Grandma's Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua)

From the time I was a little girl, my nonna always made Easter bread on Good Friday.  Since her passing my family has kept this tradition alive.  Like we do for Struffoli, we get together and make her recipe.  It is an all day event filled with eating, laughing, and of course bread making. 

This bread is great for an Easter breakfast or brunch.  I love to slice it and spread some butter on it and have it with espresso.

A quick recipe note.  The egg on traditional Easter breads in general, represents “rebirth,” Christ rising from the dead. The eggs used are raw eggs, colored with Easter dye, and then they cook during baking. But my grandmother in her later years left them out.  So, if you don’t have the time you can skip that step and just add the sprinkles, as the eggs are more for symbolism and aesthetics than overall taste.

Also, if you can’t find actual lard at a local specialty store, vegetable shortening works just as well.  

4 Cup of Flour (Sifted)

4 tsp. Baking Powder

1 1/2 cups of Sugar

2 Eggs

½ Cup Lard/Vegetable Shortening – Cut into small pieces

4 tsp. Vanilla

1 Cup Milk

2 Egg Yolks beaten  

Colored Nonpareil Sprinkles

Colored Easter Eggs- Raw and then Colored

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and sugar in a bowl.  Pour this mixture onto a clean counter top in a circle and make a well with deep sides.  To the well add the eggs, lard/vegetable shortening and vanilla. Gently incorporate these wet ingredients with a fork, while keeping the walls of the well intact.  Then using the fork start working the flour into the wet ingredients very slowly.  Again you want to keep the walls intact. Start gradually adding the milk to the ingredients in the well, about a ¼ cup at a time. Once all of the milk is added it is time to use your hands to knead the dough.  You might have to add a little more flour to the surface if the dough gets too wet.  Use your judgment.  Then let the dough rest for 15 minutes.  

Cut the dough in half and form into a round bread.  You can cut  the dough in quarters if you wish to make the breads smaller. Place the dough on opposite sides of the parchment.  If you are making 4 breads use two parchment lined baking sheets.  Put the egg in the middle of each loaf.  Brush the top of the loaf with the beaten egg yolk, and evenly sprinkle the non-pariels over the top. Put in the oven for 40 to 45 minutes. Please note if you are making the smaller breads the cooking time is 20 to 25 minutes. You will know the bread is done when it is golden in color and an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool and serve. I like to slice and spread on some butter. If you used the egg, store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days. If you don’t use the egg you can store it in an airtight container unrefrigerated. You can also freeze it , just make sure to cover well with plastic wrap and remove the egg.

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