Family Recipe: Pane di Pasqua (Easter Bread)


Submitted by Monica of the Traficante Family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Though typically made in celebration of Easter with decorations of colorful eggs, this bread can be served year-round with a variety of finishing touches (think icings and sprinkles). Here, first generation ISDA member Monica Traficante lovingly shares her family’s delicious take…

Who taught you this recipe?

I learned to make the Easter Bread from my mother-in-law, Filomena Laurenza Traficante. The only change from her recipe is the use of eggs. She used to put a couple raw whole eggs on top of each loaf, before baking them.

How long has this recipe been passed down through your family?

The recipe must have been in Filomena’s family for a couple generations. She brought it with her from the small town of Rionero in Vultura, Italy, the Region of Basilicata. It is a very simple, hearty recipe, typical of the agricultural and mountainous area where she lived. It is a typical type of bread to dip in coffee or milk, and that’s what her children loved to do.

When does your family use this recipe?

The tradition calls for making this “bread/cake” during the Easter season. However,I often make it a couple times a year, for Easter and also for Christmas.

What is your favorite memory of making this recipe?

Each time I make this “bread” I have fond memories of the first time Filomena taught me the recipe.

Having no formal education, she had memorized the ingredients/directions and she explained each step …in her dialect. I sat there with pen and paper to record the recipe for my future use. And I am happy I did.

bread

Ingredients:

1 package active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup warm milk

2 beaten eggs

2 to 3 tsp lemon zest

1 1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup softened butter

Optional – 1 cup dark/light raisins, or dry cranberries, as preferred.

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

Preparation:

Using a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water with a pinch of sugar; let sit for about 10 minutes. Mix in the rest of the ingredients, except for the flour. Then stir in the flour, one cup at a time, until you have wet, sticky dough.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, adding flour as needed to keep from sticking. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl. Lightly oil the surface of the dough, and cover with damp towels. The dough needs to rise until double in size – about 1½ to 2 hours. (Keep the dough warm so it rises).

When ready, punch dough down a couple times, then place onto a lightly floured surface; divide in four pieces. Shape into four small oval loaves, or whatever shape you desire. My preference is to cut each piece and braid it into a traditional Easter bread appearance.

Place loaves on baking sheets. Cover very loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise for 2 hours.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Once the breads cool, you can leave them plain, as is, or frost them with a simple lemon icing.

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