Italian Easter Bread with Dyed Eggs
Celebrate Easter with a traditional recipe for Italian Easter Bread with dyed eggs. It makes for a beautiful (and delicious!) Easter table centerpiece.
Italian Easter Bread with dyed eggs is a traditional Easter bread dish featuring sweetened bread dough shaped into a wreath with colored Easter eggs tucked into it before baking. While still edible, the placement of the dyed eggs in the bread is symbolic rather than culinary. Eggs are a common Easter symbol, not only for their popular use in egg hunts, but more directly for their historical association with fertility and re-birth. Easter celebrates Jesus rising from the dead, and thus, the egg and Easter have been firmly linked.
Eggs were also originally forbidden during Lent (the 40 days before Easter), so when the big day came perhaps it was time to enjoy them again with gusto.
My family is Italian Catholic on my maternal grandfather’s side, and while I spent many Easters wriggling on a pew in church before visiting my Great Grammy in Everett, MA with my sisters and cousins, where we lined up for the obligatory douse of Grammy’s holy water, I don’t remember ever having Italian Easter Bread with dyed eggs.
Surely I would have remembered a sweet, braided bread with dyed Easter eggs snuggled down inside, right?
After years of admiring Italian Easter Bread when it showed up in the food world each spring, I finally decided to make my own.
The dough is a basic sweet yeast dough, and once it was set to rise I got out my hard-boiled eggs. I hadn’t dyed Easter eggs since the early 90s, but unlike so many other things from childhood, the process is pretty much exactly the same today. Wanting my eggs to look like authentic birds’ eggs, I tried to get them the perfect shade of pale turquoise.
Then, I mixed a bit of brown gel food coloring with water and got out a fresh toothbrush. By dipping the head of the toothbrush into the dye and then running my thumb over it, I was able to “spray” speckles of brown onto the eggs. I practiced first onto a paper towel and suggest you do the same.
Once the dough was ready, chopped almonds and candied fruit (or raisins) were kneaded in. I had a surplus of golden raisins on hand, so that’s what I used. Then it was cut in half, and each half rolled out into a long, thin rope. The fruit and nuts made this a little tricky by forming air pockets inside the dough ropes, but with a little firm coaxing they were long enough. After wrapping the two ropes together and forming a wreath, the strands were separated enough to nestle a dyed egg firmly between them.
You can use our recipe for sweet yeasted bread at the end of this post, or substitute your own favorite sweet dough or challah recipe.
Out of the oven the bread will fill your kitchen with the intoxicating smell of sweet homemade bread. Unfortunately, the egg dye bled in the oven, but since there was nothing I could do about it I just tried to draw the eye elsewhere by using a liberal hand with the glaze and sprinkles that are optional (but strongly encouraged) on Italian Easter Bread. Just keep the glaze off the eggs.
This bread makes a gorgeous Easter centerpiece, and is a holiday tradition for many families. Yes, it’s a little unusual to stick hard-boiled eggs into your bread before baking it, and then pry them out the next day to make egg salad for lunch (like I did), but it sure is fun.
And the final result was also delicious. Sweet and light with just enough almond and raisin filling to make it special. Why not make Italian Easter Bread with dyed eggs this year and add a new tradition to your Easter table?
Have you ever made Italian Easter Bread?