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
- Heat water and vegetable oil to 120 to 130 degrees F.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- 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.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until internal temperature of bread
reaches 170 degrees F.
- Let cool on rack.
Yield: 1 loaf