Depending on the region of Italy, there are a lot of variations to this most famous Italian Easter Bread.
It can be sweet or savory, with eggs nested in the center or on the sides, beautifully carved or simply braided.
Flavored with orange or lemon zest.
The one we are making today is simple, semi-sweet, rich with raisins and utmost delish.
4 scant cups (17.5 oz) all-purpose flour
¼ cup white granulated sugar
⅔ cup (5 ¼ oz) unsalted softened butter
2 + 1 eggs
pinch of salt
1 scant cup of milk (1 cup minus 1 table spoon)
1 teaspoon dry yeast
½ cup raisins
5 white/colored eggs for decoration
Mix warm milk (100F-110F) with 1 teaspoon of sugar and yeast. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes until the yeast is fully dissolved.
In the meantime, sieve the flour.
We are doing so to aerate it and to remove any lumps or impurities. Put it in the mixing bowl.
If you are using a stand mixer, fit the dough hook, add milk with already dissolved yeast and start mixing on low speed and then on medium.
Slightly beat the eggs with the remaining sugar and add them to the mixing bowl.
Cut butter into cubes. Add 1-2 cubes at a time. Before adding the next ones make sure the previous butte cubes are completely dissolved.
Continue to beat until the dough become smooth and elastic. You will also notice the dough will start rising almost to the top of the hook and that’s a sign to continue on to the next step.
Place the dough in a large light oiled bowl. Olive oil is the best but cooking spray could work well too. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap.
Let the dough sit in a warm place 3 to 4 hrs until doubled in size.
Soak raisins in the hot water for around 30 minutes. Drain and dry with a paper towel. Make sure the water is not boiling as the raisins might become mushy.
Now the eggs.
Five eggs that we’ll use for decoration can be colored and hard boiled prior. But you can use raw white eggs equally well. They’ll be cooked in oven.
Once the dough is doubled in sized gently move it to the surface sprinkled with some flour.
Gently mix in the raisins.
Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and stretch each to approx 2 feet long.
Start to braid the 2 pieces forming a ring shape.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Carefully and rapidly transfer it to the parchment or silicon baking sheet.
Place 4-5 eggs between the braids. They should be equally distances between each other.
Let the bread rest for another 30-45 minutes at a room temperature. Usually somewhere close to the oven.
Brush the top with egg + 1 tsp of water mix. Bake for 30-40 minute until golden-brown and a toothpick comes out clean (toothpick test).
Carefully transfer the crown to the cooling rack, otherwise the bottom may become soggy.
Stir a level tablespoon of sugar in 3 tablespoons of hot water until sugar is completely dissolved.
Brush the Easter Bread with the mix. Immediately sprinkle over colorful sprinkles.
As an alternative use almond flakes or perl sugar for decoration.
Raisins also can be replaced with chocolate chips, but I’d rather go with the tradition 🙂