This particular Easter treat hails all the way from Italy. My great-grandmother used to make it at Easter time and, judging by the fact that the card in our family recipe box is for four loaves, she made a lot. Apparently my great-grandmother was one of those people who would feed you the instant you walked in the door no matter what your age, size, or shape. This sweet, slightly buttery bread is perfect toasted for breakfast or enjoyed as a snack with a cup of coffee.
My mom often talks about how all the kids in the family would get their own individual mini-loaf of Easter bread, topped with just a bit of icing. The recipe below is a pared-down version of the one I remember from my own childhood and makes one large loaf or four mini-loaves. Give them as gifts, take them to potlucks, or keep them all for yourself–because this bread really is that good. The four loaves I made this morning are headed to a church breakfast tomorrow, where I hope everyone will enjoy them!
Easter bread is traditionally a bit yellow since the original recipe calls for a lot of eggs. If you want, you can toss in a pinch of turmeric or a few drops of yellow food coloring before mixing the dough for a more authentic shade.
Traditional Italian Easter Bread
makes 1 loaf or 4 mini loaves
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp flour
1 1/2 + 1/8 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 cup nondairy milk
1/4 cup non-hydrogenated, nondairy margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. ground flax seed + 3 tbsp. water
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. anise extract
pinch of salt
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp nondairy milk
water as needed
1) Combine the water, 1/4 tsp. sugar, 1/4tsp. flour, and yeast in a measuring cup or small bowl and set aside. This should get very foamy while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
2) Heat the nondairy milk in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until hot, but not boiling. Add the margarine and whisk until melted. Remove from heat, add the sugar and whisk well. Set aside to cool.
3) Using an electric hand mixer, beat the flax seed and water until thick and frothy. Add to the milk mixture and whisk to combine.
4) In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the milk mixture, yeast mixture, and anise and stir to form a soft dough. Knead until smooth and elastic, but not overly sticky, adding more flour if needed. Cover with a towel and set aside in a warm place to rise, about 1 hour.
5) Punch the dough down and knead it again for a minute or two, adding a bit more flour if it’s too sticky. Grease a loaf pan or 4 mini loaf pans, form the dough into the desired loaves, cover, and rise again for 1 hour more.
6) Bake at 350°F for 40-45 mins until both top and bottom are browned and the bottom sounds hollow when you tap it. Set aside to cool.
7) Once the bread is cool to the touch, prepare the icing. Combine the confectioner’s sugar, vanilla extact, and nondairy milk in a small bowl. Add water a little at a time until the icing is smooth but not runny. Drizzle over the bread and allow to harden.
And since one frosted bread-y thing is never enough, my mom whipped up a big batch of amazing-looking cinnamon buns from The Happy Herbivore Cookbook.
I think I’m going to have to snag one of those before they disappear at the breakfast tomorrow…