How to Make Braided Easter Egg Bread

easter bread on sheet pan

For the better part of my adult life I’ve whined and complained about not having much of a cultural heritage, especially when it comes to food and recipes. Everyone I know has some secret recipe passed down from their grandmother or some beloved collection of family dishes, their ingredients and instructions written on scraps of paper and jammed into a three-ringed binder. Don’t get me wrong; I have a handful of wonderful food memories from growing up, ones that I have already started sharing with my daughter (like spreading butter onto scraps of unbaked pie dough, sprinkling them with cinnamon-sugar, and then baking them in the oven while I wait for my pie to cook — thanks mom!), but I don’t have strong connections to any of my ancestors or where they came from.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately and I realized that, if I continue this childish whining, then I won’t have much to pass on to my daughter Aubrey. So I decided that I should start adopting traditions. (Who cares if a recipe was passed down from my great-grandmother or not? What matters is that Aubrey, David, and I share many happy memories making the recipe and eating the food, right?)

Enter my newest tradition: Braided Easter bread.

I’d love to tell you that I gave the matter a good deal of thought before settling on this recipe because of its rich and beautiful symbolism (the braided design — which uses three ropes — is said to represent the three members of the Holy Trinity, the wreath-like shape is a reminder of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore at the crucifixion, and the colorful eggs are a vibrant symbol of new life) but, in reality, I love making brioche-like breads because the leftovers make the best French toast (don’t judge me until you’ve tried it!) and I thought Aubrey would like putting sprinkles on the bread.

If you’ve never made bread from scratch before, do — there are few things that can compare with freshly baked bread straight from the oven. And, this is a great recipe to tackle if you’re a beginner; there is nothing inherently difficult about making it. It does take some time and planning but it makes a wonderful Saturday afternoon project and an even better Sunday morning breakfast!

Here’s how to make Braided Easter Egg Bread:

5-6 dyed eggs
¾ cup milk, plus up to ¼ cup more, if needed
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 packet active dry yeast
3 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Colored sprinkles, nonpareils, or sanding sugar, for decorating

Make the Bread Dough
Heat the ¾ cup milk in a small saucepan (or in the microwave) until it just barely feels warm to the touch. Put the warm milk into a small bowl and add the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Stir to combine. Let the mixture sit until the yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes.

When the yeast is active add 2 of the eggs and whisk until smooth.

Combine the remaining sugar, the flour, and the salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk to combine then put the bowl onto the mixer and attach the dough hook.

Add the yeast mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. If the dough seems dry add more milk as needed, a tablespoon at a time.

Once the dough is combined, add a small amount of the butter. When it is fully incorporated into the dough, add more butter. Continue adding butter (a small amount at a time, mixing thoroughly between additions) until all of the butter has been added.

Then, turn the mixer to medium-high speed and knead the dough until it is soft and silky, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the finished dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. You can either chill the dough overnight or let it rise in a warm area until it is doubled in size, about 1-2 hours.

Shape the Dough
Once the dough has risen, punch it down to release any air bubbles (literally, give it a few gentle punches) and then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. If your dough was in the refrigerator overnight you’ll want to let it warm slightly before you proceed.

Then, cut the dough into three equal pieces, rolling each into a long rope with tapered ends.

Pinch the ends of the three ropes together and start braiding the bread by crossing the outside ropes over the middle one in an alternating fashion. When you get the to the end of the ropes, form the braid into a wreath shape, do your best to weave the three loose ends into the pinched end of the braid, and then secure any remaining loose ends by pinching the dough together.

shaping the bread dough

Move the wreath to a parchment-lined sheet pan and nestle the colored Easter eggs in between the ropes. Cover the bread loosely with a piece of plastic wrap and let it rise until puffed but not doubled in size. The dough is ready when you poke it and it springs back almost immediately.

proof the bread

Decorate the Dough
Mix the remaining egg with a few teaspoons of warm water and whisk until combined. Brush the egg wash over the entire surface of the bread, avoiding the colored eggs. Then, sprinkle the top of the loaf with coarse sanding sugar or colorful sprinkles. Or both.

decorate the bread

Bake the Dough
Bake the bread in a 350-degree F oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 190 degrees F, about 20-25 minutes.

Let the loaf cool on a wire rack until you are ready to serve it.

Sliced Easter egg bread

Braided Easter Egg Bread

  • Servings: 8-12
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Ingredients
5-6 dyed eggs
¾ cup milk, plus up to ¼ cup more, if needed
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 packet active dry yeast
3 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Colored sprinkles, nonpareils, or sanding sugar, for decorating

Directions
Heat the ¾ cup milk until it just barely feels warm to the touch. Put the warm milk into a small bowl and add the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Stir to combine. Let the mixture sit until the yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes.

When the yeast is active add 2 of the eggs and whisk until smooth.

Combine the remaining sugar, the flour, and the salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk to combine then put the bowl onto the mixer and attach the dough hook.

Add the yeast mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. If the dough seems dry add more milk as needed, a tablespoon at a time.

Once the dough is combined, add a small amount of the butter. When it is fully incorporated into the dough, add more butter. Continue adding butter (a small amount at a time, mixing thoroughly between additions) until all of the butter has been added.

Then, turn the mixer to medium-high speed and knead the dough until it is soft and silky, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the finished dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm area until it is doubled in size, about 1-2 hours.

Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Then, cut the dough into three equal pieces, rolling each into a long rope with tapered ends.

Pinch the ends of the three ropes together and start braiding the bread by crossing the outside ropes over the middle one in an alternating fashion. When you get the to the end of the ropes, form the braid into a wreath shape, do your best to weave the three loose ends into the pinched end of the braid, and then secure any remaining loose ends by pinching the dough together.

Move the wreath to a parchment-lined sheet pan and nestle the colored Easter eggs in between the ropes. Cover the bread loosely with a piece of plastic wrap and let it rise until puffed but not doubled in size. The dough is ready when you poke it and it springs back almost immediately.

Mix the remaining egg with a few teaspoons of warm water and whisk until combined. Brush the egg wash over the entire surface of the bread, avoiding the colored eggs. Then, sprinkle the top of the loaf with coarse sanding sugar or colorful sprinkles. Or both.

Bake the bread until it reaches an internal temperature of 190 degrees F, about 20-25 minutes.

Cool the loaf on a wire rack.

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