For Easter or a spring treat, this Sourdough Easter Egg Bread, also known as Pane di Pasqua (said in my mediocre Italian accent with a hand gesture) is gorgeous and delicious.
I love the unique way it is braided with the eggs and the sweet light lemon flavor is bright and perfect for spring.
This post will help you make this incredible bread with some tips, time planning, and of course the recipe.
What is Sourdough Easter Egg Bread (Pane di Pasqua)?
Pane di Pasqua means Easter bread in Italian which is where this bread originated from.
It is a sweet rich sweet brioche that is braided and has raw eggs inserted in between the plaits of the braid.
The eggs can be left natural or they can be dyed, but they must be raw.
Eggs are a symbol of new life in spring and are used in Easter traditions as a reminder of seasonal new life as well as spiritual new life.
Benefits of using sourdough in Easter egg bread
Traditional bread recipes often have unwanted ingredients or are made with conventional yeast, so they are more difficult to digest.
Aside from using whole, real food ingredients, sourdough makes this bread easier to digest because the sourdough process predigests the gluten protein so it is broken down.
Sourdough also enhances the flavor of breads so it requires less sugar and flavorings and retains more softness than breads made with conventional yeast.
This bread is a welcome treat for everyone. The only downside of making this with sourdough is that you will need to account for the timing for your planning.
How do you plan your bake?
Sourdough bread making, especially recipes like these requires special planning.
For your planning:
- 10-14 hours for starter preparation
- 8-10 hours bulk fermentation
- 4-6 hours proofing
If you need help picturing that planning for a real life holiday timeline:
- Saturday morning before Easter: prepare the starter and leave at room temp
- Saturday night before Easter: prepare the dough, cover, and leave at room temp overnight (make sure your uncooked eggs are colored so that’s one less step tomorrow)
- Easter morning: Divide and shape the dough, cover, and leave at room temp to proof
- Easter midday: Preheat oven, egg wash, and bake the bread for an afternoon luncheon or evening treat
Since this bread is enriched with lots of butter, eggs, and milk, the fermentation will take longer than lean sourdough recipes you may have used before.
What eggs to use in the braid? Are raw eggs safe?
It is important to use uncooked eggs for your shaped wreath. The baking process cooks them so they are safe to eat.
These are chicken eggs from my parent’s chickens. Any eggs used should be fully cleaned and dry.
I love the natural colors in these eggs, but dyed eggs can be really fun and festive too! In the recipe notes there are directions for how to use food items commonly found in the kitchen to naturally dye eggs. Or see the Shop this Post section to purchase some natural food coloring.
A note of caution: eggs that are cooked or become too warm can crack or burst during baking.
But if you have an egg that cracks or bursts, don’t panic! See the tips for two possible fixes.
6 important things to know when making this Sourdough Easter Egg Bread
- This recipe uses a 100% hydration starter. This style of starter is familiar to most sourdough bakers making it easier to attempt this recipe.
- This bread includes lemon zest for its bright, sweet spring flavor. But if you aren’t a lemon fan or just want to mix it up, this bread would be delicious with orange zest.
- The texture of the bread is so smooth and fluffy! And the thorough kneading and fermentation makes the dough so easy to work with and shape.
- Don’t rush the timeline. Plan your time well and make sure it is fully fermented before shaping and that you wait until it is proofed before baking. The butter in the dough slows the fermentation down considerably. See these articles on bulk fermentation and proofing for helpful tips and indications of readiness.
- The glaze is optional but adds beauty and sweetness to the bread. If you want to add sprinkles on top of the glaze, feel free! And if left unglazed, it is still stunning.
- If you’d prefer a recipe that uses a stiff levain starter and results in an even puffier, softer final result, you’ll want to try the version in my book, Celebrate with Bread Baking.
Making Easter memorable for your family
For my family, Easter is a really big deal and we love using eggs in decorating, in our traditions, and as a symbolic reminder of the new life we have because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Our kids absolutely love this bread and it makes them feel so special on Easter week.
Food has a way of marking seasons and holidays. And when we make special food traditions, something we make every year, it makes an indelible impression on our memories.
This is certainly a memorable bread, whether your Easter is full of spiritual meaning or not.
Share your bake with me
If you’re getting ready for Easter and want to bake alongside your sourdough besties, use the share button to make sure they have this recipe.
I love how each baker can add their own style by using natural eggs, pastel dyed eggs, rainbow eggs, glazed, unglazed.
And I especially enjoy seeing how you share this bread for the holiday with your family and friends.
Leave a comment or tag me on facebook or instagram @livingbreadbaker
Need more help?
I’d love to support you with my books or online courses.
Along with my Once-a-Week No Knead Sourdough online course, I also have a Intro. To Sourdough online course if you are ready to gain a solid foundation for sourdough, the traditional way, to learn all the basics, language, techniques, and the process from start to finish to make sourdough bread.
The foundations of Intro. to Sourdough will help you to branch out to special occasion recipes like this one because you become familiar with sourdough starter care, sourdough timelines, and the general process and steps.
As I mentioned earlier, I have a slightly different version of this recipe in my book, Celebrate with Bread Baking.
Living Bread Baker posts mentioned
Shop this post
Sourdough Easter Egg Bread (Pane di Pasqua)
- Food Scale
- Mixing Bowl
- Parchment Paper
- Flat Baking Sheet
- Pastry brush
- 20 g sourdough starter
- 100 g water
- 100 g all-purpose flour
- 115 g whole milk, warmed
- 80 g white sugar
- 200 g prepared starter
- 500 g bread flour
- 100 g semolina flour bread flour may be substituted
- 2 eggs
- 5 g salt
- 30 g water
- Zest of one lemon
- 115 g unsalted butter softened
- 4-5 colored or dyed eggs, UNCOOKED added during the shaping step
- 55 g sifted powdered sugar
- Pinch of lemon zest
- 10 g lemon juice
- Make the starter: 10-14 hours before mixing your dough, combine ingredients for the starter in a clean container. Cover and let activate. It will double in volume and become very bubbly.
- Warm milk: Measure out at least 130 grams of milk into a saucepan (some will evaporate while it is heated). Heat milk over medium heat until you begin to see steam rising off it or reaches a temperature of 80 – 100º F.
- Scale: Add 115 grams of the warm milk to the mixing bowl, sugar, 200g starter, semolina flour, and bread flour. (Remember to use the scale’s tare function to remove the weight of the bowl and previous ingredients to only weigh the current item added)
- Mix: Mix ingredients until a shaggy dough is formed, then add 2 eggs, salt, 30g water, and lemon zest. Continue mixing the dough until there is no dry flour left and the dough is beginning to have a smoother appearance. This will take some kneading since its a stiff dough. (Mixing and kneading steps can be done in a stand mixer with a dough hook if available.)
- Butter add: Cut the 115g unsalted butter into 8 thin slices. Add one slice of butter at a time to the dough. Fold in and knead until the butter is incorporated and you no longer see obvious streaks of butter in the dough. Repeat until all the butter is incorporated.
- Knead: Knead dough 7-15 additional minutes or until dough is smooth, no longer sticky, and releases easily from the bowl or work surface. This thorough kneading will create a strong dough with a beautiful texture in the bread.
- Bulk fermentation: Cover the dough and allow to ferment until doubled in volume, about 8-10 hours.
- Dye eggs: While dough is fermenting, dye eggs if desired. You may use a box kit from the store and follow the directions on the box. Or for naturally dyed eggs, bring 1 quart (946 mL) water to a boil then add salt, vinegar, and fruit, vegetable, or spice*. Reduce heat to simmer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, strain mixture and place in a bowl to cool. Repeat to create additional colors. Once dyed water is no longer hot, add 4 to 5 uncooked eggs to soak in color(s) until they are dyed the desired hue. Wipe clean and set aside.
- Prepare baking sheet: Cut a large piece of parchment. Place parchment on a flat baking sheet.
- Divide dough: Place dough on a lightly floured work surface. Divide dough into 3 pieces.
- Shaping: Roll each piece of dough until it is a rope about 30 inches long and equally thick along the entire length. Gather the ends together then braid by crossing two ropes then put the third rope in between the previously crossed ropes, then pick up the rope that is more spaced from the others and braid between the two more tightly crossed ropes. Continue this pattern of braiding until the whole lengths are braided. Bring the ends together and connect the end pieces to form a braided wreath. Take the uncooked decorating eggs and tuck tightly into the strands of the bread, evenly spaced around the wreath. Tuck them in deeply so that the dough doesn’t push them out during proofing or baking. Place a cup in the center of the wreath to prevent dough from expanding and closing off the wreath center. (This cup is removed before baking)
- Proof: Cover and proof 4 to 6 hours, until bread is about 1.5 to 2 times larger in volume. Dough should leave an indentation when tested with a fingertip. If eggs have been pressed out by the rising dough, gently tuck back into the wreath.
- Preheat: Preheat oven to 375º F.
- Egg wash: Prepare egg wash and brush all over bread and in crevices, avoid getting egg wash on eggs.
- Bake: Place bread into oven and bake 25 – 30 minutes. The outside should be golden brown and inside the ring should be baked.
- Cool: Allow bread to cool at least 10-20 minutes.
- Prepare glaze: Whisk together the glaze ingredients. Drizzle over your warm wreath so that the drips fall down the sides of the bread.
- Serving: Cut the bread into slices and serve.
- There are 7 to 8 eggs total needed for this recipe. Be sure to use uncooked eggs for decorating, hard boiled eggs will explode in the oven.
- The eggs do pose a risk of bursting in the oven if cooked for too long or if they were too warm before baking. To avoid this, don't use a proofing box which will warm up the eggs and make sure the eggs are well tucked into the wreath so they don't bake faster than the bread. Other things you can do if you are concerned: you can chill the shaped dough for 30 minutes before baking or swap the eggs for chilled eggs. If an egg cracks or bursts during baking, you can either rotate the egg to the uncracked side and wipe it clean of dough sticking to it or swap in a different hard-boiled egg.
- Instead of dying eggs, you can use uncolored as well. If you know someone who has chickens who lay green or olive colored eggs, a combination of natural colors will create a beautiful bread.
- *For naturally colored eggs, a few effective vegetables and spices are beets, turmeric, red cabbage, and yellow onion skins.