Italian Easter Bread
This traditional Italian Easter Bread is an old family recipe; it’s flavored with orange and anise, brushed with icing and decorated with sprinkles.
I like to think that I am usually pretty “with it” when it comes to Italian food traditions, having come from an Italian family with a grandma who lived to cook and bake. She had so many holiday traditions, but years ago when my father-in-law started talking about his Nana’s Easter bread, with orange and anise, I was befuddled. This traditional Italian bread and I had never crossed paths. It seemed inconceivable that my grandma hadn’t ever made it, but I definitely had never eaten it.
About five years ago was the first time I experienced my father-in-law recreation of his Nana’s Easter bread recipe. I was excited to finally try some of this bread, and learn more about the recipe. It’s a fabulous bread – rich and slightly sweet, but light and fluffy, and is flavored with orange and anise. He was generous enough to share his family’s recipe with me so that I could make it on my own and share it with all of you.
I did some reading up on Italian Easter Bread recipes before tackling this one for the first time, and from what I can tell, most all are flavored in some way with citrus (orange or lemon) and anise oil and/or anise seeds. Usually the loaves are braided and have colored Easter eggs nestled into the braids in various spots. I am not big into coloring Easter eggs, so I skipped that part, but went the traditional route with braided loaves, sweet glaze, and sprinkles (because, of course).
This is a traditional two-rise bread recipe. First the dough is mixed together, and left to rise until doubled…
Then it is braided, shaped, and left to rise again before it is baked…
After hearing about the Italian Easter Bread for the first time, I asked my mom if, in fact, my grandma had ever made anything like it, and she said she couldn’t remember her making something like that during Easter. Fast forward to my mom seeing and tasting the finished bread that I made.
Aha! A light bulb! She said that my grandma did, indeed, make this exact bread, and even remembered that she would set eggs in the dough. However, my grandfather was the only one in the family that really enjoyed the bread, so when he passed away, my grandma stopped making it. I was only 5 years old at the time, so even if I had tried it at some point before then, I likely wouldn’t have remembered. I was bummed that I had never been introduced to it, but thrilled to know that it had been a part of my family’s tradition at some point, and that it was something my grandpap loved.
Below is a snapshot of the original handwritten recipe (half in English, half in Italian, as far as I can tell) from my husband’s great-grandmother. I just love seeing things like that!
Whether or not you’re Italian, if you love Easter traditions (or just really good, festive bread!), add this one to your baking list for next week.
If you want some other options, you could always try Paska (Polish Easter bread), my grandma’s bacon and cheese Easter bread, or Greek Easter bread (Tsoureki).
Happy holiday baking!
One year ago: Baking Basics: 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Preparing a Recipe
Five years ago: Strawberries and Cream Angel Food Cake Roll
Seven years ago: Italian Chicken Salad Sandwich
Nana Latona's Italian Easter Bread Recipe
For the Dough
- 8 cups (1 kg) all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups (366 ml) whole milk
- ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- 2 oranges, zested & juiced
- 4½ teaspoons (4.5 teaspoons) (2 envelopes) active dry yeast
- 1 cup (227 g) margarine, melted
- 8 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) anise oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (for brushing)
For the Glaze
- 2 cups (240 g) powdered sugar
- ¼ cup (61 ml) whole milk
- Sprinkles, if desired
- Make the Dough: Place the flour in a large mixing bowl; set aside.
- Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it is warm to the touch, but not hot. If you have an instant-read thermometer, the temperature of the milk should be between 110 and 115 degrees F.
- While the milk is warming, place the sugar in a small bowl and add the orange zest. With your fingertips, rub the zest into the sugar until it is completely incorporated and the sugar is moistened.
- Once the milk reaches the correct temperature, stir in the sugar and zest mixture, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the yeast, stir, and let sit for 10 minutes.
- Add the milk and yeast mixture to the flour and begin to mix it into a dough (it will be shaggy at this point).
- Next, add the melted margarine and continue to mix. Then, add the orange juice to the dough and mix to combine.
- In a small bowl, use a fork to lightly beat together the eggs, salt, and anise oil. Add to the dough and continue mixing.
- At this point, you may need to add more flour to the dough, depending on how much juice you get out of your oranges. (I added quite a bit more to get the dough to come together.) Once you have a sticky ball of dough formed, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, adding a small amount of flour at a time as needed, or until the dough is soft and elastic. It will remain slightly tacky.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turning to coat, and cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Place in a draft-free area and allow to rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Shape the Bread: Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and divide in two. Divide each half into two (you will have four pieces of dough). We will work with one pair, and then the other. Roll two pieces of dough into 24-inch long ropes. Loosely twist the ropes together. Transfer the braided rope to one of the prepared baking sheets and bring the ends together to form a ring, twisting and pinching the ends together to seal. Repeat with the remaining two pieces of dough so that you have two circular, braided loaves. Brush the tops of each with the melted butter, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until nearly doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake one at a time (unless you have the oven capacity to correctly bake both at the same time) until golden brown on top, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Glaze the Bread: Once the breads are cooled to room temperature, you can glaze them (if you desire). In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and the milk until smooth. Use a pastry brush to brush the glaze onto the top and sides of the bread, and decorate with sprinkles. The bread is best served at room temperature. If you have leftovers, wrap well in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.
- While I mix this by hand, you could certainly use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook instead.
- This recipe can easily be scaled up or down as needed.
- If you can only find anise extract, substitute 2 teaspoons, as it is not as strong as anise oil.
Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!
This recipe was originally published on April 4, 2012.
We’ll I’ve made this before and it was fantastic! I tried making it yesterday and the dough did not rise- so disappointed because we were looking forward to it! I will try again. I’m not sure what happened. Followed directions to a T. I’m wondering if the milk was not warm enough? Maybe I added too much additional flour during the kneading process… I’m just not sure.
This will be my third Easter making this Easter bread recipe. This is as close to my Nonna’s that I could find. It is wonderful! Her recipe looked similar to yours, half English, half Italian. Her cup of flour was a teacup. No standard measuring spoons or cups, just a pinch here or there. She even used a shot glass to keep the whole in the middle from closing. This recipe brings back many memories. I love it!
Can I use butter instead of margarine?
Love the story of the Easter bread and how you find your grandfather’s recipe that is so special.
This is a fantastic recipe! Made 2 huge rings- half of which are now in my freezer to be thawed as a special treat or made into French toast or bread pudding. Taste and texture were wonderful! Didn’t ice it, but served with honey butter instead, which gave the perfect sweetness level for us. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe!!
I’d like to make just 1 loaf, do I just half all the ingredients?
Can you freeze this bread after you ice it?
Yes, though the icing may be a bit watery when it thaws.
What if you dont have any anise of any kind!🙄
You can. make it without, the flavor will just be different!
Omg! The flavour And texture is so beautiful! Thank you for posting this recipe ! Buona Pasqua!!
Hi! I cannot find oranges in any grocery store. I saw a recipe online that uses lemon. Do you think that would work ok?
This is a beautiful dough to work with. I made 4 small braided loaves. I also used butter instead of the margarine and anise liquor instead of the oil, so the flavour might be milder. Thanks for sharing the recipe!
How long did the mini loaves take to bake
A couple of questions: I am attempting both Easter Bread and Craquelin Brioche this weekend. As I read through this recipe, Its someone what similar to the craquelin….
I like the idea of Anise in the bread as we are Italian and I always have oil on hand so I am excited to try your recipe.
1.) can I split the flour with Bread and all purpose?
2.) could I put sugar pearls in the loaf? or use them with the sugar and the zest as a combination?
Just like my Nona’s! My family loved it!
This bread is wonderful and easy to make. I made it two days in a row and made 8 loves instead of 4 rings. it is delicious. Thank you!!
This look very yummy. I can only find Anise seed. Would it taste the same or seedy. Measurements have aid about 2 Tbsp of seed to replace, what do you think?
Can I use butter instead of the margarine in this recipe?
Hi Kate, I have never done that substitution, but I think it should work okay.
Just browsing Easter breads and this one jumped right at me. Read the recipe and I could smell & taste my mom’s ‘Paloma di Pasqua.’ I have only one regret, I never asked her for the recipe . She passed last May & I can’t wait to try your recipe to bring back her ‘anice’ aroma.
Absolutely delicious! Just like my Aunt Gilda’s! Thank you 😊
I made this recipe last year, the last one with my dad. I’m not the greatest baker… made apple streudel one year that no knife could penetrate. However this bread turned out beautifully and I remember that my dad was really impressed. I didn’t save the recipe and went searching online and found it almost immediately and knew right away this was the one. The orange and anise and the little bit of sweetness from the glaze plus the whimsical sprinkles – all perfect. Missing my dad so much right now and baking this recipe again will give me a bit of comfort and strength to get thru this Easter without him. Thank you.
Can I divide the recipe in half? Instead of the original recipe, can I do 4 eggs, 2 cups of flour and so on.
Hi, is Anise extract the same as Anise oil?
I ordered the anise oil online. In your video it looks like you’re only making one loaf but your instructions say we are making 2 loaves? Used quite a bit more flour once I got to the first roll and knead stage…first resting stage now.
That hand written note from your husbands great-grandmother looks exactly like my mom’s had written recipes. – except my mom’s were all in Italian. Brings back wonderful memories! Thanks for sharing…
Hi….Just wondering if the anise can be left out or can something else be substituted.
Just like my Nona used to bake!
Easy and delicious, the Anise oil is the best
Do you use an essential oil for the anise oil? Thats that only type i can find
Hi Sarah, I use this anise oil: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/anise-flavor-1-oz
Hi Michelle, your Easter Bread looks amazing and I am going to definitely make it for Easter. Just a question about the yeast; are you recommending traditional active dry yeast or if I were to use Instant dry yeast, would that be a problem with the rise of the dough? By the way I love your recipes and coming from an Italian family also, I want to carry on our Italian culture . My Nonna who has since passed many years ago never left me any written recipes and I only remember bits and pieces of her recipes.
Thanks so much and Buona Pasqua! 🐇🐑🐣
Hi Anna, Yes this recipe uses traditional active dry yeast. I don’t think there would be an issue using instant yeast. I hope you enjoy the Easter bread! Buona Pasqua!
Can you use butter instead of margarine
Hi Marlene, I have not tried, so I can’t comment on how it might affect the final product.
Hi, my Grandma used to make this every year for Easter. This was the ONLY time I ever saw her use margarine instead of butter. When I watched her make it to write all the ingredients down, she stressed to me not to use butter, only margarine, but I don’t know why.
Can I make it with something else besides anise? Would appreciate a reply. Looks delicious. Thank you .
Yes, whatever flavor you’d like!
How long will this keep frozen or refrigerated, once baked? Also, if frozen, can I glaze before or should I wait until afterwards? Have you substituted vanilla for the anise? If so, how much vanilla? Thank you for sharing this fantastic recipe!!
Hi Bobbi, I would not refrigerate, as it will dry the bread out, store at room temperature. If you freeze, ideally you would glaze after thawing. I’ve never substituted for the anise, but you totally could!
Is there anything better than these old Italian traditions? I grew up in Pittsburgh too, and have been making Easter Bread for years. Your recipe is one that I am certainly going to try as mine doesn’t use oranges- it uses lemon. My Nonna used to make the braids with the colored eggs and sprinkles and what a treat for her 11 children and 15 grandchildren!
I usually toast mine for breakfast so I have to leave the sprinkles and glaze off for obvious reasons. I am trying this recipe today and am so thankful that our Nonnas left us with so many wonderful recipies and traditions to pass on. Your bread looks amazing and I’m happy you shared it with us.
Although I could not find the Anise oil which was called for in the recepie, I used Anise seeds instead….the end result was met with absolutely glowing reviews from all members of my family and friends!
This recipe caught my eye, and being Italian, and I had to try it!! I grew up in an Italian household with the aroma of anise in the kitchen during the holidays! I never got my hands on my mother’s or grandmother’s recipies for Easter bread, but yours came the closest ever!! … and I have tried many!! I used butter in place of margarine and it came out a beautiful yellow color inside and golden on the outside. And of course the taste is out of this world! Thank you so much for bringing such great memories into my home with this recipe!
Can you half this recipe?
I did make it last year and it was great! I added orange extract to the icing also for extra orange flavor!
Hi Eric, Yes, you can definitely halve it. So glad you enjoyed it last year!
Sorry Michelle, but I have another question. Can I make 4 smaller breads instead of 2 larger ones. I’d like to give them as gifts, these bread are so special and delicious Thank you.
Happy Easter to you and your family
Hi Dolly, Yes you could definitely make four smaller breads, so nice of you! Happy Easter to you as well!
Can butter take the place of margarine in this recipe?
Hi Pam, I always make it with margarine, but others have used butter and said it turned out fine.
hi i make the recipe its was great and so amazing and so tasty
but i have A question , can i add more sugar in this recipe ?
Hi Fatema, Yes you can increase the sugar if you’d like.
I have used your recipe for the past ?? 3 or 4 years and it’s always delicious. Whether I cut it in half or do the whole batch. Thank you!
You’re welcome, April! So glad you’ve enjoyed it!
My mother made an Italian Easter bread. That is don’t have he recipe for. I know it takes a lot of eggs but I thought she used lemon and lemon juice. I do remember something about anise. My question Is the bread really dry. Hers was but it was great to dunk in coffe on Easter morning
Hi Rosemary, This bread is not very dry; it’s more on the light and moist side.
I love your Italian Easter Bread! It has become a tradition for my family. However, this year I have a time crunch.
I was wondering if I could make the dough, let it rise and then refrigerate it to complete the next day?
Also making your Peanut Butter Eggs today. I love your blog and recipes.
Hi Dolly, I think that would work just fine. Enjoy the peanut butter eggs, too! :)
This recipe is the closest to my grandmother’s and mother’s recipe. Beautiful cakey consistency with a hint of orange flavor. I substituted 1.5 tsp of anise extract because I didn’t have the oil and it came out beautifully. I used the 2 T anise seed in another batch and that was just like Mommy Cuzuppa.
Hi Monica, Thank you so much for coming back to leave a review and share your modifications, it is much appreciated. I’m so glad you enjoyed the bread!
I made your wonderful recipe thank you so much for sharing I come from a huge Italian background my mom used to make Easter bread unfortunately never really wrote down the recipe and now she’s dealing with Dementia I would like to continue the tradition and with this recipe I think I’m trying to achieve that. My question is when the bread finished it looks beautiful after cutting into it it seems to be doughy on the inside. Do you have any suggestions I would like to attempt this again before Easter in couple of weeks.
Hi Mary, I’m so sorry to hear of your mom’s health problems. How wonderful for you to want to follow her traditions! As for the bread being doughy inside; I would try baking it a little longer. If you didn’t make any adjustments to the ingredients or technique, I think that’s all it should be. I hope you are able to enjoy the bread for Easter!
HI , YESTERDAY I MAKE THIS RECIPE AND I REPLACE MARGARINE TO MELTED BUTTER AND ITS BE COME AMAZING BREAD
Can I use butter instead of margarine?
Hi Raquel, I have never made that substitution, but others have without much issue!
Is there any problem with substituting butter fir the margarine?
Hi Donna, I’ve never done so, as I don’t like to mess with old recipes, but I think it should be okay.
Hi there, this looks amazing. I can’t wait to make it (but for Christmas). I just wondered if there is any reason why you use all purpose flour instead of strong bread flour and whether the latter would be a good option for this recipe?
Thanks very much!
Hi Fiona, The all-purpose keeps the bread nice and light; bread flour will create a denser final product.
Wud like to try this. Am impressed with the recipe.
We made this bread on Easter Sunday morning and had it for breakfast on Monday. It was fantastic! My husband, who is a bit picky about his breads, said that this recipe is “a keeper”. Thank you for sharing.
The crumb is nice and light, but not crumbly at all, and was reminiscent of a panettone. We didn’t have anis oil, so we tried to make our own (infused some oil with anis seeds); the anis flavour was not really present, though. The orange flavour was just there, so I think next time I’d use more orange juice (our oranges weren’t very big) and zest. We did, however, add some Italian candied orange and lemon peel, so that helped with the citrus flavour. It was the perfect breakfast bread, and my oldest son thought it was great dunked in milk.
Overall, this recipe is fantastic. Thank you for sharing your grandmother’s recipe!
Made this for Easter. OMG best ever!!!!!
Will be making it for Christmas as well.
I have made your recipe for the last few Easters and it has always come out amazing. This year, the dough seemed really sticky and wet when it was mixing and I think I ended up having add 3-4 more cups of flour to get it come off of the bowl. It really did not rise that much for the first rise and it took about 2 hours for the second rise.
The bread came out looking nice but for the first time since I have made it, was a pretty dry. I wonder if I added too much flour which inhibited the rise and also made it dry? I used a brand new yeast and a thermometer to make sure the milk temp was just right.
I am debating about using the orange zest and orange extract next time instead of the juice so that I don’t put it too much flour.
I know that is not what the recipe calls for but I am interested in your thoughts?
Hi Tom, There is quite a variety in how much liquid any particular orange will yield, so I can definitely appreciate how inconsistent the process could be from one attempt to the next. I think zest and extract could work well!
On the Easter bread, do I punch it down after it doubles then make the loaves.? Then do my braids and rise it again…? Thanks
Hi Mary, I don’t really punch it down, but yes, you would let it double, then turn it out, shape the braids, then let it rise again.
Can I use butter instead of margarine?
Hi Daphne, I think that would be fine.
I just finished making your Easter Bread – I had difficulty with the amount of flour that was needed above the 8 cups. My bread did not have the orange and anise flavor when it was baked. The amount of additional flour seemed to bury the flavorings. Also, wouldn’t it be a better to knead the dough in the halves and work from that point with the rising? It was a lot of dough to knead properly!! Not a critic just thought this may help other bakers who may have had some issues. Thank you for sharing it!
Too bad you don’t do colored eggs, bec my 90-yo dad asked me to make it as he remembered it from childhood with the colored eggs. I like your recipe, but will have to figure out how the eggs work.
I love trying traditional breads – this looks delicious! I’ve been seeing anise pop up again and again lately – it must be a sign!
My kitchen smells amazing!
I made this bread for the first time last Easter!! It is phenomenal, making it again on Good Friday!
I am defiantly familiar with this one! great recipe! My mother would always take a couple of the easter eggs we would dye and use them as decoration in the bread (you’d obviously cut around them) Thinking about it now though, I’m not sure how safe that dye was when I was growing up… Sprinkles are a much better idea haha!
This bread is fantastic!! I was able to do the first rise and shapping the night before, and then baked it straight from the fridge the next morning. Perfect fresh Easter tradition!
Hi Michelle! Quick question. Do you think this can be refrigerated after the first rise and then baked the next day?
Hi Jennifer, I’ve never done that so I couldn’t say for sure how it would impact the rise or final bake. If you try it, let me know how it turns out!
I made this bread last night. Since half the people I was serving it to don’t like anise, I subbed it out for a vanilla bean with great success! I also refrigerated the dough after the first rise and after shapping the dough. I baked it first thing this morning straight from the fridge. It worked out very well! The bread has a great texture and is extremely soft and fluffy; it’s utterly delicious! Don’t let the margarine scare you off! Thanks for a great recipe!
If I want to use anise seeds instead of anise extract or anise oil, how much do you think I should use?? They look beautiful Michelle!
Thank you, Rita! And good question… I had to Google it… looks like you’d need to use 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons of anise seed to substitute for the anise oil.
What kind of margarine do you use. And may i ask why margarine and not butter for baking?
Hi Ashley, I used Imperial margarine. I think probably margarine since that was most common a long time ago, but I’m pretty sure butter would work just as well.
I love the handwritten recipe! I was born and raised in Italy and this reminds me of the way my grandma used to write her letters or notes. It is a mix of Italian and Sicilian dialect. Since I moved here in the States 6 years ago, I have been trying to keep my Italian traditions alive so I will definitely make this bread next weekend!
My Russian grandmother used to make this, too. I’m not crazy for citrus flavor in things, unless it’s a martini, but everyone else seemed to love it.
I can’t believe this was in my inbox this morning! My gram also made them when I was a child (with the eggs), then she just started buying them- never as good. No one makes or buys them anymore. I wanted to try, I guess for tradition’s sake, and have been searching for a recipe. Always trust an old family recipe! The hand written picture is so great! I would frame it, just to have for a momento.
Your nana writes like my mamma. :-) And the traditional Easter Bread I make has colored eggs tucked into the dough. The eggs cook as the bread bakes. Mamma made it for years and then I took over with my kids. I describe it as a rich brioche type dough. I wish I had more of my mamma’s recipes but she had them all in her head. Your bread turned out beautiful!! Have a great day! Buona Pasqua!
Im Italian and love this bread <3
But that handwritten recipe is definitely NOT italian. I guess it's a mix. She probably had been living in the US for a while when she wrote it so it's sort of a wrecked italian. ;)
Such a beautiful bread and a lovely holiday tradition story. My former classroom assistant is Portuguese and she would make a similar bread…topped with colored hard boiled eggs …every Easter. I never tried to make it but I pan to try this recipe. I do have a question…I gather this bread is very large given it has 8 cups of flour and 8 eggs. The recipe looks like it can be halved pretty easily to make a smaller loaf. Do you agree and or any suggestions?
Hi Nancy, The recipe actually makes two loaves of bread, if that helps! They are each large loaves, and you could scale down further I think without an issue.
Have made this bread for years, although my mother-in-law’s version (from her Italian immigrant mother) used only orange and not anise, which is fine with me because I don’t care for anise flavor. So if anyone’s thinking of trying the bread and doesn’t care for anise, just leave it out. I do a slightly smaller version that makes 2-3 loaves round, not braided loaves that I can mix on the dough cycle of the bread machine (still heating the milk ahead). I usually also add a little bit of Orange Oil or Fiori di Sicilia, a wonderful vanilla/citrus extract from King Arthur Flour. I may try this larger version in my stand mixer with the dough hook – my wrists can’t take long periods of kneading. The bread is well worth the effort!
I’m replying to my own note, I made this recipe and the bread and crumb came out beautifully. I made 4 medium size round loaves. I did add the Fiori di Sicilia. I had to add a LOT more flour to make a slightly sticky dough. The first rise took quite a while, but the 2nd rise was a little quicker in a very low warm oven.
The results? A recipe I will definitely make again! I think I would add another more sugar, I don’t like really sweet bread but I think 1/2 cup sugar to 8 cups of flour wasn’t quite enough. I think I would also add a bit more orange flavor, maybe some orange juice or some orange extract or oil. But that’s to my taste. My husband loved the bread but agreed it could use a little more sugar.
This is so gorgeous and festive. I have never tried making a bread like this but it’s definitely on my list now.
I really want to make your recipe for Italian Easter Bread, but I am wondering if there is a substitute for the anise oil or if it is needed at all? I really do not care for anise flavor. Maybe it is slight enough so I can’t tell? Please respond so I can plan for this accordingly.
Hi Linda, If you don’t like anise flavor, I would simply omit it; it is a very distinct flavor in the bread, not subtle.
This looks lovely! Can another flavoring be used as my family doesn’t like anise? thanks
Hi Karen, Sure, I don’t see why not!
My boyfriend is allergic to anise, so I don’t want to buy a bottle of anise extract or oil, because it wouldn’t be used very much. We do, however, have a jar of whole star anise that was purchased before he learned he was allergic. I was wondering if I would be able to substitute the oil for seeds (should I grind them with a mortar before adding or prepare them some other way? and how much should I use?) in order to make this for work, so those seeds can be used up.
Ahhh I truly have no idea, I’ve never tried to grind up star anise and use it in place of anise oil or extract. I’m sorry I can’t help with this!
I had the same issue. Trying it for the first time right now. I was just looking under comments to see if someone else had the same issue and found you. Thank you for asking.
Many years ago there was an old bread company that used to be on Grant Avenue in San Francisco. I have learned that they are now South San Francisco. Their anise bread toast was one that could not be copied. I don’t know how the toast was made however, does anyone know how this could be copied. I in the process of making the Anise bread and when completed I will attempt to slice it and then reenter the slices in the oven to toast. Do anyone think this may work
I have been looking for this recipe for a long time , my grandma was Nana too, she baked like no other ! at least i thought this… Thanks
I have been searching for a recipe like this to replicate the one made by my grandmother when I was a child. As kids, my brother and I especially loved the confectioner’s sugar icing with the sprinkles. This recipe is so close I have stopped looking! I made 4 loaves last week for my Easter brunch; I gave 3 away to my family and you would have thought I gave them gold. This recipe will be a new family tradition. Thanks so much.
Aww I’m so happy to hear this! Thank you so much for sharing :)
I have for years made a version of Italian Easter bread very similar to this. The recipe was in a McCall’s paperback cookbook that originally belonged to my mom. The version I’ve made has lemon instead of orange and it is delicious. I may have to try this version, just to compare.
Did you use margarine sticks – 2 sticks would be 1 cup. I’ve had trouble with butter measurements before. Or do you use a tub of margarine and spoon out some into a measuring cup? Thanks!
I couldn’t find anise oil – will extract work the same in the same amount?
Hi Jennifer, I used margarine sticks. And yes, the anise extract would work as well!
Looks amazing but…no colored egg?? lol
This recipe looks awesome!!! I was wondering if I could substitute lemon juice & zest for the orange? Should I drop the anise oil then? I like the brightness of lemon and was wondering how it would be in the bread. I love the addition of the sprinkles on top – I found some Easter themed ones I can’t wait to use. On the other loaf I plan to put toasted almond slices – for the “adults”!
Hi Kevin, Yes, you could do lemon flavor instead of orange. I don’t think you’d need to reduce the anise unless it’s a personal preference. Enjoy and Happy Easter! :)
Looks awesome! Regarding step # 9 – is the bowl oiled with anise oil or something different? Thanks!
Hi Jennifer, It should be oiled with vegetable oil or canola oil.
My mother made these every Easter in much larger quantities. I hope I can make it as nice as my mom does but I’m not good at bread making..Let me try :)
I made this Easter bread And it’s the best recipe. The bread was soft and delicious. This will be my only recipe for Easter bread.
This is the exact recipe I’ve been looking for and will be trying it out today! I’ve seen so many but these are the traditional ingredients that have been used in family recipes that I can’t get my hands on! Thank you so much.. oh I can taste it now!
I just made your Easter Bread and it’s awesome!!!!! Thanks for sharing the recipe.
After the second rise how quickly must u bake the bread before the yeast dies? If I make this at night can I bake it in the morning?happy Easter!
Hi Nicole, I would recommend baking it as soon as it’s risen. Leaving the dough without baking could cause it to collapse on itself.
so excited to try this! My grandmother used to make this, and I never got her recipe before she passed away… I was so pleased to find the recipe here!
Oh Easter Bread… a family tradition at our house. When I was a little girl, my mother, grandmother and I would spend Palm Sunday in the kitchen rolling and braiding this dough. We always make really tiny loaves out of the recipe as opposed to your larger loaves to accomodate our large Italian family. I was reading your recipe to my mom to compare it to my great grandmother’s, and aside from her using anise seeds (previously mentioned by others) she also said that she has never used Orange flavor in hers. So, if I were to omit the orange can I add additional anise? I saw in one of your previous comments that the anise is not a strong flavor and the orange is dominant, and again I am not used to that. Personally, the anise flavor is what makes Easter Bread so special in my opinion. Thanks for sharing this recipe- I’m eager to carry on the tradition in our family!
Hi Angela, You can omit the orange, but I might increase the milk a bit to compensate for the lost moisture from the orange juice. You could also increase the anise. Enjoy!
Hi! I am hoping you see this and can help me with trying out your recipe. I have been trying for two years now to recreate my family’s Easter Bread recipe from the notes handed down and i am having a lot of trouble! Your recipe seems to be the closest to ours so I thought I’d try it out! Thanks in advance for your help!
So, a few questions:
1. Do you activate the yeast before putting it into the milk? Or is it activating in the milk? My first batch, I was waiting for the milk/yeast mixture to foam up and double in volume but it never did and my bread never rose.
2. When I “let it sit” for 10 minutes after adding the yeast, do I do this with the stove still on, or should it be resting off the stove? (is this the 10 minutes needed to let the yeast activate and double in volume?)
3. About how much juice are you getting from the oranges in total? just as a rough guide
Hi Regina, The yeast gets activated in the milk. It will not double in volume just sitting in the milk, it actually won’t grow at all. You should do the 10 minutes with the stove off. I get between ¼ cup and ½ cup of juice from each orange… it just depends on how large they are and how juicy they are.
This recipe sounds fantastic. I will make it for Easter. Can lemons replace the oranges?
Hi Piera, You can, but orange is the traditional flavor.
I’ve been looking for an Italian Easter Bread recipe – minus the colored eggs also. My MIL makes it, but she doesn’t have a written recipe. She does it from memory and doesn’t use measuring cups, etc..
The recipe I’m looking for is called “spianade” (closest I can get to the spelling) and nobody has been able to help me. I’ve looked in jillions of Italian cookbooks, scoured cooking websites and watched Italian cooking shows until I think my eyes are going to pop out of my head. So far, I haven’t found it.
I **will** try this one and see if it’s close. ::fingers crossed:: THANKS!!
I found your recipe the night before Easter and it sounded wonderful. It was more delicious than I expected. I couldn’t get that taste out of my mind, so I’m baking it tonight and Its Memorial Day weekend. Can’t wait to have it with my coffee. Bravo!!
If you use orange zest make sure you use ORGANIC oranges so the zest isn’t full of chemicals and insecticides. goes for lemons and limes also. zest freezes well so you can make a bunch at a time.
I’m going to try today! I’ve never had this, but it’s very similar to the pupa cu l’ova that my grandparents traditionally made before they came to America. I’ll be trying out the eggs as well. Thanks for sharing this!
I am making this right now. I’m waiting for it to rise(first time around). Regarding step 8, you weren’t kidding when you said you had to add quite a bit more flour to the mix to make it come together. I had to do the same!!! Lol I’ll let you know how it turns out. I can’t wait to try it!
I just found this recipe after losing mine – cut in half and am trying to mix it & do the first rise in a bread machine.
I just printed your beautiful Italian Easter bread Recipe because I want to make it for my mother-in-law’s family get together on Easter Sunday. I believe she will absolutely LOVE it!! It looks so beautiful by the way!!!!!! Thank you!!!
Just like our family’s recipe but with the addition of citrus. This is wonderful!
I have always made this recipe for my children I have the recipe since1986 from a brooklyn news paper I am also Italian decent and everyone loves my cooking & baking too
Can you substitute lemon oil for anise oil?
Hi Maria, You can if you’d prefer a lemon flavor vs an anise flavor.
This Easter Bread recipe is identical to my Grandmother’s recipe. My Grandma has been gone for many, many yrs. but my mother and I have made this bread ,and continued her tradition, every Easter that I can remember. The only difference in the two recipes is that ours is double your recipe. We start with 16 cups of flour!!! and 16 eggs!!! This accounted for the 13 children(my Mom and her siblings!) in Grandma’s family. We still make the big batch because we make enough for all my siblings (and my children also). It is delicious toasted under the broiler with lots of butter! My Grandma always made the braids and wreathes and colored eggs. Thanks for the memories! We are making ours next week!
I made this recipe earlier this week and it was fantastic! Everything went great, and the bread came out perfectly; I am definitely keeping this recipe to use again later.
I made a small modification though. I did not have any anise essence/oil/extract, however I did have some star anise lying about that was only a couple of months old. The afternoon before I made the bread, I measured out the milk I would need and I soaked two whole pods in the milk for 24 hours. The milk had a lovely hint of anise to it, and it worked swimmingly! I would recommend this to anyone who can’t find anise oil anywhere, as it might be tricky if you don’t have a health food store handy :)
forgive me but when I translate the Italian handwritten recipe I see that it is not exactly translated into the english version. Can you verify this. What I was looking for is an Italian Easter bread recipe similar to the handwritten one cause it is made with shortening.
Mary, This is my fiance’s family’s recipe, and from what I understand, it has been made the same way for decades. If you prefer shortening, you could try using that in place of the margarine, but I can’t guarantee how the bread will turn out.
Hi Michelle, Just based on how I’m reading the italian hand written version , it clearly states “crisco” . This is why I was asking. My grandmother also made Easter bread with crisco, unfortunately nobody got the recipe right before she passed. This is why I was so excited when I saw that in Italian. I was disappointed it wasn’t translated to english exactly as it read in Italian.
Is it possible for you to translate it as it reads, unfortunately I’m not able to make out each word.
Hi Mary, Unfortunately I cannot translate it because I do not read or speak Italian. The only thing I have to go on is how my fiancé’s family translated it. It does look like the recipe reads Crisco or Oleo, which is what some folks used to refer to margarine, which is what his family uses in the recipe. I think you would be fine using the Crisco if you prefer.
Hello, I like this bread! Mine are going in the oven in about 10 minutes I guess.. I am curious how they will turn out. Question: Why so many eggs? While mixing the eggs it looks like the dough drowned in them. So I added more flower to make it less sticky. (I made half of the recipe just to try maybe tomorrow another half of the recipe) I made 3 bread one larger and 2 smaller out the half of the recipe.
ok really stupid question I want to make 4 smaller loaves, It says bake one at a time for 35 mins do I leave the other loaves out on the counter while I bake one at a time?
Christie, If you are making smaller loaves and can fit them all on one sheet, then you can bake them at one time.
I also loved finding this recipe because it was just like my husband’s Italian grandmother’s recipe, although she used anise seeds in her recipe. I loved you have the recipe written in your great grands handwriting. The loaves are in the oven and smell delicious.
It is so sweet to see the recipe half Italian, half English! My Mom does the same thing! The only difference from my mom’s recipe who is from Italy, Frosinone area (Ceccano) south of Rome, is that she adds uncooked colored eggs in between the rope twists. Continue with the recipe as is and eggs will obviously bake (cook) when you bake the bread. It looks so beautiful when done!
Go to this site to see a picture!
If above doesn’t work…go here to see pic
I made this but had difficulty rolling the dough into logs, as the dough was really elastic; when I rolled out the logs into a desired length they wold shrink back. This made it difficult to wrap the dough around each other and created a rather lopsided loaf. Any suggestions?
Sometimes yeast dough can do the shrinkage thing. The best thing to do is cover it with a damp towel and let rest for 10 minutes or so, and then try again.
Hi, this bread looks delicious!! Do you think it is possible to mix the dough in a bread machine? (and bake in the oven) Would the assembly change at all?
I have a question…the recipe calls for 1 cup of margarine. Why not butter? I never cook or eat margarine. I will if it makes a BIG difference, tho.
Hi Jean, I never, ever use margarine either, but there are a handful of old family recipes that call for it, so I use it in those. It does have different properties than butter, so I stick with the margarine.
Hi Michelle, I made this yesterday, one for myself and another one to give away. It is simply fantastic, I definitely suggest you put the icing on. Thank you for another delicious recipe!!!
Hi Michele, I look forward to trying this recipe. My Nana would place colored hard boiled eggs into the braided dough. Could I do that with this recipe?
Hi Ria, Absolutely!
The most beautiful dough that I have seen on a long time .My moms recipe is almost the same a little less flour. I made yours today it ess amazing the smell in my house was intoxicating.. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful traditional recipe with us … Buona Pasqua!!!!
Gorgeous bread! Can we substitute the margarine with oil or butter? How much should we use? Thank you
Hi Joyce, I would use the butter as a substitute. Enjoy the bread!
I was looking for the Italian Easter Bread recipe but did’nt see it, I have one from my mom that I wanted to compare it to. The pictures look very similar to what she made, I don’t think it was braided though. I tried to make hers and the dough was too sticky to knead, wanted to try yours if you could post recipe. thanks Annette
Hi Annette, It looks like there was a glitch from the site redesign, but the recipe is up there now. Enjoy!
Can we freeze the dough for a day or two before shaping and baking them?
Hi Li-Anne, I’ve never frozen this dough. I would probably be more apt to make the bread and then wrap it tightly and freeze until you want to serve it. Thaw at room temperature.
I love seeing handed-down recipes stay alive through tradition! This sounds absolutely amazing =)
Made the italian easter bread this weekend. This morning it is a huge hit at my workplace. It even brought a few nostalgic moments for someone whose grandfather used to make rolls with Anise oil in them – she wandered in and asked if they had anise in them and was delighted when I confirmed her suspicions. As always thanks for sharing your recipes!
Loved the Easter Bread! I made it Saturday, and it was FABULOUS!!!!
Looking for the recipe for Easter Pizza Rustica by Dorothy!
I made this on Holy Saturday to enjoy Easter morning. It was wonderful. I was happy it made 4 breads, because they were excellent Easter gifts . This does make a lot of dough, and when it comes to kneading I got a little lazy. I cut the dough in half, & put it in my Kitchen Aid mixer for 5 min. Took it out and did the same with the other half of dough. Then I quickly kneaded the two halfs together by hand. This allowed me to get the right texture in the bread without breaking a sweat! I will be making this bread every Easter
I made this! It was amazing. Thank you for sharing. I used Poppy seeds instead of sprinkles. Delicious.
Thank you SO much for sharing this recipe. This was a total hit (I didn’t have anise oil, so I substituted vanilla extract). The children helped with the glaze and sprinkles. Everyone devoured the bread plain and then someone pulled out the nutella. Talk about gilding the lily. Next time I might try saffron with the milk (and skip the anise again).
I halved this recipe and it was perfect. The bread is deliciously orangy buttery rich and sweet. The icing is the literally the icing on the cake!!! It would not be the same without it. It adds a lil sweetness to the bread which accompanies it nicely. It was the first time I’ve ever made bread and it came out great so it shouldn’t b considered too hard.it was loads of fun seeing how the dough doubled and twisting the dough into braids as we’ll as icing and decorating it w the sprinkles and colored eggs!! I will prob make this bread every Easter.
My family loved it and everyone commented how good it was and u could tell they really enjoyed it!!!
Thanks so much for posting this! I made it for my family for our Easter dinner and it was a big hit (I’ve been told that I WILL be making it again…soon). I love that your site continually challenges me to try all these different recipes that are so delicious, I simply can not resist :)
My bread didn’t rise at all. I followed the instructions step by step.. any idea what could of went wrong? My oranges did have a lot of juice so I had to add a decent amount of flour, could this be the cause?
Maybe your yeast was bad, I must of had extra juice too because I had to add ALOT of flour to be able to work with it and my bread doubled in size. I did let it rise about an hour and half during the first rise becuase I got busy. So maybe check your yeast.
Hi Melissa, I don’t think so; I also got a lot of juice from my oranges and added a ton more flour, and my dough swelled up. I am wondering if you used old yeast, or if perhaps your water was either too cool (yeast didn’t activate) or too hot (killed the yeast)?
can I put anise seeds in this as well, and if i do, do I have to omit some or all of the anise extract.
Yes, you can! You don’t need to omit anything.
I am in the middle of making your bread and it says to add orange juice in the instructions, but there is no Orange juice listed in the ingredients! Help!
The orange juice comes from the oranges you used the zest from :)
(2 oranges, zested & juiced)
2 oranges, zested & juiced
Hi Corrie, The oranges in the recipe are to be zested and juiced; that is the orange juice you use.
so easy and wonderful! My dough didn’t rise at first though- I ended up adding another packet (I halved the recipe also). I made two braided loaves instead of the ring and they came out wonderful! Thank you!
I made this yesterday and we had it for breakfast this morning. It looks gorgeous and tastes completely delicious. Unless you’re feeding an Italian family on Easter morning or bringing a whole loaf to church though, I’d definitely halve the recipe. It makes a LOT of bread. Also, I had to go to my local cake and candy supply shop to get the anise oil since the grocery store didn’t have it. Even my husband, who didn’t grow up eating my nonnie’s anise biscotti, agreed that it’s a subtle flavor so the amount of anise oil is probably good for most people. I’m thinking about maybe making french toast with it Easter morning, but I’m a bit stumped as to the kind of syrup to serve. Orange seems like overkill…
Gorgeous bread, Michelle! I love recipes with tradition behind them. Hope you have a wonderful Easter!!
I’m definitely going to make this bread. Since I live in California, I like recipes where I can use oranges from my trees. I grew up living in my Italian immigrant grandparents’ home in the Homewood section of Pittsburgh. My grandma made an Easter recipe using the colored eggs, but my mom and I remember it tasting like a cookie dough and not a bread. Has anyone heard of that? She shaped the dough like an Easter basket and put a colored egg in it.
There is a braided Easter treat that is more of a biscotti/cookie. Crispy but decorated similarly. My husband is Sicilian from Sicily. My daughter calls her grandma Nonna. My Irish mom was Nana. Confusing for a little kid but she got used to it. LOL.
I make a similar bread but use vanilla instead of anise (preeference) and the sprinkles that are longer and not balls. I use an egg wash and sprinkle them on before baking. No icing for us. I usually do a braid but the two twisted strands look easier. I am not sure I would want to use margarine. Maybe just butter if that would work. Margarine was big years ago.
Very pretty! I’d love to try this with the dyed eggs stuffed inside.
We always have this on Easter! Right along with homemade ravioli & Italian wedding soup. I love Italian holiday meals.
This looks like a nice alternative to my original favorite Easter bread: hot cross buns. I’d love to try this, but I’d have to halve it… I’m lazy and I need it to fit in my Kitchen Aid mixer.
Wow! This bread looks so delicious. Happy Easter!
I made this tonight and omitted the anise oil because I couldn’t find it at my local store. I halved the recipe and made 2 medium size loafs. My dough didn’t rise too much, but they turned about amazing! Thanks for the recipe! Happy Easter!
The copy of the handwritten recipe brought tears to my eyes. It looks exactly like my Mom’s handwriting. I understood each of the ingredients and directions as written. We are adding this to our Easter celebration.
It’s beautiful, Michelle! How nice to have a legit handwritten recipe! :)
Beautiful bread. Here we call it Rosca de Pascua (Easter Round) and usually has hard boiled eggs sitting on top of it but never aniseed. Do you think anise seeds will work the same way as anise oil? I´m always hesitant to use it, since it´s a very strong flavor.
Hi Paula, The recipe does say that you can add anise seed if you wish. If you are leery of a strong flavor, I would probably use one or the other, not both.
How lovely that you are reintroducing a family tradition and what a lovely recipe you’ve chosen – this bread looks stunning – glad you’ve left out the eggs – this addition always seemed a little strange to me!
Do you think it would be ok if I made this today & froze it until Easter morning? I was thinking I could re-heat it a little after its defrosted & then glaze it. Just wanted another opinion. Happy Easter!!!!
Hi Laura, Yes, you could definitely do that. I would wrap it well in plastic wrap, then in foil. Enjoy!
This is extremely similar to my Mennonite Grandma’s Paska recipe. It’s quite a simple recipe but it is essential for Easter! The recipe calls for half an orange and half a lemon blended in a food processor. We top ours with an easy milk, icing sugar, almond flavouring icing and then load it with sprinkles. It’s shocking how similar the recipes are! Mind you, Mennonites are from all over Europe, it should be no surprise they collected ideas from many different cultures.
One of the winners in the CA Raisin Bread contest for 2011 had a recipe very, very similar. Of course she included raisins. It looks almost identical. I’ve got to try it. Everyone loved it.
Beautiful bread and I love the note from your nana. I would like to know if I could half this recipe? Thank you!
Hi Almira, I think you should be able to halve this without an issue. Enjoy!
Sprinkles, on bread, I’m SOLD!
But I also really like reading the story behind the bread :)
This is way too much bread for a person living alone. Can I half this?
I have not done so, but I think you should be able to.
I made the halved recipe this weekend, it came out very well. It was still a very large loaf of bread (I didn’t make the wreath); I’m going to make the same amount into two loaves for this weekend.
This bread looks wonderful, I will have to try it :) would this be served with the dinner or dessert? Thanks for sharing!!
Hi Melanie, You could serve it either way. I’ve eaten it for breakfast, alongside a meal, as a snack, as dessert. It’s very versatile :)
This recipe looks amazing! I am definitely going to make this on Sunday.Thanks!
Looks amazing, and what a great story behind it. Sometimes being in the kitchen is about so much more than just the baking and cooking.
In my house, no Easter is complete without “easter pizza” (also known as pizza rustica). I can post the recipe of you like.
Hi Dorothy, My grandma also had an Easter “pizza” recipe, which is really a savory bread. I’ll be sharing it tomorrow, but I always welcome new recipes! Feel free to send it my way!
I have been making Easter Egg Bread for as long as I have been baking. This and Anisette cookies (Yes I am Italian) are the first things that I mastered on my own at age 12 or so. My Easter bread though sometimes comes out a little dry. I compared your recipe to mine and they are very different. My recipe uses anisette and lemon, cream instead of milk….I’m going to try yours this year. I really don’t care to add more colored eggs to the day so I usually leave them off too. Sprinkles were a nice idea to make it pretty!
What a gorgeous looking bread, sounds delicious flavouring it with orange!
Looks so gorgeous!!
Thank you for this recipe, Michelle. It looks very similar to one my grandmother used to make when I was a child (many moons ago). It is one I will try, although I’m not perfect yet with yeast recipes.
My future mother-in-law makes delicious Easter Bread! I have a couple loaves in the freezer waiting for this weekend :)
I can’t wait to try this for Sunday. I think my Italian husband will love it!
That bread is so beautiful! And it sounds delicious. I absolutely love the hand written recipe. So cool! I have an old cookbook of my grandma’s and I have kept all the little scraps of paper she had written recipes on. But none of hers were bilingual!
Growing up, there was a sweet little old Italian lady that lived two doors down. I looked forward to her Easter treat tray each year, complete with a version of this. (I am thinking it was more like a cookie than a slice of bread) I adored the glaze and the sprinkles! I wish my childhood self would’ve known to think to ask her to teach me a thing or two!
Thanks for sharing this recipe, your memories, and for my own childhood memory trigger!
The bread is just lovely, and I love all breads flavored with citrus, but the best part of this whole post is the original handwritten recipe. I absolutely adore things like that!
The photos of your dough rising are beautiful and the cooked bread is awesome! Wonderful job on the braiding!
I might just make this. My MIL who is from Italy will be joining us for Easter dinner. I am sure she would love to go home with this bread and enjoy it with her tea. Thanks to your CCC’s dad for sharing and for you for baking it up for the rest of us to enjoy.
This sounds so good. Just one question…I have a bag of instant yeast from king Arthur & I never know if I can use the instant yeast in place of others. Should I use the same amount of instant vs active dry?
I actually just found the answer to my own question!! It’s equal conversion & there is about 2 1/4 tsp of yeast in one packet. Thanks for th great recipes :)
This is so pretty! Awesome idea!!
Gorgeous bread! I think I’ll make this on Friday! I love the sprinkles you put on it!
seeing her recipe, brought a tear to my eye…i have a few slips of paper like that from my nana too. in fact, this year the sweet easter bread is on my to-do list too!
Oh, I can not wait to try this. My german grandma always put dried fruit in ours which is definitely a taste to acquire. I think I could get little one to try this version–never used anise oil before. Is it a strong taste?
Hi Kris, In some recipes, yes, anise can be strong, but in this particular bread recipe it is much more subtle. The orange is the prominent flavor here, and the anise merely accents it and gives it a little more depth.
Can we substitute extract for the oil? Would there be any modifications?
The conversion from Oil to extract is 4 to one so use 2 tsp of extract to substitute for 1/2 tsp of oil.
Thank you, Lyle! Gina – this was going to be my recommendation.
Looks so light and fluffy! I’ve never seen sprinkles on bread, very cute.
What a special recipe! Looks like the best Easter bread recipe I have seen yet…
This sounds delicious. I love the way her recipe is written in both italian and english!
I have a lot of really old recipes completely in italian.
Aaaaw, thanks for sharing! This looks so yummy and so easterly – must make it for my boyfriend and see if he knows it (he’s Italian). I am really curious how the anise will turn out.
That looks like a great recipe and it’s so amazing your grandfather used to love it :)
My husband’s two favorite things on the planet: brioche and sprinkles. I think you just hit jackpot.
What a gorgeous Easter bread. I love the addition of the orange zest, and the sprinkles make it absolutely darling.
The tiny sprinkles on this bread make me happy. How cool to see the recipe in your Nana’s handwritting. :)