History of Pane di Pasqua
Bread has a religious significance on the Italian Easter table, for Christ is often referred to as “the bread of life.”
Hand-fashioned egg-decorated breads vary from region to region in Italy and go by many different names.
But the commonality of baking whole eggs twisted or braided into bread is part of the theme of Easter.
There are so many wonderful things that have been imprinted on my heart; many of them come from all of our time in Italy. The people are lovely and oh, so passionate; the festivals are colorful, moving celebrations of life itself; and the food! Well, we all know about the Italian food ~ whether it is the simple grizzini, formaggio, salami e vino (which makes a lovely picnic by-the-way!) set out for an impromptu visit from friends, or the more thought out, multi-course cena (dinner) that leaves one dreaming about the next bite, swooning in near ecstasy when it occurs, or even those loud family events, where, I’m now convinced, everyone tries to out-shout the next person just so no one hears all the salivating, chewing, slurping going on at the table!
Traditions run rampant throughout Italy. From 1861, Italy unified the territories and became a Nation…. but, Italians are still not aware of it!
In fact, they continue to maintain regional traditions and dialects as a sort of treasure, proud of their uniqueness. Even if the religious thread exists, every region, every city, every small town celebrates holidays in its own way with two commonalities: FOOD and Family!
One of the foods common at Easter, is Pane di Pasqua. These slightly sweet, dense breads are decorated with a hard-boiled egg braided into they dough before baked. Perhaps you’ll add it to your own rich traditions ~ Happy Easter. v
- 1 c whole milk
- 6 T sugar, divided
- 2 1/4 t yeast
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 t vanilla
- 3 c flour
- 1 t kosher salt
- 1/2 c butter,room temperature, plus 1 T melted
Heat milk to 110 degrees (slightly warmer than body temp); add 1 T sugar and whisk in 2 t yeast; set aside until foamy. Add eggs and vanilla, whisk until mixture is smooth. In a large bowl (you can use a stand mixer; I STILL do not have one) combine the remaining 5 T sugar, flour, salt and 1/4 t yeast; whisk until combined. Using a wooden spoon (or your dough hook thing), stir in milk mixture; slowly add in butter, stirring well until combined. Dough will be soft and silky. Place dough in a well BUTTERED bowl, using the 1 T melted butter and brush the top of the dough with a little butter. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to double in size.
- 6 boiled eggs, colored if desired (come on, it’s Easter! Color the eggs!)
- flour for dusting
- colored sprinkles or sugar crystals (optional)
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Punch down the dough and divide in half. Working with one half at a time, divide into 2 or 3 equal pieces (decide if you want to do a twist (2) or braid (3) design. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a 14 – 16 inch rope. Arrange ropes side by side lengthwise on baking sheet. Either twist or braid dough. You can loop the dough into a circle or leave long. Tuck eggs between strands. Repeat with other half of dough. Cover and allow to rest for about 20-30 minutes. Heat oven to 375; prepare egg wash with 1 beaten egg with 1 t water. Just before baking, brush egg wash on the dough only, avoid the eggs. Bake for 20-24 minutes; cool on rack ~ enjoy!
ps. I finally got that kitchenaid mixer!