Traditional Italian Easter bread is made from a soft brioche dough that is formed into a wreath with colored eggs baked right in. This slightly sweetened, citrus and vanilla breakfast bread is a beautiful centerpiece to any spring brunch. You can let it rise overnight in the refrigerator and bake it in the morning if you wish.
Mix yeast, 2 tablespoons of sugar, water, and 1 ½ cups flour until smooth.
Set aside until doubled, about 1 hour.
Cream the butter, 1 cup of sugar, and salt together in a bowl.
Stir in the lime zest, juice, and vanilla.
Add 3 of the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Add the egg white and mix well.
Stir in the yeast mixture and add the remaining flour until a smooth dough forms and pulls away from the bowl.
Knead for 5 minutes by machine or 10 minutes by hand.
Oil the dough and place it in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise about 1 hour, or until double.
Deflate the dough gently and cut into 4 pieces.
Let rest for 5 minutes.
Roll each piece into a rope about 18 inches long.
Lay 2 ropes next to each other.
Loosely braid them together, making sure you can separate the strands to put the 3 of the dyed (raw) eggs in.
Seal the ends together to make a ring.
Separate the ropes to fit the eggs into the braid.
Repeat with the other two ropes, adding the remaining dyed eggs.
Let rise until double, about 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Bake the loaves in a preheated oven for 10 minutes.
Beat the egg yolk and cream.
Remove the bread from the oven. Brush the egg yolk mixture on to the Easter Bread.
Decorate with sprinkles.
Return to the oven and continue to bake until the loaves sound hollow when tapped, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool.
Expert Tip: If you bake Italian Easter egg bread the night before serving you'll need to refrigerate it because of the eggs. It's better to shape it and let it rise in the refrigerator overnight and bake it in the morning.
Be sure to use raw eggs - they'll cook in the oven. Some people have said that the eggs were just soft boiled after baking but this has never happened to me.
Test the water anytime you use yeast - it should be right around 110F.
Make sure ALL your ingredients are at room temperature or slightly warm to the touch.
You can put this together the night before and let it rise overnight in the refrigerator.
If you do plan to let it rise in the refrigerator add about ⅛ teaspoon extra yeast.
A ¼ teaspoon of almond extract along with the vanilla is delicious -
Use organic eggs for richer color. The yolks in the eggs I used were very deep yellow so the bread has a rich look to it that I like. If your eggs have light yolks you can add a few drops of yellow food coloring to give the bread the same color.
You can make this bread into individually sized rolls with one egg in the center or each.
While the bread will freeze beautifully the eggs will not. Remove them if you plan to freeze the bread.