Italian Easter Bread (Pan di Pasqua)


  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 envelopes dry yeast
  • 4 3/4 cups bread flour, divided
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 colored eggs (at room temperature), hard-cooked or raw


  1. Heat water and vegetable oil to 120 to 130 degrees F.
  2. In large bowl of electric mixer fitted with dough hook, stir together sugar, salt, yeast and 2 cups flour. With machine running, add warm water and oil; mix well. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (about 2 cups). Use part of the remaining flour to heavily coat a bread board.
  3. Turn dough out and knead until it is smooth and satiny; work in only as much flour as necessary to handle the dough. Oil bowl lightly. Return dough to bowl; turn to coat with oil. Cover; let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  4. Turn dough out onto lightly floured board and punch down. Cut off about 1/3 of the dough; return to bowl. Cover and set aside. Divide larger piece of dough into 3 equal parts. Shape each part into a rope 18 to 20 inches long. Lift ropes onto parchment-lined baking sheet and pinch ends together; shape into loose braid, about 4 inches wide. Pinch ends together and turn under.
  5. Divide reserved dough into thirds and form a slightly shorter, tight braid. Use side of hand to press an indentation down the center of the first, larger braid. Lift second, smaller braid onto larger braid; gently press into indentation. Allow to rise for about 1 hour.
  6. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  7. Gently pull two strands of top braid open; nestle a colored egg into dough, pulling dough up around egg slightly. Repeat at even intervals with remaining eggs.
  8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until internal temperature of bread reaches 170 degrees F.
  9. Let cool on rack.

Yield: 1 loaf