Italian Easter Bread
Difficulty level: Medium
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As much as I love the classic British Easter favourite, the hot cross bun, I also like to learn and try what other countries eat during this festive season.

Whilst doing some research on this Italian Easter bread (also known as Pane di Pasqua), I found that its origin story varies depending on the region. In the medieval times, nuns baked this bread in a tall cylindrical pan during Holy Week using 40 eggs to represent the 40 days of Lent. Some food historians go on to say that the round, wreath-shaped breads are meant to represent the crown of thorns worn by Jesus at his crucifixion while the eggs represent Christ's empty tomb once he rose again.

If any Italians are reading this, I would love to hear your version of how the Italian Easter Breads came to be.

The Italian Easter bread is an enriched dough made with eggs, milk and butter which produces a taste and texture similar to the French brioche. This sweet bread is sometimes flavoured with citrus rind, anise seed, and/or a dash of Sambuca or Strega. In my recipe, I use vanilla extract and the zest of an orange.

When it comes to dying the eggs, there’s no need to boil them as they cook with the bread in the oven. I recommend dying them the day before so you can focus on just the dough. To learn how to dye eggs with food colouring, click here. If you prefer not to use eggs as decoration for this recipe, you can certainly omit them.

Italian Easter Bread with No Decorative Egg

To those from the rest of the world, please tell me your traditional Easter treat. I’m keen to try them too!

Prep Time
15-20 minutes
Cooking/Baking Time
15-18 minutes

6 fl. oz. milk
2 oz. unsalted butter
2 eggs
3 oz. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 orange, zested (optional)
1 sachets (7g) instant yeast
16-18 oz. bread flour, plus extra
1 tsp. salt
Oil, for greasing

For the egg wash
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. water

For the decoration
Coloured sprinkles (I use 100s and 1000s)
7 dyed uncooked eggs, optional (click here for method)


  1. Place the milk and butter in small saucepan over a medium heat to melt. As soon as the butter is fully melted, immediately remove from the heat.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and orange zest until combined. Next, slowly poor in the milk and butter mixture whilst whisking. Next, mix in the yeast.
  3. Add half the flour and all the salt and begin to combine. Add more flour as you go until you have a soft pliable dough. The dough shouldn’t be wet and sticky. Knead for 10 minutes.
  4. Place the dough in a well-oiled and large bowl. Cover with cling-film and set aside in a warm place to rise for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until double in size.
  5. Next, transport the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Knock out the air from the dough and divide into 14 equal pieces.
  6. To make the wreath shape, roll 2 pieces of dough into ropes (12-14 inches). Join 2 ropes at the top by pinching the pieces together then twist until you get to the ends, Pinch the ends then join both ends form a wreath pinching them down securely. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces.
  7. Place the wreaths on a large baking sheet lined with baking paper. Cover with cling-film and rise in a warm, draft free area for 1 hour.
  8. 15 minutes before rising time has finished preheat the oven to 180º C.
  9. Make the egg wash by combining the ingredients thoroughly then use to brush over the wreaths. Evenly sprinkle on top the sprinkles, then add a dyed uncooked egg (if using) to the centre of each wreath.
  10. Bake for 15- 18 minutes or until golden. Next, move the breads to a wire rack to cool before serving. Enjoy!

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