Adapted from: The Italian Dish
makes 6 individual breads or 1 large braided loaf
*I've included my notes in italics below if you want to make a braided loaf
- 1 package Rapid Rise (instant) yeast, about 2-1/4 teaspoons
- 1.25 cups milk
- pinch of salt
- 1/3 cup butter
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3.5 cups flour (approximate)
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water
- 6 dyed Easter eggs *
- sprinkles or pearl sugar
* tip: the Easter eggs do not need to be hard boiled. They cook when the bread bakes. I usually just dye the eggs uncooked, without hardboiling them. Saves time. Just be careful they don't crack!
In a small saucepan, warm the milk and butter together, just till butter melts. In a large mixer bowl, combine yeast, salt, eggs and sugar. Add the warm (not hot - it will kill the yeast) milk and butter. Add about half the flour and beat until smooth with dough hook. Slowly add the remaining flour to form a stiff dough. Don't worry about how much flour it ends up being, just keep adding until the dough is not sticky anymore. I ended up using about 5 cups of flour before it wasn't sticky anymore.
Knead until smooth with either dough hook attachment or turn out on floured board and knead. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour. It took my dough about 2 hours to rise because it's still quite cold here in MA. Give yourself extra time esp. if you are preparing same day for a special occasion. I started at about 10 a.m. and it was done at 2:30 p.m.
Punch dough down, divide into 12 pieces. Roll each piece to form a 1 inch thick rope about 14 inches long and, taking two pieces, twist to form a "braid", pinching the ends, and loop into a circle.
If you are making a braided loaf, divide the dough into 3 equal pieces, rolling the dough until each piece is about 19" long. Stack the end of each of the 3 pieces on top of eachother and tuck under the bread. Braid the bread, securing the ends and tucking them under the loaf.
Place on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper or on Silpat (1 baking sheet for the braided loaf). Cover and let rise until double, about an hour again. (Again, took about 2 hours for me) Brush each bread with beaten egg wash. Put on the sprinkles or sugar. In the middle of each bread ring, gently place an Easter egg, making an indentation with the egg.Likewise, if you are making a braided loaf, gently tuck eggs throughout the bread and push town slightly. I initially was going to do 6 eggs, but as I started putting them in, I ended up using 4. I'll probably do 5 next time.
If making individual bread, bake at 350 degrees until golden - about 20 minutes. Cool on rack.
If making a braided loaf, bake at 350 degrees until golden- about 30 minutes. Cool on rack.
When the bread came out of the oven, I gently brushed it with a little bit of butter. Be careful when you do this because if the butter touches the eggs, it will cause the dye to bleed on the bread and then you'll have blue bread. Which I guess isn't the worst thing in the world.