Italian Easter Bread

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A traditional festive Italian Easter Bread recipe that’s easy to make! This holiday bread with an egg in the middle is fun to decorate with family and makes a great gift for loved ones.

Easter Bread recipe with colored eggs

This Italian Easter bread is a fun and festive recipe similar to a challah egg bread. It’s a slightly sweet yeast-leavened baked treat that yields soft and tender slices with colorful sprinkles on top. You can work through each step, mixing, proofing, shaping and have time in between to decorate Easter eggs.

The eye-catching egg in the center will have your guests saying “oohs, and ahhs” about your beautiful creation. This recipe has been a family tradition starting with my husband’s grandmother Rose who made this every holiday. I love the vibrant colors and the fact this bread can be shaped in a variety of designs.

cutting a large piece of dough in half

What is yeast?

This Italian Easter Bread is made from a yeast-raised dough, the yeast acting as the leavening agent. Yeast is living organisms, so just like us, they need food to grow. During fermentation, the yeast eats the sugars in the dough, and the result (by-product) is the creation of alcohol and carbon dioxide. The alcohol evaporates during baking and the carbon dioxide assists in leavening giving you airy bread.

three long ropes of dough on a lightly floured cutting board

How do you make yeast-leavened bread?

I use Fleischmann’s RapidRise instant yeast, which is added directly to the dry ingredients. The advantage of using instant yeast compared to active dry is you need only one rising step after shaping the bread into wreaths. This cuts preparation time in half!

I like to make my own homemade oven proofing box to create a warm and moist environment for the dough to elevate and expand. Just simply place the dough in a pan and cover with plastic wrap then place it in the oven.

twisting two pieces of dough around each other

How do you shape and decorate Easter bread?

This recipe yields three large wreaths, or you can make six mini wreaths with the dough. Two long ropes of dough are rolled out and then twisted to form a ring. A simple egg wash is brushed on each wreath just before baking to achieve the perfect golden brown color and shine on the Italian Easter bread.

Oh yeah, and don’t forget the sprinkles! The added pop of colors not only makes the finished product look beautiful, but it also adds just a touch of extra sweetness to each bite.

blue colored hard boiled eggs in the center of a ring of dough

Do you need to cook the eggs before baking?

No need for hard-boiled eggs since they will cook in the oven during the baking process. However, the eggs will be medium-hard with a soft center once baked. If you want a hard boiled egg, use the steam or boil method, or Instant Pot eggs work great too.

How do you decorate the eggs for the bread?

While the dough rises at room temperature, this is an excellent opportunity to color eggs, so they have plenty of time to dry. I use 24 Karat Easter Egg Coloring Kit which is a paint that sticks better to the shell, or Paas Golden Egg Decorating Kit from Target which is a traditional dye.

Raw eggs can be used, but make sure to remove them if you plan on saving the bread to be eaten the next day (food safety first!).

italian easter bread with a colorful blue egg in the center

How to not kill the yeast

Yeast is living organisms, sitting dormant when dried. When rehydrated with warm liquid, the yeast wakes up, become active, and starts to eat and ferment. Yeast dies at temperatures above 138°F (59ºC). In this recipe, warm milk is added at between 120 to130°F (49 to 54ºC). Any higher and the yeast will die, and the bread will not rise!

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Italian Easter Bread

A traditional Italian Easter Bread recipe that’s easy to make! A holiday bread with a colorful egg in the middle that's fun to decorate with family.
Pin Print Review
4.17 from 98 votes
Prep Time2 hrs 20 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time2 hrs 55 mins
Servings 18 servings
Course Bread
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons rapid rise instant yeast, 1 package
  • teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for kneading
  • 1 large egg, beaten plus 1 teaspoon water
  • 3 dyed easter eggs, raw or hard boiled
  • colored sprinkles

Instructions 

  • In a small saucepan, add milk and butter. Heat to 120 to 130°F (49 to 54ºC), stirring until the butter melts. Do not allow the milk to go above 130°F (54ºC).
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the eggs and whisk together. Add the warmed milk and butter mixture. Add 2 cups of flour.
  • Attach a dough hook to a stand mixer and combine 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.
  • Place the dough on a lightly floured board and hand knead for about 3 to 4 minutes, adding a little more flour to prevent sticking. Do not use more than ¼ cup of flour.
  • Shape dough into a ball, cover with a dish towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Divide 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, like a proofing box, until it doubles in size, 45 to 60 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (177ºC). Set the rack in the middle position. 
  • Whisk together the large egg and 1 teaspoon water. Brush each braided bread with the egg wash.
  • If desired, top the bread with sprinkles.
  • Gently place one dyed egg in the center of each braided ring. Do not press into the dough, it will sink as it bakes.
  • Bake one tray at a time until golden brown, approximately 15 to 18 minutes.
  • Quickly transfer the baked bread to a cooling rack.

Notes

  • The recipe makes 3 Easter bread rings.
  • Each ring serves 6 people.
  • Six smaller rings can be made, adjust baking time accordingly.
  • Raw or hardboiled and dyed eggs can be used. Raw eggs will be softboiled after baking.

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Nutrition Facts
Italian Easter Bread
Amount Per Serving
Calories 163 Calories from Fat 36
% Daily Value*
Fat 4g6%
Saturated Fat 2g10%
Cholesterol 10mg3%
Sodium 24mg1%
Potassium 52mg1%
Carbohydrates 27g9%
Sugar 6g7%
Protein 3g6%
Vitamin A 135IU3%
Calcium 24mg2%
Iron 1.3mg7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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80 Comments Leave a comment or review

    • Jessica Gavin says

      The dough will be bit sticky from the sugars. When kneading on the board after mixing, did you add about an 1/4 cup more flour? If needed, add a few tablespoons more, but don’t add too much because the dough will get dry and stiff. You want it to be slightly tacky, smooth, and easy to work with.

  1. Megan says

    Can I let the bread do its last rise in the fridge overnight, then bake the next day? If so, should I let it come to room temp before baking? Will I need to bake it longer?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Megan- You can shape the dough and refrigerate it overnight. However, you will need to let it come to room temperature and still let it rise until doubled in size. Not much rise will happen in the refrigerator from the yeast because of the cool temperature. I would take the bread out first thing in the morning. Check out my oven proofing box method if you need a warmer environment. Let me know how it goes!

  2. Lynn says

    Hi,
    My nana made this every Easter. She’s been gone a while now so I’m trying this today to surprise my dad. Your recipe sounds like the one she made except it was one large ring?? My Nana’s had an orange glaze too, would that just be adding orange zest to the powdered sugar glaze?
    I’m so excited to try this but EXTREMELY nervous!!
    Thanks Lynn

  3. Angela says

    My bread turned out perfectly with the directions you provided on using active instead of rapid dry yeast. Thank you for teaching me how to do this. I doubled the recipe and will be dropping 5 of them off at my siblings homes for Easter since we are trying to adhere to social distancing and will not be able to get together tomorrow. I really appreciate your help.

  4. chris suter says

    Your Italian easter bread was to die for so light and very good I am a chef too I’m so glad I found you. Happy EASTER

  5. Tara says

    I have never made homemade bread of any sort before trying your recipe. The texture was almost like that of a soft pretzel. The taste was fine. The yeast leavened as my bread rised and I made sure the milk was not too warm. I was wondering if you have any ideas on what I did wrong. Thanks!

  6. Cindy says

    I tried this recipe and the braids fused together when I baked it. They look like giant bagels lol. Not sure what I did wrong, I followed the recipe step by step. But they taste delicious!

  7. Mary B says

    I have been looking for a recipe for this bread for a long time, thank you for posting this here! Also, I followed the directions for using active dry yeast and it turned out perfectly! Is there a place I can get this recipe in print? I want to make it a permanent part of my Easter tradition.

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