Italian Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua) - A Family Feast

Italian Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua)

  • Prep Time: 4 hours
  • Cook Time: 25 mins
  • Total Time: 4 hours 25 minutes
  • Yield: 6 small loaves


Note: This Italian Easter Bread will go stale very quickly so it is best served the day it is baked. Store any leftovers tightly covered in an air-tight container or bag.


  • 1¼ cups whole milk
  • 2 ½ teaspoons dry yeast
  • 2 whole eggs, room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Zest of one large navel orange
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon anise extract
  • ½ cup butter softened, 1 stick
  • 44 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • Olive oil to oil bowl

Colored Eggs

  • 6 teaspoons white vinegar
  • Liquid food coloring, your choice of colors
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 6 raw eggs left in shell


Egg wash

  • One beaten egg
  • 1 teaspoon water


  1. Heat milk on stove or in microwave until it is exactly 110 degrees F.
  2. Mix in yeast and let bloom for 10 minutes.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat eggs and add sugar and continue to beat until the mixture is pale in color.
  4. Add salt, zests, extracts and butter and mix.
  5. Slowly add two cups of flour with mixer running on low.
  6. Replace paddle with dough hook and continue adding the remaining 2 cups of flour alternating the milk and yeast mixture to produce a soft slightly tacky dough, adding the last half cup of flour only if needed. Turn the mixer to medium and knead for five minutes. The dough will be very soft and tender.
  7. Pour into a large oiled bowl, cover with plastic and a dish towel and let rise in a warm place for about two hours or until doubled in size.
  8. While dough is proofing, color eggs.
  9. In six tea cups or coffee mugs, place one teaspoon of white vinegar each and 15 drops of food coloring each, using six different colors. Pour in ½ cup of boiling water per cup, stir and add one raw egg in shell to each cup. Let sit five minutes then remove and dry, then place back in refrigerator until later. Discard colored water.
  10. Make glaze by combining water, sugar and anise extract. Bring to a boil to dissolve sugar and remove from heat. Cool and refrigerate until later. Save this simple syrup and the pearls for after bread is baked.
  11. After the dough has doubled in size, pour out onto a floured counter and divide into 12 pieces by cutting in half, cutting each half in half then cutting each quarter into thirds.
  12. Roll each piece out into logs, 14 inches long.
  13. Take two logs and twist them together pinching both ends then pinching the two ends to each other to form a twisted circle. Repeat for the remaining five.
  14. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper and place three per pan evenly spaced leaving room to proof.
  15. Cover with plastic and a dish towel and proof in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 – 1 ½ hours.
  16. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  17. Beat the egg and water to make an egg wash and brush each loaf, being careful to not let it drip down to the pan.
  18. Press one colored raw egg into the center of each loaf, gently pressing down so it fits snug.
  19. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.
  20. Place on cooling racks over a sheet pan and while still warm, brush all over with the simple syrup, letting it drip down to the pan under the rack and sprinkle the tops with the sugar pearls.
  21. Cool and refrigerate until ready to serve. (Because of the egg, these must be refrigerated.)