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I made a version of this beautiful braided Easter egg bread for my book Celebrate with Bread Baking. However, I love this version that uses a 100% hydration starter. 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.
The glaze is also an addition that was not in my original recipe but adds beauty and sweetness to the bread. If you want to add sprinkles on top of the glaze, feel free!
Or if glaze is not your style, this bread is so beautiful even without it.
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! We can barely hold them back from eating it all!
And since traditional bread recipes often have unwanted ingredients or are made with conventional yeast, they are more difficult to digest. So 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.
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.
Giving it ample time to ferment and proof will yield great results. Here is a side by side of unproofed vs. proofed:
An important note for this recipe is to use uncooked eggs for your shaped wreath. The baking process cooks them so they are safe to eat. If you use hardboiled eggs, if your eggs get too warm before baking, or you don’t take note of the recipe tips, the eggs will 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.
I hope you enjoy this recipe! Let me know in the comments or tag me in your recipe on instagram @livingbreadbaker
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.