Italian Easter Bread (Cuzzupa Calabrese)


Easter is nearly here, which means it's time for delicious Cuzzupa!

The following recipe, prepared by Chef Francesca Montillo, appears on The Lazy Italian.

I love Easter, perhaps more so than Christmas. Easter resembles all that is good in the world, doesn’t it? Spring weather, renewal, and new hope. The birds chirping, tulips blooming and we’re all filled with a new sense of optimism and assurance.

I grew up eating this bread (or cuzzupa in Calabrian dialect) every Easter. It would actually start a week or two before the holiday and my mother would either make it or buy it at the local pasticcerie. Sometimes she would make it glazed, sometimes just with a sprinkle of sugar on top. Either way, my sister and I would devour it for breakfast and afternoon merenda, or after school snack.

This bread is not overly sweet, if you don’t add the icing, that is! It tastes a bit like brioche and challah bread. It goes great by itself, or simply toasted with some butter and/or jam. Topped with cinnamon sugar is also a great combo. Last year, I made it twice, for Palm Sunday then again for Easter. You’ll see the two results below. I am torn about whether I like the colors on the eggs.

I think this year, I will skip coloring them and use just white. No matter how I try, the color always bleeds into the bread, which makes it look so artificial and a bit messy. Or perhaps I’ll make two, one with colored eggs and one with white, so I can best decide which I prefer. It’s a dirty job, research really, but someone has go to do it!

Tip: You do not need to boil the eggs first, they will bake in the oven, just be careful not to crack them. Also, the eggs are mostly for decoration only. You can eat them the same day you bake the bread, but once you leave the bread out a few hours, the eggs do spoil. So either leave the eggs on the bread and trash them as you eat the bread, or remove them and put them in the fridge. Since the eggs are really what ads to the appeal of the bread, I just leave them there and trash the eggs when the bread is finished.

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Glazed. Allow icing to dry out before moving it.
Ingredients
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons rapid rise yeast
  • 1 ¼  cups scalded milk, cooled
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 ½  cups flour (the flour is approximate, you may need to go up to 4 to 4 1/2 cups)
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 3 uncooked dyed or undyed eggs

Icing – Optional

  • 1  to 1 ½ cups of confectionary sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons of milk
  • Decorative sprinkles

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Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast, milk, salt, softened butter, eggs and sugar. Mix until just combined.
  2. Add half the flour and beat until smooth using a dough hook.
  3. Slowly add the rest of flour to form a stiff dough. Do not worry about the exact amount, just keep adding until it is no longer sticky.
  4. Knead until smooth with either dough hook or turn out on board and knead by hand.
  5. Place in a bowl that has been greased with 1 tablespoon of oil. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour, depending on the temperature in your kitchen. (I place mine by the fireplace!)
  6. Punch dough down and divide into 3 pieces. Roll each piece to form a thick rope about 12 inches long. Form a braid, pinching the ends, and loop into a circle.
  7. Place on a greased baking sheet or sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.
  8. Cover and let rise a second time, until double, about 45 minutes to one hour again.
  9. Brush the bread with beaten egg wash. In the middle of the bread ring, gently place an egg, making an indentation with the egg. Continue with the other two eggs.
  10. Bake at 350 degrees until golden – about 40 minutes. Cool on rack.
  11. Optional: While the bread is cooling prepare the icing by mixing the confectionary sugar, vanilla and the milk. Add milk one tablespoon at a time as you may end up not needed more than a few tablespoons.
  12. Brush the bread with the icing using a pastry brush and top with sprinkles, if desired.
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Cuzzupa, anyone?
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Grazed and ready to meet a good cup of coffee!

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