- 1 large egg (50 grams), lightly beaten
- 1½ tablespoons (13.5 grams) sesame seeds
- Place a wire rack on top of a sheet tray lined with paper towels.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 cups (720 grams) boiling water and food coloring. Stir in vinegar. Gently lower eggs (5 [280 grams] for wreath or 8 [448 grams] for individuals) into water mixture until desired color is reached, about 1 minute. Let dry completely on prepared rack, and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Lightly punch down Sweet Bread Dough. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. On a lightly floured surface, turn out dough.
- For wreath: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spray with cooking spray.
- Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 26 inches long. Place strands vertically in front of you. Pinch 3 ends together at top. Braid ropes together until you’ve reached end of strands. Join two ends together forming a circle, pinching ends to seal. Transfer to prepared pan. Gently tuck 5 dyed eggs between strands of dough. Cover and let stand in a warm, draft-free place (75°F/24°C) until puffed, about 30 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk together milk and remaining 1 egg (50 grams). Brush dough with egg wash, avoiding eggs.
- Bake until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 190°F (88°C), 30 to 35 minutes, loosely covering with foil to prevent excess browning, if necessary.
- For individuals: Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, and spray with cooking spray.
- Divide dough into 8 equal pieces. Divide each piece in half. Roll each piece into a rope about 12 inches long. Place 2 strands vertically in front of you. Pinch ends together at top. Twist 2 pieces together until you’ve reached end of strands. Join two ends together forming a circle, pinching ends to seal. Transfer to prepared pans. Repeat with remaining dough. Place 1 dyed egg in center of each circle. Cover and let stand in a warm, draft-free place (75°F/24°C) until puffed, about 30 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk together milk and remaining 1 egg (50 grams). Brush dough with egg wash, avoiding eggs. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Bake until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 190°F (88°C), 20 to 25 minutes.
Although some prefer to cook the eggs ahead of this process, using them raw will give a more even, vibrant color and result in a perfectly cooked egg by the time the bread is finished baking.
Sweet Bread Dough
Makes 1 (12-inch) wreath, 8 individual twists, or 1 (17-inch) braid
- 1½ cups (360 grams) warm whole milk (105°F/41°C to 110°F/43°C)
- 2 (0.25-ounce) packages (14 grams) active dry yeast
- 4 large eggs (200 grams), lightly beaten
- ⅔ cup (133 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons (6 grams) kosher salt
- 8¾ cups (1,094 grams) all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine warm milk and yeast. Let stand until mixture is foamy, about 10 minutes.
- With mixer at medium speed, beat in eggs, sugar, and salt into yeast mixture until combined. With mixer on low speed, add 4 cups (500 grams) flour, beating until combined. Add butter, 1 tablespoon (14 grams) at a time, beating until combined. Transfer dough to a large bowl, and stir in 4 cups (500 grams) flour with a spatula or wooden spoon until combined. (Because this is such a large amount of dough, you will need to incorporate remaining flour into dough in a larger bowl.)
- Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes, adding remaining ¾ cup (94 grams) flour as needed. (Dough should not be sticky.)
- Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Place dough in bowl, turning to grease top. Loosely cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (75°F/24°C) until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
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What if one doesn’t own a mixer? Can I do it by hand/spoon? Would love to know.
Thanks for reaching out! You most definitely can incorporate the ingredients with a sturdy wooden spoon, and then continue with the directions to knead by hand. Happy baking!