These are fun to make, pretty, and the kids cannot get enough of them. A sweet citrus flavored bread with eggs and colored sprinkles symbolize the Easter holiday. This is also an authentic recipe and they make these breads in Italy today.
1/4 pound, i.e. one stick of butter (melted and slightly cooled)
2 cups of milk (warmed to about 100 degrees)
5 tsps (or two packages of yeast)
2 cups of sugar plus 2 teaspoons
1 tsp salt
zest of 1 lemon or orange
3 whole eggs plus 3 yolks
8 cups of flour (sifted)
1 tsp of vanilla extract (or one vanilla bean)
2 or 3 whole eggs (dyed if you like but NOT hard boiled)
Heat the milk up to lukewarm (but not too hot) and and 2 teaspoons of sugar in a separate bowl. To this, add the yeast and set aside to get it activated.
Beat 3 whole eggs and 3 yolks together and add the zest of one lemon (or orange). Add the vanilla extract. Add the two cups of sugar and beat well. Once the yeast and milk have activated add to the eggs and sugar. Mix well. Now add the slightly cooled melted butter.
In a mixer, add 1/2 of the flour. Mix well and add the other 1/2. Mix it for about four minutes. The dough will be very very wet and sticky, much like a ciabatta bread, but that is okay. Flour a surface well and pour the dough onto the surface. With floured hands knead the dough until it comes together adding flour 1 tablespoon at a time. You still want it wet and sticky, just dry enough to work with. It should be almost like a stiff batter.
Spray a clean bowl with cooking spray, and place the dough in the bowl covered with a tea towel. Let it rise until doubled in volume (about an hour). Punch it down and cut it into four equal pieces. Roll the pieces out about 2 feet long and 1 inch thick. Take two pieces and braid them together. Bring the braided pieces around until they touch, forming a wreath. Add the colored eggs into the creases of the dough, but still resting on top.
*Note. Let your decorative egg warm up to room temperature or you may end up with unbaked bread under the egg if you use an egg that is very cold.
Cover with a towel and let it rise again for about an hour. Now, brush it with one beaten egg (egg wash) and then place the candied sprinkles on top. Bake in the over on the middle rack at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. I like to slice it while warm and serve with butter or some jelly (or both).