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Italian Easter Sweet Bread

Easter Sweet Bread is a loaf of soft bread studded with raisins and brushed with sugar glaze before serving. This type of yeast bread is a traditional bread recipe enjoyed by Italians during the Easter holiday. 

Sweet bread on a white napkin.


 

If it’s Easter, it’s time to bake, and, of course, we start with Easter Sweet Bread – a wonderfully soft, golden bread with raisins and a light sugar glaze. This bread is originally from the Northern part of Italy, the Emilia Romagna region.

This type of yeasted bread is made in many Italian homes for the Easter holiday – including ours! There are many variations, of course, and I’ve made several over the years. Another favorite Easter bread recipe is braided brioche bread with colored eggs.

This Italian Easter bread I’m sharing today does not have as much butter as the braided one but is enriched with eggs for a soft, delicious loaf. Most of the sweetness is from the light glaze brushed on while the loaf is warm. The bread has the flavor of lemon with the addition of lemon zest, but you could use orange zest, too.

You can shape this loaf however you like – I like a tall round loaf that looks like a dome. I bake it in a high cake pan to get this shape. You can also bake it in a loaf pan. On top, you score a cross, so the loaf breaks open as it bakes. 

This golden-brown loaf of bread is a beautiful addition to an Easter dinner – who can resist homemade bread? I know I can’t, and it wouldn’t be Easter without a loaf of this delicious Easter sweet bread.

Ingredients

  • Lukewarm water
  • Honey
  • Active dry yeast
  • Bread flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Cream
  • Room temperature large eggs
  • Lemon zest
  • Salt
  • Butter
  • Raisins
Easter sweet bread and 2 slices on a white napkin.

How to Make Easter Bread

For this bread recipe, a stand mixer with a dough attachment is the easiest way to mix and knead the dough. You can mix the dough in a large bowl and then knead it by hand, but it will take longer.

Place the yeast in the mixing bowl and pour lukewarm water over the top. Let it sit for 10 minutes and then add the flour, sugar, and cream to the yeast mixture. Mix and knead the mixture with the dough hook and then add the eggs one at at time, mixing well between each addition.

Mixing the dough and adding the eggs.

Add the zest, salt, and mix well. Add the butter a little bit at a time and continue to knead the bread for five to six minutes. When you have a soft dough that is smooth and elastic, it’s ready for the next step. If your dough is sticky, keep kneading and if needed add a bit more flour.

Adding the butter to the dough and kneading until smooth.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and shape it into a ball. Place it in a greased bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for one to two hours or until it’s doubled in size.

the dough in a glass bowl before and after rising.

When it’s ready, transfer the dough to a flat surface and knead in the raisins.

The dough on a board with raisins on top.

Place the dough back in the bowl, cover it, and let it rise for an hour.

The dough before and after the 2nd rise.

Line the baking pan with parchment paper and shape the dough to fit into the pan. Cover the dough with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let it rise for one to two hours.

The dough in the pan before and after the 3rd rise.

Brush the top of the loaf with milk and then cut a cross on top. Bake the bread for 60 to 70 minutes at 350°F. When the bread is done baking, the internal temperature should be 190°F.

The sweet bread after it is baked in the pan.

Remove the bread from the pan and let it cool on a wire rack. While it’s warm, brush it with the sugar glaze.

Recipe Tips

I like to soak the raisins in boiling water before adding them to the dough. This rehydrates them, so they are plump when you add them to the dough. Interesting to know the traditional way is to soak the raisins in a couple of tablespoons of Anicette for an hour before kneading into the dough.

As with all bread recipes, the time it takes to knead and let the dough rise can vary. If you are kneading by hand, it will take much longer. If your kitchen is cooler, the dough may take longer to rise.

The best way to know when bread is done baking is to use a thermometer to measure the temperature. This takes away any guessing.

How to store it

The baked bread should be stored in an airtight bread at room temperature. It will last 2-3 days. It can also be frozen in a freezer safe bag for up to 3-4 months.

Where ever you live, you can have a taste of Italy during the Easter season with this homemade sweet bread. It’s worth the time it takes to make and I know it will be a memorable part of your holiday meal. I hope you give it a try this year – Enjoy!

2 slices of easter bread on a black plate with a spoon of jam.

More Easter Recipes

2 slices of easter bread on a black plate with a spoon of jam.

Italian Easter Sweet Bread

Rosemary Molloy
Easter Sweet Bread is a loaf of soft bread studded with raisins and brushed with sugar glaze before serving. This type of yeast bread is a traditional bread recipe enjoyed by Italians during the Easter holiday. 
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Resting/Rising Time 4 hours
Total Time 5 hours 5 minutes
Course Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine Italian
Servings 1 loaf
Calories 2897 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • tablespoons water (lukewarm) (100 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon honey (or granulated sugar)
  • teaspoon active dry yeast
  • cups bread flour (424 grams)
  • tablespoons granulated sugar (60 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon cream
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature)
  • zest 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • cup butter (soft) (75 grams)
  • ¾ cup raisins* (100 grams)

*Place the raisins in a small bowl and cover with boiling water, let sit 15-20 minutes then drain well.

    SUGAR SYRUP

    • 3 tablespoons water 40g
    • tablespoons granulated sugar 20g

    Instructions
     

    • In the mixing bowl mix the water and honey then sprinkle the yeast on top, let sit 10 minutes then stir to combine.
    • With the dough hook attachment start to knead, add the flour, sugar and cream, continue to knead, then add the eggs one at a time, be sure to combine well before adding the 2nd egg, add the zest and salt knead to combine, add the butter a little at a time, continue to knead for 5-6 minutes. The dough should be smooth, elastic and not sticky. (If after 7-8 minutes it is still sticky then add a little more flour, a tablespoon at a time).
    • Move the dough to a lightly floured flat surface and form into a ball, place it in a lightly greased bowl turning to cover lightly with oil, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm draft free area for 1-2 hours or until doubled in bulk.
    • Move the dough to a flat surface and knead in the drained raisins. Place again in the greased bowl cover and let rise for an hour.
    • Form the dough into desired shape, place in a parchment paper lined pan (high cake or loaf pan), cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled approximately 1-2 hours.
    • Pre-heat the oven to 350F (180C).
    • Brush the top of the loaf with milk, make a cross on top and bake for approximately 55-70 minutes (bread is done when the internal temperature is 190F/88C). Immediately remove from the pan and let cool on a wire rack. While still warm brush with the sugar syrup. Let cool completely and serve. Enjoy!

    SUGAR SYRUP

    • In a small pot add the water and sugar and heat on medium/low for approximately 2-3 minutes.

    Notes

    The pan I used was a 7 inch round.
    The baked bread should be stored in an airtight bread at room temperature. It will last 2-3 days. It can also be frozen in a freezer safe bag for up to 3-4 months.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 2897kcal | Carbohydrates: 471g | Protein: 71g | Fat: 85g | Saturated Fat: 21g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 21g | Monounsaturated Fat: 36g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 389mg | Sodium: 3235mg | Potassium: 1636mg | Fiber: 21g | Sugar: 86g | Vitamin A: 3475IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 188mg | Iron: 9mg
    Did You Make This Recipe?Please leave a comment below or pin it to your Pinterest account!

    Today is Taste Creations Week! Please check out these other delicious Easter Breakfast Recipes from my Food Blogger Friends.

    11 Comments

      1. 5 stars
        Hi Ralph,
        I made the dough in the bread maker. I cooked it in a tin because I don’t like the hole the breadmaker leaves in. And it looks nicer😊

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