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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- Melt ½ cup of the butter, set aside to let cool a bit. Warm the coconut milk until about room temperature.
- Add the sugar, salt, coconut milk, vanilla, and cooled butter. Mix ingredients until well blended.
- Change to the dough hook. Add the risen yeast and 5 cups of each kind of flour.
- Mix the dough until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Place the cookie sheets in a warm place and let the bread rise for 30 to 45 minutes.
- While the bread is rising, preheat the oven to 350°
- 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.