Like Christ, bread rises. The braiding of an Italian Easter bread indicates the enmeshing of the Savior with our lives.
Imagine the surprise. It’s Easter morn in Sardinia. The crowds are seated in Cagliari Cathedral, built on the site of a sermon from Bonifatius, one of Christ’s disciples in the first century.
On this most glorious of Sundays in the Christian faith, the usual unleavened Communion “bread” would not do. The priest uncovered loaves of the new Easter bread on the altar, spiked with fruits and glorious in itself, a true celebration of Christ’s resurrection.
The tradition spread throughout Christendom and continues to this day. Easter and bread remain inseparable.
It is easy to explain. Like Christ, bread rises. The braiding of an Italian Easter bread indicates the enmeshing of the Savior with our lives. The eggs baked into the dough celebrate the source of our lives.
Some families still call the sweetened loaves “Communion bread.” The cylindrical panettone is derived from Easter bread but remains a Christmas tradition.
Easter bread may be braided into a cross. The tradition here is it must be eaten by loved ones together.
ITALIAN EASTER BREAD
3 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄4 cup sugar
1 package active, dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2⁄3 cup warm milk, 120-130 degrees
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1⁄2 cup mixed candied fruit, chopped
1⁄4 cup blanched almonds, chopped
1⁄2 teaspoon anise seed
In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup flour with the sugar, yeast and salt. Add milk and butter; beat 2 minutes on medium. Add 2 eggs and 1⁄2 cup more flour; beat 2 minutes on high. Stir in fruit, nuts and aniseed. Mix well. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a lightly floured board. Knead until smooth, 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. If desired, dye remaining eggs (leave uncooked), lightly rubbed with oil.
Punch dough down. Divide in half; roll each piece into a 24- by 3-inch rope. Loosely braid ropes together. Place on a greased baking sheet and form into a ring. Pinch ends together. Gently split ropes and tuck eggs into openings. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.
Note: The raw eggs baked into the dough probably will be inedible. For edible eggs, boil and color them in advance. Use one to make indentations in the dough. Bake the dough without the eggs and place them in the indentations as it cools.