When I was a little girl, I used to love to go to my Grandma Sara’s house for Easter. When you walked in her kitchen anytime during Holy Week, you were greeted by the intoxicating aroma of fresh bread. Grandma would make a little braided loaf for each of us kids.
Yep, that’s right. A personal loaf for each of us. The best part was I didn’t have to share with my little brother.
I can still remember sinking my teeth into that sweet, billowy bread. It was one of the few times we were allowed dessert before dinner. Of course, Easter bread really wasn’t dessert, but it sure tasted like it when it was warmed and slathered with butter. (Excuse me, while I wipe away this drool.)
Making bread by hand requires patience through the process. There’s the mixing of the ingredients, the adding of the yeast, the proofing the yeast, the kneading, the rising and sometimes rising again, and finally the baking. Each step of the process is unique, depending on the kind of bread you are making.
I have been reflecting a lot on this verse in John 6:35 where Jesus talks about how He nourishes us:
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Jesus feeds us physically, spiritually and emotionally. I have been challenged in this season to really look to Him for provision in my life instead of striving and depending on my own efforts. Those always fall short.
Just a few years ago, I found my Italian grandma’s recipe for Easter bread. I decided to try to make it on my own. The loaf multiplied. It almost tripled in size during the rising process. I was reminded that Grandma didn’t make anything in small quantities.
My mom and I put our heads together and realized that this recipe was probably the one she used for the loaves for all the grandkids plus a few big loaves for Sunday supper. Grandma’s food always multiplied to feed many. I can imagine her in Heaven today kneading loaves of bread and mixing up Italian sauces for a host of friends and angels.
Italian Easter Bread Recipe
-1/2 cup butter + 2 tablespoons butter, melted to brush on top
-1 1/2 cups whole milk
-1 1/2 cup sugar
-2 tablespoons + 3/4 teaspoon yeast
-5 eggs, beaten
-9 1/2 cups bread flour
-1 tablespoon sea salt
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-3/4 cup warm water
- Melt butter, and set aside to cool.
- Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until some tiny bubbles start to form on sides and milk starts to coat pan when tilted. (105 to 115 degrees, if measuring).
- Transfer milk to a large measuring cup or bowl; stir in 1 tablespoon of the sugar.
- Sprinkle yeast over milk and whisk to blend. Let sit until yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes.
- Add eggs; whisk until smooth.
- Combine remaining sugar, flour, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
- Add milk mixture and vanilla. With mixer running, add room-temperature butter. (Reserve some butter for buttering medium bowl to let dough rise and for brushing over the bread at the end.)
- Add water as dough is forming and begin mixing for 1 minute until dough comes together.
- Knead on medium-high speed until dough is silky, about 5 minutes.
- Brush a medium bowl with some melted butter; place dough in bowl. Brush top of dough with remaining melted butter; cover with plastic wrap or towel.
- Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, 1–1 1/2 hours (or 2–2 1/2 hours if dough has been refrigerated).
- Divide into four balls of dough. Then divide each ball into three sections and roll gently into thin logs.
- Pinch three logs together at one end and braid. Tuck ends under loaf. Let rest for 30 minutes.
- Brush loaves with melted butter.
- Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown.