Italian Easter Bread made with healthy alternatives

Italian Easter Bread

Italian Easter Bread

My grandmother made Easter bread every Easter. She gave me her recipe many years ago, when I was still in college. The version I am sharing here has half the sugar and salt. I also substituted whole wheat flour for half of the white flour, and used coconut milk in place of milk. Start the bread early in the day, because it takes about 5 hours from start to finish.

This bread is a sweet bread, made with eggs and vanilla. Great in the morning with a little butter and jam as a treat.

Makes 6 round loaves

Ingredients

  • 3 packages active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ½ cup Earth Balance buttery spread or butter, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5-6 cups whole wheat flour
  • 5-6 cups unbleached white flour
  • colored hard-boiled eggs, optional
  • sesame seeds or candied sprinkles, optional

My grandmother made Easter bread by hand, no mixer. She kneaded the dough for 30 minutes! My version was made in a KitchenAid® mixer using both the paddle and the dough hook. I let the mixer do the kneading for me. You can make using a hand mixer, but when you add the flour you will need to use a wooden spoon to mix and hands to knead.

Directions

  1. Rise yeast – place yeast in a glass container with 1 tablespoon sugar. Run hot water from the tap, and when it’s coming out very hot, add ½ cup to the dry yeast. Set in a warm place to rise, for about 20 minutes.
  2. Add 4 of the eggs to the mixer. Using the paddle, mix until eggs are fairly blended. (Save the last egg for using as a wash on the bread.)
    eggs mixed in a bowl
  3. Melt ½ cup of the butter, set aside to let cool a bit. Warm the coconut milk until about room temperature.
  4. Add the sugar, salt, coconut milk, vanilla, and cooled butter. Mix ingredients until well blended.
  5. Change to the dough hook. Add the risen yeast and 5 cups of each kind of flour.
    flour mixed with risen yeast
  6. Mix the dough until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
    bread dough in a mixing bowl
  7. At this point the dough will probably be sticky, so add about ½ cup more of each flour, and continue to mix until the dough is still soft but not too sticky.
    bread dough in mixer   bread dough in mixer with dough hook
  8. Use the tablespoon of extra butter to rub on the inside of a large ceramic bowl, leave some on your hands too. Transfer the dough from the mixing bowl to this bowl. Cover with a towel and place in a warm place to let double in size. This will take 2 to 3 hours.
    bread dough that's risen in a bowl
  9. Punch down the dough. Transfer to a working counter. Divide the dough into 6 even balls. Cover the balls with a towel that aren’t being used immediately.
    bread dough divided into 6 balls
  10. Now take each ball of dough, and divide that ball into either 2 or 3 even pieces, depending on if you are braiding into a long loaf, or twisting into a circle and adding an egg.
  11. Roll each piece of dough into 12 inch long rope. Pinch the ends together and braid or twist the dough. Pinch and tuck the other end for a long loaf or form into a circle and pinch the ends together.
    bread dough rolled into ropes   bread dough twisted into a circle  braided bread dough
  12. Brush the braids with a room temperature egg wash. Sprinkle the bread with sesame seeds or small candied sprinkles. Place onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. If using an egg, add it now to the center of the dough circle.
       
  13. Place the cookie sheets in a warm place and let the bread rise for 30 to 45 minutes.
  14. While the bread is rising, preheat the oven to 350°
  15. Bake the bread for about 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown. Remove the bread from the oven, and set each loaf carefully onto a cooling rack.

Easter bread cooling on racks  easter bread with hard boiled egg

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