Breads & Doughs

Traditional Italian Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua)

5 from 3 votes
Craft this festive Italian Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua) and celebrate Easter with a traditionally braided ring of sweet, spiced perfection.
Traditional Italian Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua) is golden, light and fluffy, and decorated with colorful Easter eggs, drizzled with icing and topped with colorful sprinkles.

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Hi Bold Bakers!

WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE: Our celebratory Traditional Italian Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua) will delight with its enriched, brioche-like, lightly sweet dough and spring-perfect colorfully dyed eggs. It will be the star of your Easter dinner or any celebration!

  • This eggy bread undergoes a two-stage fermentation process that adds complexity and flavor. Orange and anise give the Pane di Pasqua brightness and a delightful aroma.
  • Dyed raw eggs are placed on top and cooked along with the bread. A generous drizzle of glossy orange glaze is the irresistible final touch. 

Easter is a big religious holiday in Ireland, and it’s also a celebration of spring and new life. In addition to the Easter symbols of lambs, chicks, and eggs, the Irish love their chocolate at Easter time! Bigger Bolder Baking is chock full of recipes perfect for celebrating Easter and the beauty of spring. You’ll love Easy Simnel Cake (Easter Fruitcake), Lemon Meringue Cake, and 5 Big and Bold Easter Recipes (including Chocolate Easter Eggs and Baby Chick Vanilla Cupcakes!)

Table of Contents

Traditional Italian Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua) is golden, light and fluffy. It's decorated with colorful Easter eggs and drizzled with icing.

What is Traditional Italian Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua)

  • Traditional Italian Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua) is a brioche-like sweet bread formed and baked in a wreath shape. Festively-colored Easter eggs, glaze, and sprinkles adorn the top of the bread.
  • This Pane di Pasqua is flavored with orange oil, zest, aniseed, and vanilla. This classic combination brings the sunny taste and fragrance of the Mediterranean to your holiday table.
  • Forms of Easter bread go back centuries in Italy and contain religious symbolism. The wreath shape signifies the crown of thorns and is also seen as the circle of life. The eggs stand for rebirth and hope. Different regions have their own Italian Easter bread recipes with various flavorings like honey or lemon zest, or varieties of fruits and nuts.

Tools You Need for Italian Easter Bread

Key Ingredients for Italian Easter Bread and Why

  • For the colored eggs:

    • Eggs

      • Use white eggs here for beautifully vivid results.
    • Vinegar

      • Vinegar’s acidity reacts with the calcium carbonate in the eggshell. This makes a more porous surface for the dye to penetrate and bond with so the colors last.
    • Food coloring

      • Food coloring comes in liquid, gel, or coloring tablet form.
      • For this recipe we found it best to use gel food dye for a much stronger color.
  • For the sponge and the dough:

    • All-purpose flour

      • With a protein content of 9-11%, all-purpose flour creates the perfect chewy and soft texture.
    • Granulated sugar

      • Sugar feeds yeast, converting it into gas, making the dough rise and making the rolls light and airy.
      • Sugar helps to retain moisture in the dough.
    • Instant yeast

      • Instant yeast does not require sponging and gives a quicker, more efficient rise than active dry yeast.
      • If you use active dry yeast: for every teaspoon of instant yeast, use 1 ¼ teaspoons of active dry yeast. Bring the liquid in your recipe to blood temperature and mix in active dry yeast. Let it sit at room temperature for roughly 5 minutes until foam forms on top.
    • Salt

      • Salt enhances the flavor of the Easter bread and strengthens the gluten, giving it the perfect crumb.
      • Salt also relaxes the dough so that it’s easier to shape.
    • Eggs

      • Using eggs yields plush, rich bread.
      • For best results, get your refrigerated eggs to room temperature before you mix your dough.
      • The egg wash (one egg mixed with a tablespoon of milk) gives the crust an attractive golden shine.
    • Butter

      • Butter contributes to the bread’s moisture, helping keep it soft and tender.
      • Make sure your butter is softened correctly. Specifically, you’ll know it’s soft enough when you push the butter, and it makes an indent, but your finger doesn’t easily squish right through.
    • Fiori di Sicilia

      • Instead of Fiori di Sicilia you can use 1/4 teaspoon of each vanilla extract and orange oil that is commonly used in this bread.
    • Aniseed

      • These seeds from an anise plant have a slightly sweet licorice flavor.
      • Aniseed gives Pane di Pasqua unique flavor, a delicious fragrance, and a slight crunch.
  • For the glaze:

    • Powdered sugar

      • Powdered sugar, also called confectioners’ or icing sugar, is the main ingredient in the bread’s glossy glaze.
    • Orange juice

      • Sweet and bracing orange juice makes the glaze deeply flavorful.
    • Sprinkles

      • Sprinkles make this bread holiday-ready and echo the festive Easter egg colors.

Step-by-step instructions on how to make Traditional Italian Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua) : adding sprinkles to the icing of the bread.

How to Make Traditional  Italian Easter Bread

  • Dye the eggs: 
    • Fill six small bowls with a cup of water, a teaspoon of vinegar, and six different shades of food coloring. Color the eggs in the food coloring for 10 to 15 minutes.
    • If you want intense, vivid colors, keep them in longer. Dry on a wire rack and refrigerate until needed.
  • Make the sponge: Combine flour, yeast, and water, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature overnight.
  • Mix the dough:
    • The next day, using your stand mixer, combine the prepared sponge mixture with the other dough ingredients (flour, sugar, yeast, salt, butter, eggs, egg yolk, Fiori di Sicilia, orange zest, and aniseed) until you have a soft, smooth dough.
    • Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled, about two hours.
  • Shape the dough:
    • Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a 20-inch (50 cm) rope. Twist the ropes together and bring the ends together to make a circle.
    • Cover and proof on a parchment-lined tray for 1 hour or until doubled.
  • Bake the bread: 
    • Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Carefully pull the ropes apart and nestle a dyed egg in the bread. Repeat around the wreath with the rest of the eggs.
    • Brush the bread with egg wash (one egg whisked with one tablespoon of milk). Bake for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 350°F (180°C) and bake for 20 more minutes until golden brown. Let the bread cool completely.
  • Glaze the bread: Mix the powdered sugar with two tablespoons of milk. Add a few more milk if you want a thinner glaze. Drizzle over the bread and top with sprinkles.

Can I Make Traditional Italian Easter Bread in Advance?

Yes, you can make Traditional Italian Easter Bread in Advance.

    • The bread is best served on the day it’s baked, but you can prepare the dough two days in advance:
      • Make the dough as directed.
      • Transfer the mixed dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
      • The refrigeration slows the yeast activity, and the dough can be refrigerated for up to two days.
      • When ready to bake the bread, let it come to room temperature before shaping it. Follow the rest of the recipe as directed.
    • Additionally, the eggs can be dyed up to two days before and refrigerated.

How to Store Traditional Italian Easter Bread

Store leftover bread in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days.

Traditional Italian Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua) is golden, light and fluffy. It's decorated with colorful Easter eggs, drizzled with icing and topped with colorful sprinkles.

FAQs

  • What’s the purpose of making a sponge for Italian Easter Bread?

    • A sponge is also called a starter, preferment, or pre-ferment. Using a sponge enhances the bread’s flavor and texture.
    • Flour, yeast, and water are mixed and set aside to ferment. The sponge is mixed with the remaining ingredients to make the final dough.
  • My dough seems too wet—how do I fix it?

    • This brioche bread like dough is meant to be sticky. Its soft texture is what makes Pane di Pasqua so tender when baked.
    • If it’s absolutely necessary, you can add a minimal amount of flour but use as little as possible.
  • How do I ensure my Italian Easter Bread gets a perfect rise?

    • If your dough didn’t rise, check whether your yeast is expired. Also, storing yeast in the fridge or freezer will keep it fresh longer.
    • Salt does retard yeast growth, and in concentrations that are too high, it can kill the yeast. Keep salt and yeast separate, or mix each with flour first.
    • Do not over-proof or under-proof the dough. The telltale sign you use is how your dough looks: if the dough has doubled in size, almost feels lighter but still strong, and a finger indent doesn’t spring back right away, then it’s ready.

A close-up shot at the Traditional Italian Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua) . A slice is cut and being lifted from the pan. The bread is golden, light and fluffy, and decorated with colorful Easter eggs, drizzled with icing and topped with colorful sprinkles.

Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips

  • This dough is very soft and sticky, which creates a very tender texture. It is best to use a stand mixer, as kneading by hand will be challenging.
  • The eggs are not hard-boiled: they are raw, and bake in the oven along with the bread.
  • Instead of the bread ring, you can make small, individual rolls instead:
    • Dye ten eggs and divide the dough into ten equal portions.
    • For each portion, divide the dough in half, shape each half into a rope, twist them together, and bring the ends together to form a small wreath.
    • Nestle an egg in the center.
    • The baking time may be a bit shorter, so keep a close eye on the bread while it’s baking.
  • Instead of Fiori di Sicilia you can use a 1/4 teaspoon of each vanilla extract and orange oil that is commonly used in this bread.

More Festive Bread Recipes

Watch The Recipe Video!

Traditional Italian Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua)

5 from 3 votes
Craft this festive Italian Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua) and celebrate Easter with a traditionally braided ring of sweet, spiced perfection.
Author: Gemma Stafford
Servings: 10 servings
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 35 minutes
Proof time 14 hours
Total Time 15 hours 35 minutes
Craft this festive Italian Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua) and celebrate Easter with a traditionally braided ring of sweet, spiced perfection.
Author: Gemma Stafford
Servings: 10 servings

Ingredients

For the Dyed Eggs

  • 6 white eggs, uncooked
  • 6 teaspoons vinegar
  • Gel food coloring, of your choice

For the Sponge

  • 1 cup (5 oz/142 g) all-purpose flour
  • teaspoon instant yeast
  • ½ cup (4 fl oz/120 ml) water, at room temperature

For the Dough

  • 2 cup (10 oz/284 g) all-purpose flour
  • cup (2 ½ oz/71 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • teaspoons salt
  • ¼ cup (2 oz/57 g) butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia Citrus Flavor*
  • ¼ teaspoon aniseed
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Egg wash

For the Glaze

Instructions

The Day Before

    Dye the Eggs

    • Fill six small bowls with 1 cup (8 fl oz/240 ml) of water. Add 1 teaspoon of vinegar to each bowl and add a few drops of different food coloring to each bowl until you get your desired colors.
    • Add an egg to each bowl and turn in the colored water for 5-10 minutes, until the eggs take on the color you want.
    • Transfer to a wire rack to allow the eggs to dry completely, then refrigerate until needed. This can be done up to 2 days in advance.

    Make the Sponge

    • In a medium bowl, combine the flour, yeast and water and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit on the counter overnight.

    The Next Day

      Make the Dough

      • The next day, using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the sponge with all of the dough ingredients: flour, sugar, yeast, salt, butter, eggs, yolk, vanilla extract, orange oil, aniseed and orange zest on low speed for about 10 minutes, until you have a very soft, smooth dough that clears the sides of the bowl but remains stuck to the bottom. If absolutely needed, add a touch more flour, but use as little as possible.
      • Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

      Shaping the Dough

      • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
      • Divide the dough in half and roll each piece into a 20-inch (50 cm) long log. Twist the logs together and then bring the ends together to form a circle.
      • Carefully transfer to the prepared baking sheet and lightly cover with plastic wrap. Let rise again until doubled, about 1 hour.

      Bake the Bread

      • Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
      • Carefully pull the rope strands apart and nestle the eggs in the wreath, then brush all over with egg wash.
      • Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350°F (180°C) and bake for another 20 minutes. If the bread begins to overbrown, then tent it with foil for the remainder of the bake time. Remove from the oven to cool completely.

      Make the Glaze

      • In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of milk. If you would like a thinner glaze, add a little more orange juice, a few drops at a time, until you get the consistency you want. Drizzle the bread with the glaze and add the sprinkles on top. Let the glaze dry before serving.
      • This is best the day it is made but you can store the leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
        Note we do not recommend eating the eggs.

      Recipe Notes

      • This dough is very soft and sticky, which creates a very tender texture. It is best to use a stand mixer, as kneading by hand will be challenging.
      • The eggs are not hard-boiled: they are raw, and bake in the oven along with the bread.
      • Instead of the bread ring, you can make small, individual rolls instead:
        • Dye ten eggs and divide the dough into ten equal portions.
        • For each portion, divide the dough in half, shape each half into a rope, twist them together, and bring the ends together to form a small wreath.
        • Nestle an egg in the center.
        • The baking time may be a bit shorter, so keep a close eye on the bread while it's baking.
      • Instead of Fiori di Sicilia you can use a 1/4 teaspoon of each vanilla extract and orange oil that is commonly used in this bread.
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      Desislava Georgieva
      12 days ago

      I’ve just made it and the whole kitchen smells amazing. Just my glaze is on the runnier side, but as for a first try I think it looks great. I made the dough in the bread machine and it turned out great. Next up is the Carrot Cake and I’m ready for Easter.
      Greetings from Switzerland and Happy Easter!

      IMG_20240330_140422

      About Us

      Meet Gemma

      About Us

      Meet Gemma

      Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, a cookbook author, and the creator of Bigger Bolder Baking. I want to help you bake with confidence anytime, anywhere with my trusted and tested recipes and baking tips. You may have seen one of my 500+ videos on YouTube & TikTok or as a guest judge on Nailed It! on Netflix or the Best Baker in America on Food Network. No matter your skills, my Bold Baking Team & I want to be your #1 go-to baking authority.

       

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