This delicious Italian Easter bread has a delicate aniseed flavour and real eggs nestling within its folds. The eggs can be left plain (use a variety of different shades, we used quails eggs here) or dyed first. There’s no need to hard boil them (unless you’re dyeing them and the dying process requires it) as they bake in the oven with the bread.
NB. This version with dyed eggs, although looks pretty when done well, can be a bit hit and miss unless you are prepared to experiment with a few eggs first. You’ll find some colours come out more intensely than others and some dyes can bleed into the dough a bit. There are plenty of instructions for dyeing eggs with food colouring or natural dyes on Google but do use white eggs and white vinegar for better results.
- 375 g plain flour
- 1 packet (about 8 g) dried yeast
- 60g white sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 175ml tepid (not hot) milk
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened at room temperature
- 2 medium sized beaten eggs
- 75g dried fruit / candied peel (optional)
- 30g chopped almonds (optional)
- Half teaspoon aniseed (or crushed star anise)
- Several eggs for decoration, washed (then dyed or left undyed)
- Icing sugar for icing (optional)
- Sprinkles for decoration (optional)
- Small amount olive oil
- In a large mixing bowl mix about a third of the flour, the sugar, yeast and salt.
- Then add the milk and butter.
- Beat either by for a couple of minutes (by hand or with an electric whisk) until smooth.
- Add the two beaten eggs and some more flour (about 4 heaped tablespoons).
- Continue to beat well until smooth again.
- Stir in the fruit, nuts and aniseed.
- Then add the remaining flour a bit at a time to make a soft dough that comes away from the sides of the bowl (you might not need all the flour or you may need a little extra).
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it for 5 to 10 minutes until it becomes smooth.
- Lightly grease the mixing bowl with some olive oil and place the dough back into it, turning it once so as the top is greased too.
- Cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place until it’s doubled in size (about an hour).
- Remove the dough from the bowl again, place on a floured surface and knead it lightly for a minute or two to take the air out of it.
- Cut the dough into three roughly equal pieces. Roll each one until you have a rope of about 40 – 50 cm. Loosely ‘plait the three pieces together. Either leave your loaf as one long piece, or twist it into a ring and weave the ends neatly together pinching the dough where you need it to join. Place it on an oiled baking tray.
- Now, take your decorative eggs (dyed or undyed) and gently nestle them in spaces in between the plaited dough.
- Cover the loaf with the tea towel again and leave to rise for about half an hour this time until it has doubled in size again.
- Glaze the loaf by brushing it with a beaten egg (you don’t need to do this if you are going to ice it).
- Bake at 175º C (150º C for fan assisted), 350º F or gas mark 4, for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown.
- Cool on a wire rack.
- Once cool, if you like you can make up some icing sugar and water to drizzle over the top, adding some sprinkles to decorate.
Best eaten the same day as baking, preferably still warm. Buona Pasqua!