Renewing your spirit one bite at a time

Sourdough Italian Easter Bread


Italian Easter bread

Looking for a delicious and festive treat to enjoy this Easter? This sourdough Italian Easter bread is a perfect choice! It is enriched with milk, butter, and eggs and braided into a beautiful wreath making it a stunning dessert to bring to any occasion. It has a soft and fluffy texture and a sweetness that is not overpowering. The sweet stiff sourdough starter gives the bread a brioche-like texture that is delicate yet rich.

This is also a kid-friendly activity that can be made into a yearly Easter tradition, My 4-year-old loves to help and looks forward to making this beautiful dessert every year!

I promise you will cherish this recipe as much as we do!

sourdough italian easter bread

What is sourdough Italian Easter bread?

Sourdough Italian Easter bread, also known as “Pane di Pasqua” in Italian, is a traditional Easter bread that is made using sourdough starter, flour, eggs, sugar, milk, and butter. The dough is typically shaped into a braided wreath or a round loaf with an egg in the center to symbolize new life and resurrection.

The sourdough starter gives the bread a rich flavor and chewy texture, while the eggs and sugar add sweetness and richness. Sourdough Italian Easter bread is a popular treat during the Easter season in Italy and among Italian communities around the world, and it is often enjoyed as part of a festive Easter brunch or dinner.

sourdough Italian Easter bread

Different toppings for sourdough Italian Easter bread

While this lovely dessert bread is perfectly fine on its own, I wanted to provide a few ideas for toppings if you want to take it to the next level. Typically, the bread is decorated in colored sprinkles, but here are some additional options:

  • A glaze: using powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extra you can create a sweet glaze to drizzle over the top of the bread.

  • Honey Butter: Mix softened butter with honey and a pinch of salt to create a sweet and creamy spread that pairs perfectly with the tangy sourdough flavor.

  • Fruit Jam: Spread a spoonful of your favorite fruit jam or preserve, such as strawberry or raspberry, on top of the bread for a sweet and fruity contrast to the sourdough.

I typically top my bread with naturally colored sprinkles and pair it with a fruit spread.

sourdough italian easter bread crumb shot

Three natural ways to dye your eggs

I sometimes use my eggs in their natural form, which I believe is still beautiful. I know there are some chickens that lay naturally green eggs, which is amazing! But here are some fun and natural ways to dye your eggs if interested!

  • Beet juice dye: Boil beets in water and strain the liquid. Mix in vinegar and use it to dye the eggs. The longer the eggs sit in the dye, the deeper the color will be.

  • Turmeric dye: Boil water and add turmeric, vinegar, and a pinch of salt to it. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes, then strain the liquid. Use this liquid to dye the eggs. The longer the eggs sit in the dye, the brighter the color will be.

  • Red cabbage dye: Boil chopped red cabbage in water and strain the liquid. Add vinegar and use it to dye the eggs. The longer the eggs sit in the dye, the deeper the color will be.

You can combine the above colors to create different colors as well. There is also onion peel egg dyeing. If you are interested in this method check out this link.

sourdough italian easter bread on plate

Sweet stiff sourdough starter (or levain)

This recipe does call for a sweet stiff starter or levain. Don’t worry! Sweet starters are super easy to make and all that is needed is an active sourdough starter.

What is a sweet stiff starter? A sweet stiff sourdough starter is a type of sourdough starter that is characterized by its low hydration and sweetness. Stiff starters typically have around 50% hydration or less, which makes them thicker and more dough-like in texture. The sweetness comes from the sugar and the natural fermentation process of the starter, which produces sugars that give the dough a sweet flavor. This ultimately mutes that notable sourdough tang that isn’t always desired in sweet recipes.

This particular starter elevates this Italian Easter bread to almost a brioche-like texture. It is incredible!

sweet stiff levain

How to make sourdough Italian Easter Bread: step-by-step

Baker’s schedule: make the sweet stiff levain the morning of, mix the dough in the evening, allow the dough to rise overnight, and bake the following morning.

Alternative baking schedule: make the sweet stiff levain the evening before the dough is mixed. Mix the dough the following morning and allow it to rise for 8-12 hours. Place in the refrigerator overnight and shape and bake the following morning. 

This recipe requires 1 bulk rise of 8-12 hours overnight tested at 68 degrees F. If your environment is warmer than this, you may want to adjust accordingly. This dough can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.

There will be about 10-15 grams of extra sweet starter, this is to account for any sticking to the sides or to conduct a float test if desired.

A regular 100% hydration sourdough starter can be used for this recipe, increase the flour by 60 grams. Keep in mind the bread will have a mild sour flavor. 

Ingredients:

For the sweet stiff starter:

  • 15 grams of active sourdough starter
  • 60 grams of all-purpose flour
  • 30 grams of water
  • 15 grams of sugar

For the dough:

  • 100 grams of sweet sourdough starter from above
  • 310 grams of bread flour
  • 100 grams of milk
  • 50 grams of sugar
  • 5 grams of salt
  • 50 grams of butter or 1/2 a stick (melted)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs for placing in the bread
  • For the egg wash: 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of water, sprinkles for topping
Equipment:
  • mixing bowl
  • food scale
  • silicone or dough scraper
  • baking sheet
  • parchment paper

Make the sweet stiff starter

  • To a clean jar add 20 grams of active sourdough starter (it is recommended the starter has been fed within the past 12 hours).

  • Next, add the sugar and water and stir until it becomes milky.

  • Lastly, add the flour and mix until a dough-like ball is formed.

  • Cover the jar loosely and allow it to rest for 10-12 hours.
sweet stiff starter

Mix the dough

Note: Ensure your sweet stiff starter has doubled in size. It will be a very thick consistency; this is normal.

  • In a small saucepan warm the butter and milk over medium heat until the butter is melted.
  • Remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to cool for 5 minutes.
  • Add it to a medium mixing bowl and dissolve your sweet stiff starter and sugar using a fork. It is okay if the sweet stiff starter does not completely dissolve.
sweet stiff starter
Sweet starter in milk & butter mixture
  • Next, add the eggs, salt, and flour and mix until a shaggy ball is formed.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and allow it to rest for 45 minutes.
sourdough italian easter dough

Knead the dough

  • After the dough has rested, knead it for about 8-10 minutes on a lightly floured surface until it is smooth and elastic.
  • Place it in a bowl greased with butter and cover it with plastic wrap for 45 minutes.
kneaded dough
Kneaded dough

Stretch and folds

  • This step is optional as kneading the dough should be enough. But when kneading enriched doughs by hand, it it helpful to have at least 1 stretch and fold to ensure proper gluten development.

  • After the dough has rested, perform 1-2 stretch and folds in 45 minute increments.

  • This is where you scoop your hand under a portion of the dough and stretch it a few inches and fold it to the opposing side. You will stretch and fold all 4 quadrants of the dough.

  • Once the stretch and folds have been completed, cover the dough and allow it to rest overnight for the remaining bulk rise.

*note: If you are using colored eggs, I recommend coloring them the night before and refrigerating them until the next day.

stretch and folds
This is how the dough will look after being stretched and folded

Shaping the dough

The following morning the dough won’t have risen significantly and that is ok! Enriched doughs don’t rise as aggressively. As long as it has sat for at least 8-12 hours at room temperature, it is ready.

  • When you are ready to shape the dough, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  • Remove the dough from the bowl and divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. My dough weighed 730 grams, so each piece was 130 grams.
  • Once all dough pieces have been cut, round each of them into a ball and let them rest for 10 minutes.
divide the dough into 6 equal pieces
  • After the dough has rested roll each piece out into a 14-18 inch rope.

  • Take two pieces and twist or braid them together and bring the ends together to create a wreath appearance. Tighten the seams by pressing the dough into itself.

  • Place each dough wreath onto the baking sheet and cover them with oiled plastic wrap or a damp towel for 1-2 hours in a warm spot.
Bring both ends together and tighten the seams
Bring both ends together and tighten the seams

Brush & Bake

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  • When the dough has puffed up a bit (it takes my dough 2 hours) whisk together 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of water.

  • Brush each dough wreath with the egg wash and top them with sprinkles of your choice.
  • Then, nestle your hardboiled eggs in each dough wreath and bake the bread for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.
sourdough italian easter bread
  • You can enjoy this bread warm. It is best eaten on the same day but lasts for 2 days on the counter in an airtight container or bread bag of your choice.
sourdough italian easter bread

More sourdough recipes:

Italian Easter bread
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Sourdough Italian Easter Bread

This traditional sourdough Italian Easter bread is made with sourdough starter, eggs, and sugar, and is shaped into a beautiful braided wreath.
Prep Time1 hour
Cook Time40 minutes
20 hours
Total Time21 hours 40 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Italian Easter Bread, Sourdough Italian Easter Bread
Servings: 3 wreaths
Calories: 200kcal

Equipment

  • Mixing bowl
  • Food scale
  • Silicone Scraper or dough scraper
  • Baking sheet
  • Parchment paper

Ingredients

For the sweet stiff starter

  • 15 grams active sourdough starter
  • 60 grams all-purpose flour
  • 30 grams water
  • 15 grams sugar

For the dough

  • 100 grams sweet stiff starter from above
  • 310 grams bread flour
  • 100 grams milk
  • 50 grams sugar
  • 5 grams salt
  • 50 grams unsallted butter or half a stick melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs for placing inside the bread

For the egg wash

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • sprinkles of your choice for topping

Instructions

Make the sweet stiff starter

  • To a clean jar add 20 grams of active sourdough starter (it is recommended the starter has been fed within the past 12 hours).
  • Next add the sugar and water and stir until it becomes milky.
  • Lastly, add the flour and mix until a dough like ball is formed.
  • Cover the jar loosely and allow it to rest for 10-12 hours.

Mix the dough

  • Note: Ensure your sweet stiff starter has doubled in size. It will be a very thick consistency; this is normal.
  • In a small saucepan warm the butter and milk over medium heat until the butter is melted. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to cool for 5 minutes.
  • Add the mixture to a medium mixing bowl and dissolve your sweet stiff starter and sugar in it using a fork. It is okay if the sweet stiff starter does not completely dissolve.
  • Next, add the eggs, salt, and flour and mix until a shaggy ball is formed.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and allow it to rest for 45 minutes.

Knead the dough

  • After the dough has rested, knead it for about 8-10 minutes on a lightly floured surface until it is smooth and elastic.
  • Place it in a bowl greased with butter and cover it with plastic wrap for 45 minutes.

Stretch and folds

  • This step is optional as kneading the dough should be enough. But when kneading enriched doughs by hand, it it helpful to have at least 1 stretch and fold to ensure proper gluten development.
  • After the dough has rested, perform 1-2 stretch and folds in 45 minute increments.
  • This is where you scoop your hand under a portion of the dough and stretch it a few inches and fold it to the opposing side. You will stretch and fold all 4 quadrants of the dough.
  • Once the stretch and folds have been completed, cover the dough and allow it to rest for the remaining bulk rise.
  • *note: If you are using colored eggs, I recommend coloring them the night before and refrigerating them until the next day.

Shaping the dough

  • The following morning the dough won't have risen significantly and that is ok! Enriched doughs don't rise as aggressively. As long as it has sat for at least 8-12 hours at room temperature, it is ready.
  • When you are ready to shape the dough line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. My dough weighed 730 grams so each piece was 130 grams. Then, round each piece into a ball and let the dough balls rest for 10 minutes.
  • Once the dough has rested roll each ball out into a 14-18 inch rope using your hands.
  • Take two pieces and twist or braid them together and bring the ends together to create a wreath appearance. Tighten the seams by pressing the dough into itself.
  • Place each wreath onto the baking sheet and cover them with oiled plastic wrap or a damp twoel for 1-2 hours in a warm spot.

Brush & Bake

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • When the dough has puffed up a bit (it takes my dough 2 hours) whisk together 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of water.
  • Brush each dough wreath with the egg wash and top them with sprinkles of your choice. Then, nestle your hardboiled eggs in each dough wreath.
  • Bake the bread for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.
  • You can enjoy this bread warm. It is best eaten on the same day, but lasts for 2 days on the counter in an airtight container or bread bag of your choice.

Notes

Baker’s schedule: make the sweet stiff levain the morning of, mix the dough in the evening, allow the dough to rise overnight, and bake the following morning.
Alternative baking schedule: make the sweet stiff levain the evening before the dough is mixed. Mix the dough the following morning and allow it to rise for 8-12 hours. Place it in the refrigerator overnight and shape and bake the following morning. 
This recipe requires 1 bulk rise of 8-12 hours overnight tested at 68 degrees F. If your environment is warmer than this, you may want to adjust accordingly. This dough can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
There will be about 10-15 grams of extra sweet starter, this is to account for any sticking to the sides or to conduct a float test if desired.
A regular 100% hydration sourdough starter can be used for this recipe, increase the flour by 60 grams. Keep in mind the bread will have a mild sour flavor. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 200kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 25mg | Sodium: 200mg

Leave a Comment & Rate the Recipe

Did you find this recipe helpful? Help others by leaving a star-based review, it will help others find my recipes and articles. Thanks for reading!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




Comments

  1. Beautiful recipe! Love the natural colors!5 stars

    1. Thank you Laura!! ❤️