Italian Easter Bread - Pane di Pasqua
This Italian Easter Bread has been a tradition in my Sicilian family for many years. My grandmother used to make this for me and my brother every Easter. After she died, the tradition stopped for awhile, but since having my daughter, I've brought it back and passed the tradition down to her. The original recipe called for shortening, but I have replaced it with Eureka Lemon Olive Oil which is amazing with this slightly sweet Italian bread.
4 dyed UNCOOKED eggs or the amount you need for your use in making a wreath, baskets, bunnies, figure 8's or twists
2 packages (4 teaspoon) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water - divided
1 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
3/4 cup Eureka Lemon Olive Oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon milk
tiny multi-colored candies (non-pariels)
Soften the yeast with 1/2 cup warm water and set aside.
Pour the other 1/2 cup of warm water into a large bowl and blend in the 1.5 cups of flour.
Mix well. Add the softened yeast to this mixture. Beat until smooth and "gooey". Cover the bowl with waxed paper and let stand until doubled (about 40 min - l hour)
While dough is rising:
Cream together the Eureka Lemon Olive Oil and sugar in a mixer or food processor.
Add vanilla, salt and the eggs one at a time, blending well.
The batter should be creamy and fluffy.
When the yeast mixture had doubled, add the creamed mixture to it and beat well until smooth. This "gluey" dough becomes more like a cake dough.
Add flour one cup at a time and blend, by hand, until smooth before adding another cup. After 3 cups have been added, turn the dough onto a floured board and knead the last cup of flour into the dough until it is smooth and no longer sticky.
Select a bowl deep enough for the dough to double. Grease the bowl and turn the dough into the bowl so the top has been greased. Cover with waxed paper and a towel and let rise to double (about 2 hours).
After rising, punch dough down with your fists. Divide the dough into four equal balls, cover and let stand for 10 minutes.
Cut each ball into two parts. Roll each part into two long strands and twist two together like a rope. Make a round nest with the rope braid pinching the ends together and insert the egg into the nest.
Cover loosely with a towel and set aside to rise for a few hours. Don't rush this step.
When breads have risen, bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove and brush the breads lighty (bread might deflate if you press too hard) with the egg yolk and milk mixture, sprinkle with candies. Place back in the oven for about 20 minutes. Breads will be golden brown, eggs will cook inside the bread.
Let cool and decorate with Easter grass and candies. Best eaten spread with butter for breakfast or tea time.