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Easter Egg Bread

(Makes 2 loaves)

Throughout Italy, Easter bread making is a tradition.  Egg-decorated breads vary from region to
region and go by many different dialect names.  But the concept of baking whole eggs twisted or
braided into bread dough is part of the theme of Easter; eggs being the symbol of fertility and
new beginnings. This recipe is from Sicily and it was originally made with lard.  The recipe has
been updated, substituting butter for the lard.

1 envelope (2-1/2 teaspoons) dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115  degrees F.)
3 eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup warm milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
5 to 5-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt

6 whole uncooked eggs, colored if desired
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Colored sprinkles


To make the dough:
In a small cup, combine the yeast with the warm water.  Let stand until
creamy, about 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Beat in the sugar. Stir in the butter, milk, vanilla,
and orange zest. Stir in the yeast mixture. Add 5 cups of the flour and the salt. 
Stir until a soft dough forms. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a
smooth dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for a
minute or two until very smooth. Shape the dough into a ball.  Place in a
buttered bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in volume, about
1-1/2 hours.

Butter 2 baking sheets. Punch down the dough and cut into 4 pieces. 
With your hands, roll one piece into a rope about 20 inches long. Repeat with
another piece of dough. Lay the ropes side by side and loosely twist them
together. Place the ropes onto the prepared baking sheet. Bring the ends
together to form a ring. Pinch the ends to seal. Place 3 eggs at intervals
around the wreath, tucking them in between the ropes of the dough. Repeat
with the remaining dough and eggs. Cover and let rise about 1 hour or until
doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Brush the egg wash over the dough.  Scatter the colored sprinkles on top.
Bake the loaves for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the bread to wire
racks to cool completely.

NOTE: The dye on the eggs may bleed a little onto your bread.  Also note that
this recipes calls for uncooked eggs to be placed into the dough.  I have used
both hard-boiled and uncooked eggs and find that they both work fine. The
hard-boiled eggs may get a little more cooked than usual but they are still
Easter Egg Bread
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