Italian Easter Bread

4.77 from 591 votes
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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!

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.
4.77 from 591 votes
Prep Time2 hours 20 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time2 hours 55 minutes
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.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 18 servings
Calories 163kcal (8%)Carbohydrates 27g (9%)Protein 3g (6%)Fat 4g (6%)Saturated Fat 2g (10%)Cholesterol 10mg (3%)Sodium 24mg (1%)Potassium 52mg (1%)Sugar 6g (7%)Vitamin A 135IU (3%)Calcium 24mg (2%)Iron 1.3mg (7%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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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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272 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Rose Moretti says

    I just made this Easter Bread I followed it exactly as instructed and it came out wonderful my entire family loved it and there wasn’t a crumb left. I will definitely make it again!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I’m so happy that your family enjoyed the easter bread! I hope it becomes a tradition 🙂 We made some too and my daughter ate a whole loaf herself, haha!

  2. Yerania says

    Great bread! I made it for Easter yesterday. How do I keep the leftover bread fresh? Should I place it in the refrigerator or the counter at room temperature? How long will the leftovers keep?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You can place it on the counter for a few days then toast. Otherwise I like to slice up the bread and freeze it. Then just toast the frozen slices, it’s so yummy!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You can only use the dough setting if you are using active dry yeast or bread machine yeast which would require two rise steps. My recipe uses instant dry yeast, which only needs one rise after shaping, therefore you can’t use the dough setting.

  3. Ann says

    I would like to make this for Easter (tomorrow) can I make the bread dough today and then bake tomorrow so it is freshly baked when served?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Yes! I would shape it, then cover it, and refrigerate the tray. Do not let it rise (step 1)! Take it out in the morning to let the dough come to room temp, them let it double in size in a warm area. Give yourself a few hours to allow the bread to rise since it will be cold. Here is my oven proofing box method: https://www.jessicagavin.com/oven-proofing-box/

  4. Lily says

    I made this last year and it was great! I’m going to make it again today, to be eaten tomorrow, and was wondering whether it would work to do step 1-10 today and keep the dough in the fridge and bake it tomorrow so it’s freshly baked when we eat it? I don’t have time to make it tomorrow, so just wondering if you’ve done this before. Thank you!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Great question! If you want to make the dough ahead of time, I would shape it, then cover it, and refrigerate the tray. Do not let it rise! I would take it out in the morning the next day to let the dough come to room temp, them let it double in size in a warm area, or use my proofing box. You can’t let the dough rise the night before, or it will collapse. Make sure to give yourself a few hours to allow the bread to rise since it will be cold. Here is my oven proofing box method: https://www.jessicagavin.com/oven-proofing-box/

  5. Steph says

    I made this for Easter tomorrow and am keeping one loaf to take to my sister-in-laws in 4-5 days. Will it last a few days or should I freeze and then take out the day of?
    Thanks!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I think the bread will taste the best frozen, defrosted, then you can warm in the oven if you’d like.

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