Lina’s Italian Easter Sweet Bread (also known as Pane di Pasqua) is a simple, light yeast bread flavored with a hint of orange. Would you believe me if I told you that there are mashed potatoes in the line-up of eight ingredients to make this wonderful bread?
There was a time I was absolutely apprehensive about using yeast. I had this preconceived idea that only professional bakers had the magical ability to decipher when the first rising was complete. And what about the business of punching down the dough…what if I punched it too much, would I deactivate the yeast? What if I did not punch it enough? It just seemed very complicated.
I decided to confront my fears and misconceptions about yeast and have never looked back since. So, if you think that yeast is too complicated and that you cannot even beat an egg, never mind about punching down dough…I am here to assure you that if I can work with yeast, anyone can. I bet you if you just tried it once…you will get hooked. Just like me! And this is the perfect recipe to begin with.
I got very excited when I first saw the ingredients for this recipe. You see, I’ve already had the pleasure of making a yeast dough with the addition of mashed potatoes and the results were amazing (just click on the recipe link for the softest cinnamon rolls ever… Easy Mashed Potato Cinnamon Rolls).
This recipe for Lina’s Italian Easter Sweet Bread can make 6 round or 3 braided loaves. You can decide whatever shape you want.
This Pane di Pasqua recipe is a really wonderfully soft dough to work with. It’s super easy to make the braid and the final product makes anybody look like a pro.
Here you have the round version of the same recipe. I am sure you can also make individual mini breads with this dough…something to add to my to-do list!
ORIGINS OF THE RECIPE FOR LINA’S ITALIAN EASTER SWEET BREAD:
It’s no secret that I absolutely love anything made with yeast. When a collegue of mine, Fabiana, learned of my yeast obsession, she was generous enough to share her family’s recipe for this sweet bread with me.
My friend’s mom was born in Ururi, a small town in the province of Campobasso, in the Italian region of Molise. I learned that there was a migration of Albanian refugees following the invasion of the Balkans in the 15th century by the Ottoman’s empire. Ururi was one of the places that these uprooted Albanians settled in. I can’t help but wonder if this recipe, which according to Fabiana, was always referred to as poprati, was influenced by the Arbëreshë people.
The original recipe said, with regards to flour, to use quanto basta – which essentially means to use as much flour as the mixture will absorb. If you think that a description like that in a recipe is super vague and unhelpful, you are not alone. These two words have haunted so many of us trying to recapture and honor our families’ recipes. But we are a resilient group as we continue to bake and document as best as we can.
I would like to mention that the original recipe that Fabiana provided me with had 1 1/2 cups of sugar. I reduced it to 1 cup. That’s the beauty of recipes, you can adapt to your own preferences.
Lina’s Italian Easter Sweet Bread…also referred to as Pane di Pasqua… I absolutely love it! Thank-you, Fabiana, for sharing your mom’s poprati.
- 1 package (8 grams) active dry yeast (2¼ teaspoons)
- 1 cup milk, lukewarm
- 1 tablespoon sugar, granulated
- 5 eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar, granulated
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- zest of one orange
- 1-1/2 cups of potato (about 2 medium,russet),peeled, boiled and riced
- 6 cups (appoximately) flour,all purpose,sifted
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon milk
- Dissolve yeast in warm milk. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and stir. Set aside for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl (of stand mixer) whisk eggs at medium speed until nice and frothy (3-4 minutes).
- Gradually add sugar. Continue to whisk for another 3-4 minutes.
- Whisk in the oil and orange zest.
- Combine yeast mixture with riced potatoes.
- Add to egg mixture and whisk together on low speed.
- Add half of flour mixture and mix on low speed for about one minute.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Switch to dough hook and add the rest of the flour.
- Mix for about 5-8 minutes until smooth and elastic. Alternately, you can knead by hand.
- Line large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl. Make sure to turn dough in order to completely coat the dough with the grease.
- Let rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
- Punch dough.
- Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes or until double in size.
- Punch dough again.
- Divide in 6 portions if making round loaves or in 3 portions if making braided bread.(Continue to divide each section in 3).
- For braided bread: roll each section into a log (about 10 inches long and 1½ inch thick); start making a braid with the three strands. Tuck ends underneath the braid.
- Place on prepared cookie sheet.
- Cover with clean tea towel and let rise for about 30-45 minutes or until double in size.
- Preheat oven to 350 ° F.
- Brush loaves with egg wash (whisk egg and milk together).
- Bake small round loaves for about 25-30 minutes; bake braided loaves for about 50-60 minutes. Depending on your oven, you might want to place a sheet of aluminum paper loosely over the loaves, to prevent them from over browning.
- Cool on wire racks.
Thanks for dropping by.
Ciao for now!
2017.03.21 This post has been updated.