Pane Dolce di Pasqua –
While we are all getting ready in this country to hippity-hop down the bunny trail – or jelly bean trail, as my kids used to do – in Italy they are preparing for one of the biggest events of the year, Easter. Like many other feast days in Italy, this day is steeped in religious roots. It is a treasured day on the calendar, and one anticipated with excitement, as Lent is finally over. Everyone can return to to normal eating with no abstinence, fasting, restriction etc.
When I was growing up in my childhood home in Binghamton, NY, my mother and father, Loretta and Attilio (Read more about them on the ABOUT PAGE on my website.) prepared weeks ahead for Easter. One of my favorite things during this time of preparation was the SWEET EASTER BREAD or Pane Dolce di Pasqua or Pane di Pasqua. I loved to help my mother make this, as I was the one in charge of dying the eggs! Sometimes she would even give me some dough to make a small bread of my own. The aroma in the house while this bread was baking was intoxicatingly sweet. Very often, when Loretta served the bread, she placed a palm cross on the top, marking the religious significance of the day, as was the custom in presenting many of the Easter dishes.
Today, when I braid the dough for this bread, those memories seem to be entwined with it. I cannot make it without smiling and remembering. It’s one of those “memory trigger” things we all have within us. For instance, I can recall that one of our favorite uses for this sweet bread was to toast it and spread it with butter, jam, or cream cheese. The cream cheese thing was Loretta’s favorite. We still enjoy it toasted in the morning with coffee at breakfast time. Of course, I manage to find several other times of the day to continue to indulge, as well. This sweet bread is insanely delicious.
This is not a difficult bread to make. As a matter of fact, it is one of the easier ones. It just takes a little time. As far as how many breads to make, that is up to you. You can make one large one, two medium ones, or several smaller individual ones which is especially fun for kids and also a nice way to decorate each place at your table by giving each guest one of them. Also, instead of making braided circular nests, you can leave the twisted ropes of dough in a single line and serve it as a more rectangular loaf.
It is important to remember not to boil your eggs before dying them and nesting them in the dough before baking. Just turn the raw eggs gently in the dye, dry them, and carefully place them raw in the dough. They will bake along with the bread. Easy!
Mmmm, I’m dreaming of ITALIAN SWEET EASTER BREAD with some of that yummy Fig Jam many of us made with the fresh figs of last summer. I just happen to have some in my freezer for this luscious occasion. For the recipe, visit my post: All Figged Up with Fig Jam and Fig Crostata.
The bunnies at my house are all getting hungry. ANDIAMO!
SWEET EASTER BREAD
(PANE DOLCE DI PASQUA)
Prep: 3 hours (with the rising)
Bake: about 30 minutes
As many Dyed Raw Eggs as you want to nestle in your bread (usually 4-6 or 7) – MUST be raw.
4 1/2 c. Flour (Divided into 4 c. and 1/2 c.)
1/2 c. Sugar
1 envelope Dry Active Yeast
1 tsp. salt
1 c. Warm milk
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 tsp. Liquid Anise (found with the spices & extracts at your grocer)
2 Extra Large Eggs – room temperature – beaten
1/2 c. Coarsely chopped slivered almonds
1 c. Chopped Candied Orange Peel or Golden Raisins (to make your own candied orange peel, visit: HERE )
Zest of one orange
1 Tbsp. Fennel Seed
Olive Oil for oiling bowl
1 Egg beaten a little to glaze the bread before baking
Colored Sprinkles ( found in baking area at grocer)
Place 4 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in the bowl of your food processor.
Add warm milk, olive oil and anise.
Mix a little and then add the beaten extra large eggs – mix again.
Add the peel (or golden raisins), almonds, zest, and fennel seed – mix again quickly just to incorporate.
Mixture will be quite sticky.
Put some of the remaining 1/2 c. flour on a board, and turn the sticky dough onto it.
Work the flour into the dough and keep adding the remaining flour a little at a time as needed, until you have a smooth dough.
You may or may not need the full 1/2 cup.
Knead the dough for 5-7 minutes.
Then put a few drops of olive oil in a large bowl and oil the inside. Place your kneaded dough in the bowl and rub the oil that remains on your hands over the top of the dough.
Place a dish towel over the top of the bowl and let rise for 1 1/2 hours in a warm place.
During the time the dough is rising, dye your RAW eggs. Don’t worry about dying too many. They are raw and any you don’t need for the bread, put in the frig to use later for something else. The number you use will depend on whether you are making a large bread or individual ones. If you dye several you’ll be fine.
When the dough has risen (about double), punch it down and divide into the number of balls you need according to how many breads you want to make.
Then roll each ball into long ropes identical in length. You will need 2 ropes per bread.
Take 2 ropes at a time and twist the ropes for the entire length.
You can leave as long breads or curve the twisted dough into circles and join at the end to make nests.
Nestle the dyed raw eggs into the twists, as many as you like or put one egg in the center of each.
Cover the breads again with a towel and let rise another hour.
Brush with beaten egg and top with colored sprinkles.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until golden. (time depends on your oven)
Cool and enjoy!
SWEET ITALIAN EASTER BREAD is delicious with coffee, tea, espresso etc. For a special pairing, try with Anisette or Sambuca.
PARLA COME MANGI!
Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.
Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography