With its pretty dyed eggs tucked inside, this Italian Easter Bread is not only delicious but also makes a beautiful edible centerpiece!
Every year, my Italian-Catholic mother makes this sweet bread; the kids color the eggs and she makes the dough, twisting it into a wreath. It’s easy to make and tastes fantastic!
The eggs, of course, are more symbolic, representing re-birth. You can add as many eggs as you wish; eating them is optional.
Note: Do not cook the whole eggs in advance, as they will bake at the same time that the bread does.
My mother always adds a lots of icing on top (not featured in this photo). It’s optional but I highly recommend. Everyone—adults and children—love this bread and look forward to it every year. Make some memories!
In a large mixing bowl, blend the sugar, salt, and yeast well with 1 cup of the flour. In a saucepan, combine milk and butter, heating slowly until liquid is warm and butter is melted. Pour the milk into the dry ingredients and beat 125 strokes with a wooden spoon. Add the two eggs and ½ cup flour or enough to make a thick batter. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes. Stir in more flour, enough to make a ball of dough that draws away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn out onto a floured board and knead for about 10 minutes, working in additional flour to overcome stickiness. Place the dough into a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and put into a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, combine the fruit, nuts, and aniseed.
Punch down the dough and return it to a lightly floured board. Knead in the fruit mixture, keeping the syrupy pieces dusted with flour until they are worked into the dough. Divide the dough in half. Carefully roll each piece into a 24-inch rope–the fruit and nuts will make this slightly difficult. Loosely twist the two ropes together and form it into a ring on a greased baking sheet. Pinch the ends together well. Brush the dough with melted shortening. Open up the twist slightly to make a place for each colored egg. Carefully push the eggs down into the dough as far as possible. Cover the bread with waxed paper and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until double in bulk, about 1 hour.
Bake the bread in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a twist comes out clean. Place onto a wire rack to cool. Once the bread is cool, drizzle the icing on top between the eggs, and decorate with colored sprinkles.