Sweet Easter Bread

Sweet Easter Bread. This bread is so nostalgic for me, it symbolizes tradition, family, love, and so much more. It symbolizes my childhood in Bulgaria/Greece and all my childhood memories as we gathered around the table. Laughing, enjoying each others company, and enjoying a delicious traditional meal accompanied by a bread like this is something I will cherish and remember forever. Almost every country in the world has their way of making sweet Easter bread and this is mine. It is incredibly easy if you follow my steps and recipe accordingly. It is fluffy, light, sweet, and everything you want in a sweet bread, but more. You do not need a holiday to make a bread like this. I can eat sweet bread every week and it’s one of my favourite things to make.

Sweet easter bread by the modern nonna sweet easter bread

Sweet Easter Bread.

Almost every country in the world has their way of making sweet Easter bread and this is mine. It is incredibly easy if you follow my steps and recipe accordingly. It is fluffy, light, sweet, and everything you want in a sweet bread, but more. You do not need a holiday to make a bread like this. I can eat sweet bread every week and it’s one of my favourite things to make.
Prep Time 3 hrs
Cook Time 30 mins
Servings 2 loaves

Ingredients
  

Activating the yeast:

  • 1 packet of active dry yeast (8 grams) or 2 teaspoons
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (13 grams)
  • ½ cup lukewarm milk not hot, not cold, 125 ml

Rest of the Ingredients:

  • ½ cup avocado oil or any neutral oil (125ml)
  • 3 room temperature eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar (160 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 1 cup warm milk (250 ml)
  • ½ cup unsalted melted butter (1 stick or 125ml)
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour (940 grams) add more if needed
  • tablespoon melted butter or oil for the dough-ball

Before you bake:

  • egg wash = 1 egg whisked with a tablespoon of milk
  • sesame seeds sugar, sprinkles or anything you like

Instructions
 

  • In the bowl of your stand mixer add the active dry yeast, sugar, and warm milk. Give it a quick stir, and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes until it foams up. If it does not activate or form up do not proceed you have to start this step all over. If you are using instant yeast you can add everything to a bowl without waiting for it to activate.
  • Once it activates, add the oil, eggs, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and warm milk with the melted butter. I melted the butter and milk together on the stove. Don’t add it in scorching hot, the butter and milk should be warm, not hot.
  • Give it a whisk. Add the dough hook attachment on the stand mixer and gradually begin to add the flour as the stand mixer kneads the dough on medium-low speed until all the flour is done and the dough pulls apart from the sides.
  • The dough should take about 6-8 minutes to knead. Take it out of the stand mixer, shape it into ball and oil or butter it up with a little bit of melted butter. Add it back in the bowl and cover it loosely with a lint free kitchen towel or plastic wrap.
  • Leave it in a warm spot for 2 hours until it has tripled in size. I like to leave mine in the oven with the door closed. Do not turn the oven on just leave it in there to rise.
  • Once risen, punch the dough down and pour it out onto the counter. Cut it in half and cut those halves into 3 equal pieces. I weighed my pieces and they were all 283 g each but you don’t have to. Roll each piece into a ball and then roll 3 equal 14-15 inch sized ropes, line them all up, pinch the top 3 pieces together and begin to make a braid.
  • Pinch the bottom together and you can even fold it under a bit. Do this for the other loaf as well. Once the two loaves are braided you can place them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover them again and let them rise in a warm spot for another hour.
  • After they have risen, uncover them and brush on the egg wash. Sprinkle on sugar or sesame seeds and bake in a pre-heated 350F degree oven on the middle rack for 30-40 minutes or until golden, mine took 35 min but it depends on the oven and how you braided it. Keep an eye on them as the time will depend on the oven and how you braided them as well. If you are unsure you can always insert an instant read thermometer and if it reads 190F that means it’s ready.
  • Take it out of the oven, let it cool completely and you can decorate it with some mini eggs or anyway you enjoy. Once it cools you can wrap it really well and cover it to ensure that it stays nice and fresh for the following day. This sweet bread is perfect even after a few days, all you have to do is toast it and add some butter on top. Enjoy

Notes

If the yeast does not foam up or activate do not proceed to the next step. You need to start that step all over.
Make sure the liquids like the milk and butter are warm, not hot and not cold. Everything should be lukewarm.
You can absolutely use instant yeast but you do not need to proof it. Instant yeast does not need to be activated, you can just add all of the ingredients to the mixer.
You can also use fresh yeast and I would recommend one tablespoon of fresh yeast if that’s all you have. Let the dough rise in a warm spot away from drafts. I like putting my bread covered in the oven with the door closed but make sure the oven is not turned on. You are more than welcome to knead everything by hand if you don’t have a stand mixer as that is the traditional way to make sweet bread.
This recipe makes 2 loaves of sweet bread so feel free to cut the recipe in half if you only want to make one. You may need to add a touch more or less flour depending on the eggs of course so always add it in gradually until the dough pulls away from the sides. It shouldn’t be too sticky or too dry. It should be nice and tacky and smooth.
If you want to prepare the dough the night before, cover it well and put it in the refrigerator for the first rise. In the morning take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature, braid it and let it rise for 1 hour and bake. 
You can also freeze the bread once baked and cooled just be sure to wrap it really well in plastic wrap and put it in a Ziplock bag. Traditionally we always add a red painted egg in our bread but feel free to decorate it any way you enjoy.
Gluten-free flour should work but I have not tried it in this recipe. If you use one be sure to use 1-1 gluten-free baking flour. 

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