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Slices of Glazed Braided Easter Bread

Braided Easter Sweet bread

My favorite Italian Easter bread is braided, glazed, and has simple flavors, perfect for brunch or with a cup of coffee. This is a gorgeous sweet dough that's easy to make and great to work with. And versatile enough to add flavorings, fillings, or top with colored eggs if you want to.

  • Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
  • Yield: 1 medium braid 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale

For the dough:

  • 1 cup (250g) whole milk, slightly warm (not hot)

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast

  • 1/4 cup (60g) water, slightly warm

  • 1/2 cup (100g) sugar

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 eggs, room temperature

  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (115g) melted butter
  • Milk to brush before baking
  • Light brown sugar to sprinkle

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Instructions

For the dough:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl (I do it by hand) put warm water.
  2. Add yeast and mix with a wooden spoon or similar. It will be lumpy and weird. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let stand 3-5 minutes until frothy.
  3. Add warm milk, sugar, and eggs. Mix a few times until eggs are combined.
  4. Add 1/3 of the flour amount and salt. Mix with the spoon. It will be lumpy and rough.
  5. With the stand mixer: attach the dough hook.
  6. At low/medium speed add the melted butter, the vanilla and almond extracts, lemon zest, and the rest of the flour (the smaller amount) 1/2 cup at a time. Stop the mixer, cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 15 minutes.
  7. By hand: Add melted butter and half of the remaining flour (the smaller amount) and mix well with a spoon. Add the rest of the flour and mix. It will be dry and lumpy.
  8. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 15 minutes. Now on to the kneading.
  9. If using the stand mixer use the dough hook at medium speed for 6 to 8 minutes, until you have a shiny, satiny but slightly sticky dough. You might use the extra flour stated above but don’t be tempted to add more unless the dough is very wet and sticky.
  10. If kneading by hand, do it on a clean surface, ideally marble counter or similar.
  11. Knead while adding the rest of the flour by tablespoons until the dough is shiny, slightly sticky but it’s easy to separate it from the counter. It takes a few minutes to start coming together. You should knead for 8-10 minutes.
  12. Put the dough in an oiled or buttered large bowl and turn it onto itself so the whole surface is greased.
  13. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free warm place until doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the temperature of the place. Alternatively, you can now refrigerate it for 8 hours. Once you're ready to shape, take it out of the fridge and wait 15 minutes or so, it depends on how warm your space is. Don't wait too much since the cold dough is much easier to shape.
  14. Have ready a buttered or parchment-lined baking sheet.
  15. When ready to braid, gently punch the dough down and turn it onto the counter or similar surface cut the dough in 3 parts and make them into ropes.
  16. Put three ends together pinching them down and braid them. Transfer the braid to the pan. cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise 30 minutes or so, until slightly puffed.
  17. Preheat the oven to 350ºF /180ºC.
  18. Brush the surface with milk and sprinkle with light brown sugar.
  19. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, until puffed, golden.
  20. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
  21. Store leftovers covered in plastic wrap at room temperature for 2-3 days and then refrigerate or freeze, well wrapped. 

For the glaze:

  1. Mix powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl until very creamy. 
  2. Drizzle over the cooled braid and top with the sliced almonds before it dries. Let dry before cutting and serving. 

Notes

Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!

Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer that is placed inside the oven (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust. 

Make sure the yeast is not expired. Old or moldy yeast is no good, similar to baking powder. If not kept in the right conditions they will not work properly. In short, your bread will not rise. All your effort will be wasted. So buy yeast according to the amount of bread you bake. Keep it in the refrigerator, well covered so it's not in contact with air.

Don't mix yeast with salt at the beginning of the recipe. They should be added separately and mixed after the yeast is working, that is, after it is mixed with some liquid and flour. They are not friends, as salt 'kills' some of the yeast power. You certainly don't want that for your bread. You want the yeast to be powerful and make it rise as much as it can.

Take the time to knead the dough properly. Kneading develops gluten and creates a 'woven fabric' that forms the structure for the bread to rise well. Too little kneading and the bread won't rise well. But don't overdo it either. Too much kneading and the structure will end up breaking and the result will also be bad.

Braiding: the traditional Italian Easter bread is made as a single braid with the ends overlapping, thus creating a round braid. You can top it with pastry cream or colored Easter eggs before baking. Or you can make the braid and leave it like that, as in the photos in this post. Alternatively, you can go the challah bread way and do a more sophisticated braiding job. There are many challah braiding tutorials on YouTube

Flavorings: you can add ground spices and citrus to the dough - cinnamon, cardamom, even saffron, other citrus zest (orange, lime, tangerine), anise seeds - or make a morning bread similar to this cinnamon sugar challah

Glazes: you can play with the glaze too, make it orange-flavored, or use liquor, or coffee. Top with colorful sprinkles instead, or in addition to, the sliced almonds. Let your imagination and palate go in any direction you want your finished bread to look.

Individual buns: alternatively you can make individual little loaves of bread, similar to the fantastic Hot Cross Buns. Or make individual braids, piece both ends together to make a circle and use different colored eggs to place in the center of each one.

Leftovers: it makes great french toast the next day (and for Easter morning of course). We also use it for the apple bread pudding if there's any left after our Easter Sunday brunch. 

  • Author: Paula Montenegro
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Rising times: 90 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: International

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/15
  • Calories: 271
  • Sugar: 14.7 g
  • Sodium: 175.3 mg
  • Fat: 8 g
  • Carbohydrates: 43.8 g
  • Protein: 5.9 g
  • Cholesterol: 41.5 mg

Keywords: easter bread