Italian Easter Bread

This recipe makes one large Easter Bread or two medium size breads.  I usually triple this recipe and make six Easter Breads. It’s a better size for baking and for giving away. I use organic ingredients as much as possible.


2¾ to 3¼ cups organic white unbleached flourEaster bread
¼ cup organic sugar
1 tsp salt
1 pkg yeast
2/3 cup organic milk
2 tbsps organic butter
2 fresh local organic eggs
3 tsp pure anise (or you can use anisette)


In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt and undissolved yeast.

Heat milk and butter over in a saucepan over low heat until liquid is warm (must not be hot or it will kill the yeast). Add to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally.

Add eggs and ½ cup flour. Beat at high speed 2 minutes. Stir in enough additional four to make a soft dough.

Turn onto floured board; knead about 8 to 10 minutes. Place in greased bowl; turn to grease top. Cover with towel, let rise until doubled – about 1 hour.

Punch dough down, turn onto floured board and knead. Separate into two pieces. Put one piece back in the bowl and slightly knead the other piece. Separate into three pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a rope. Twist ropes together loosely.

Form into a ring on a greased baking sheet (I suggest using aluminum foil with the shiny side DOWN. This mitigates the heat hitting the bottom of the bread – for some reason, the bottom can burn quickly). Place a small glass in center to keep hole from closing up.

Then do the same with the other piece.

Let rise until doubled – about one hour.  REMOVE THE GLASS THAT WAS HOLDING THE CENTER OPEN.

Bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes. All ovens are different, so be careful the bottom doesn’t burn, but be sure that bread is baked properly. You can tell by tapping it – if it sounds hollow, it’s baked – and by how high it is.

Remove from baking sheet and cool on racks (bottom needs to dry out).

Frost with Portsmouth frosting (below). Decorate with colored sprinkles. Place a dyed hardboiled egg in center.  The Portsmouth frosting makes the Easter bread a merging of my Italian heritage through my father and my English heritage through my mother.  Plus its buttery goodness is divine.

From The Fannie Farmer Cookbook – slightly modified

3 cups confectioner’s sugar
¼ cup whole organic milk or 2% organic milk – I prefer the 2%
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

Melt the butter on low heat in a medium-size sauce pan until totally melted.

Turn off heat.

Stir in the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla, stirring until smooth and adding more sugar as needed (or milk if it gets too thick).

After tasting it, I sometimes add more vanilla – as I like a strong vanilla taste.

Let it cool. It should be thick enough to spread on the top of the bread and run down the sides slightly.

Dear Baker,

006I am so happy to share this recipe with you, and I hope you find it deliciously rewarding. The braiding symbolizes the interconnectedness of life, the circle is the circle of life, the yeast represents new growth, and the eggs represents fertility and spring.  Sharing the bread with family and friends is important. Think about this as you make the bread.

My Italian grandmother made small Easter breads every year as long as she could, and gave them to her children when they were young, and then her grandchildren in lieu of Easter baskets or chocolate rabbits.  This family tradition continues through our family.

Happy Easter! Happy Spring!

JoAnne Ruscio

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