Bread. During the Easter period, there are few symbolisms that embody life other than bread. Easter Sunday is celebrated throughout the Christian world celebrating the life and death of Jesus Christ. In John 6:35, Jesus quotes “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry again.” It is only fitting that one Italy’s most well known traditions’ is Easter bread.
Italian Easter Bread, sweet bread made with milk and sugar, uses yeast to rise like bread. There are variations, which a dyed egg can be placed in the middle but usually is glazed with a confectioners sugar and sprinkles. So how did Easter Bread come to be? One legend is that Easter Bread originated in the region of Lombardy. The people celebrated their victory over the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa by making an Easter dove known as a Colomba Pasquale. A Colomba Pasquale was a type of dough similar to panettone. The religious context is that the egg represents rebirth.
Easter Bread is a delectable dish rich in sweets especially after a long Lenten season. Christians refrain from luxuries and of course meat on Fridays to represent the suffering of Christ. Particularly in Italy, church services are somber and re-enactments of the Stations of the Cross can be found practically everywhere. Whichever your tradition, it’s a time to celebrate spring, nature, and rebirth in all of it’s glory.
Traditional Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua) Recipe
1 packet of active dry yeast or Rapid Rise
2/3 warm milk
3-5 cups of flour
½ cup of sugar
2 medium size eggs
2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil
1 teaspoon of salt
1 egg (for eggwash)
By using a hand mixer or even by hand:
Add the yeast, 1 cup of flour, sugar, and salt.
Add in the milk and butter or olive oil. Continue to beat until combined.
Add in eggs one by one and slowly add the additional flour. Continue to beat until reaching consistency
Add in the rest of the flour until a soft dough forms. Continue to add the flour until the dough no longer sticks.
Form a ball and place in a greased or buttered bowl and cover with towel. Place the bowl in a warm place until the dough rises. This may take from 1-1 ½ hours long. The dough should rise to about double your size.
For egg wash: beat one until smooth and lumps have disappeared
Once the dough is ready, either roll and cut to two pieces in order to braid the dough or just leave in an oval shape. Brush the eggwash on the dough and place multi colored sprinkles all over the loaf. Place the dough in the oven at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until baked. Easter bread with have a nice brown texture from the eggwash. Most of all enjoy and Buona Pasqua!