A highly seasonal sweet bread, Easter bread has a long tradition across much of Europe developing from communion bread. Pane di Pasqua is not only symbolic, seasonal and delicious but is really fun to make because you can really be elaborate with the colourings for the eggs. It’s something that can easily be done with children: a bit of egg painting and then a delicious bread appears too!
Now I’m not religious but I appreciate the significance of this, so I’m not trying to make too light of it. It’s a bread with a lot of meaning for those who believe and for the rest of us it’s a fabulous sharing bread that can involve children, helping to interest them in learning to bake.
- As this recipe uses tipo 00 or plain flour it will not rise much during the resting periods
- Also, for the same reason, you will not have to knead the dough for quite as long as you do when using strong bread flour
- If you have some cake release spray, you can use this instead of the butter and flour method of preparing the tin
- This bread is a brioche-style bread, light and fluffy with a lovely taste of citrus. It’s nice eaten with a little butter, or toasted and slathered with a chocolate and hazelnut (gianduja) spread. The eggs can be lifted out, cracked open and eaten as per boiled eggs. Also, if it’s not eaten before it’s started to go stale, then it makes a lovely bread pudding, or simply warmed with custard and extra fruit.
Takes about 1 hour 40 minutes of preparation (of which 1 hour is totally hands off) and 35 minutes baking.
- Large bowl
- Knife or dough cutter
- A 21-23cm cake tin, ideally springform
- Pastry brush
- Small bowls (one for each colour you wish to dye your eggs)
- Additionally, you may want to use some art masking fluid to achieve the two-colour patterns. You can purchase this online, in a stationer’s or art supply shop
- 4 medium sized eggs
- 30g unsalted butter, softened but not melted
- 30ml Classic mild olive oil
- 360g plain flour, tipo 00 (or plain ‘cake’ flour will do)
- 50g caster sugar
- 150ml warm milk
- 4g fast acting dried yeast
- 60g candied mixed peel
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of fine salt
- 1 additional egg for coating the bread
- 1 or more food-safe colours
- Extra butter, oil and flour
Method – dyeing the eggs
Dye three eggs – this can be done in advance. For each colour use a separate bowl and dissolve a little food colouring in enough water to cover the egg. I’d suggest one capful if you are using liquid colouring and, if you are using gel colouring, scoop out a little mound of the colour using the ‘wrong’ end of teaspoon (this should be about the right amount).
Leave for at least two hours and ideally overnight. Don’t place the eggs in the dough unless they are thoroughly dry or the dye will run across your bread.
To achieve the look of the eggs in the image, I first painted the eggs with art masking fluid. Wait until the masking fluid is dry and then dye as below. Once the eggs are dyed and are touch-dry, rub off the masking fluid to reveal the shell colour below.
- Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk
- Put the flour, sugar, butter, olive oil, salt and extract in the bowl, and make a well in the middle
- Pour in the milk and yeast and mix together a little, then add in one egg
- When the ingredients have come together, tip out onto a clean worksurface to begin kneading
- This dough is quite wet and sticky, but does not need any extra flour. You will find you are ‘scraping’ at the dough with your fingers more than traditional kneading for the first 2 minutes or so – persevere as it does quickly get much easier
- After about 2-3 minutes the dough will start to come together and keep its shape, picking up all the stickier bits of dough left on your worksurface
- Knead for 5-6 minutes, the dough will be smooth and still a little tacky
- Lightly oil the bowl, putting the dough in it. Cover with a linen tea towel or some cling film
- Leave to rest for 30 mins. This dough will not rise much
- While the dough is resting, prepare the cake tin by brushing on melted butter and tipping a little flour into the tin and swirling round
- After the dough is rested, knead in the fruit, making sure it is spread out evenly throughout the dough
- Divide the dough into three and roll each out into a long strand. The easiest way to ensure your strands are long enough to plait is to make sure they fit round the outside of your cake tin and the ends just meet
- Make a simple three strand plait. It’s easiest to make a neat plait if you start in the middle, work towards one end then repeat from the middle to the other end
- Pick up your plait gently and lay in the cake tin (as below)
- Match up the ends into the design of the plait as neatly as you can
- Gently tease open a section of the plait a little and place one of the eggs into this gap. Be careful as at this stage the eggs are still raw
- Repeat with the remaining two eggs, spacing them equally apart
- Cover the tin and leave for 30 minutes in a warm spot
- Turn your oven on to 200°C fan / 220°C conventional / 425°F
- After 30 minutes (again, the bread will not have risen much) place in the oven
- Whisk up the additional egg briefly and use it to brush the tops of the bread plait – do not paint the eggs though!
- Bake for 10 minutes and turn the oven down to 180°C fan / 200°C conventional / 400° F
- Bake for 20 – 25 minutes more until it’s a lovely golden brown. If the bread looks like it’s browning too quickly, you can cover the top with foil
- Leave to cool