Traditionally this Italian Easter Bread recipe is executed using natural brown eggs, however in more recent years white eggs have been used and dyed bright colors.
In my own family we like to dye the eggs pretty colors to make the bread more festive looking.
You may choose to make this loaf either way.
The bread is shaped into a wreath surrounding the eggs which start out uncooked and bake along with the bread.
In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour, the sugar, yeast and the salt. Pour in the warm milk and softened butter. Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the batter for approximately two minutes on a medium speed.
Crack in two of the eggs and another 1/2 cup of flour.
Now you want to beat the mixture again for two more minutes, this time on a higher speed.
Stir in fruit and aniseed if you are using them. Make sure to mix these in well. Then slowly add a little more flour at a time until a soft dough is formed.
Knead the dough, then allow to rise
Lightly flour a hard surface such as a table or countertop. Place the ball of dough on top and begin kneading it until it becomes smooth and stretchy. This will probably take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. Form into a round ball.
Prepare a bowl by pouring in about a teaspoon to two teaspoons of canola oil to grease the sides of the bowl. You can easily do this with a sheet of paper towel or a pastry brush.
Place the ball of dough in the bowl, turning it once to make sure that both the top and bottom are greased. This will ensure that your dough doesn’t get dry while you are allowing it to rise.
Cover the bowl (with a lid, towel, or do as my grandmother would do, place the bowl in the middle of a blanket and wrap it up like it’s taking a nap!) Set the bowl in a warm place and leave it there for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
Prepare the eggs
While the dough is rising you can prepare the eggs by washing and dying them if you choose to. (Just a note, these are RAW eggs you are dying, so be careful!)
Otherwise just lightly grease the eggs with a little bit of the oil and set aside.
Divide the dough
Prep the dough by punching it down and dividing it into two smaller balls.
On a floured surface, roll each piece into about a two-foot long rope. Then twist the two ropes together loosely into a wreath shape.
Place the Italian Easter bread on a greased cookie sheet.
Place one egg in each opening. Cover with a towel and let rise again, this time for about 25-30 minutes, or until it appears to have doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. At this point you may choose to lightly oil the top of the bread and scatter some colorful sprinkles on top.
Bake the Easter Bread for 30-35 minutes or until golden in color.
Remove the bread from the pan and place on a rack to cool.
Use the finished wreath to decorate your holiday table or simply slice it up and enjoy this special Italian Easter bread tradition!