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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Recipe: Italian Easter Egg Bread!

Spring has finally sprung and Easter is right around the corner! That means that it is time to bake my favorite family treat - Italian Easter Egg Bread.

Everything about this bread is wonderful! From the way it smells while baking to the festiveness of the bright colors, this bread always pleases.  It is also a great treat for the family, as you can make smaller individual loaves or form the dough into one large braid or nest for your family to pull apart! Oh, and it tastes so light and fluffy with a hint of buttery sweetness! Yum!

This year is extra special too - I was invited to participate in an Easter baked-goods recipe contest from Country Crock butter! Therefore, I was able to make this bread with their butter and use it as a spread.  It did not disappoint! The best part is, when I made the bread, my husband did not even notice the difference, even though he claimed he would! If you are interested in seeing what other Easter recipes are using Country Crock, look for the hashtag #WhenWeBake.

Italian Easter Egg Bread

-1/2 cup (1 stick) Original Country Crock butter
-1 1/4 cup whole milk (in a real pinch, I have used Almond Milk before and it turns out just as wonderful)
-1 package active dry yeast
-2 eggs, beaten
-1/2 cup sugar
-Pinch of salt
-About 4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon of water for egg wash
-6 dyed eggs for decorating*
-Sprinkles for decorating

*Please note: You do not need to boil the eggs since they will cook in the oven.  Just carefully raw dye the eggs so they do not crack. 

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the milk to the melted butter and scald.  Allow the milk and butter mixture to cool for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, stir together the yeast, 2 eggs beaten, sugar, and salt.  Slowly pour a little of the milk and butter mixture into the bowl and mix quickly to ensure that the eggs do not cook. Pour in the rest of the milk and butter mixture until all ingredients are combined.

Next, add half of the flour (2 cups).  Keep adding the flour a little at a time until the dough forms into a ball and is no longer sticky (it is best to not pour in all of the flour at once since sometimes you end up using a little less or a little more then 4 1/2 cups of flour).

On a lightly floured surface, knead and punch down the dough until you can form it into smooth round ball. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let sit in a warm spot until doubled, about 45 minutes to an hour.  I typically place the bowl on top of my oven and turn my surface light on because it helps the dough to stay warm and rise.

Once the dough has risen, place it on a lightly floured surface and knead and punch it down again.

To make the individual loaves pictured, roll the dough out into a log shape, and cut the dough into 12 pieces (see picture below – it helps to mark the dough with a knife so you can get 12 even pieces).  Roll out each piece into its own long strand roughly 12-14 inches long. Taking two pieces of rolled out dough at a time, pinch the ends of the dough together and twist the strands together. Loop into a circle and pinch the dough to connect the ends.

Roll dough into log

Mark with a knife and cut into 12 pieces 

Roll each piece into a long rope strand and twist two together at a time

One finished loaf

If you just want to make one large braided loaf, then just cut the dough in half and roll out each piece and twist together just like you would for the smaller loaves.  Don't be afraid to have fun and get creative with this!

When the 6 loaves of braided bread are finished, place them on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover, and let sit in a warm place to rise for about another 45 minutes.  While you are waiting, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

The loaves after rising for another 45 minutes

Once the dough has risen again, brush the loaves with the egg wash and coat with colored sprinkles if you wish.  Then, carefully place an egg in the middle of each of the loaves.

Decorated loaves before going into the oven

Place the loaves in a 350 degree F oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Let cool slightly and then serve! These breads are best when eaten warm out of the oven with some soft butter, or you can crack open the egg in the center and dunk the bread in the yolk! Just please note, if you do not eat the bread right away, then please do not eat the egg, as it will have gone bad.

Fresh out of the oven!

The butter melted beautifully on the bread.. mmm

Buona Pasqua!

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