Sunday, March 31, 2013

Italian Easter bread (pina bread)

When I married Brian, I  became part of a huge family with tons of family recipes and traditions.  One that we have adopted is the tradition of making Easter bread each year for Easter morning.  Growing up, each person in the family gets their own loaf of this delicious, sweet Easter bread.  Now that we have moved away from home we have started our own tradition and we usually give out a loaf to our friends in the local area.  The recipe has been passed down over generations from Brian's great grandmother (and probably before that too).  I think it is really cool to be able to cook something the same way they did so long ago.  

Keep in mind that this recipe is written for making A LOT of bread (about 15 loaves) so halving it is recommended.  That is what we did this year.  Below are the full list of ingredients and the original instructions.

- 7 lbs all purpose flour
- 5 cups sugar
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 6 large eggs (room temp)
- 2 yeast cakes (equivalent to 2 packets of yeast)
- 1 1/2 pints milk (3 cups)
- 1 1/2 pints water (3 cups)
- 6 tablepsoons shortening (crisco)

First sift flour (leave out one cup of flour to add to the dough when kneading), sugar, and salt into a large container. 

With spoon make a nest in the center.  Break eggs and beat them lightly with a fork then put them into the nest.

Then combine milk and water and scald (to scald bring slowly to a high temperature but keep it below the boiling point).  Add the shortening to the hot liquid and set aside to cool to lukewarm.  Test on wrist for temperature (yeast will not activate if too cool and too hot might kill it).  Add crumbled yeast cakes into milk mixture and sprinkle with 2 tsp sugar to dissolve. Let the yeast sit for about 5-10 minutes until activated. Add yeast and liquid into nest.

Stir with spoon in gradually widening circles until all of the flour is combined with the liquid.  Kneading may be started in the container and when well combined may be divided for help in kneading.  Dough cannot be over kneaded but when kneaded sufficiently it should not stick to board or hands.

Roll the ball of dough around in a greased bowl or container in which it is to rise in, to cover the entire surface lightly with grease.  Cover with heavy towel and place in a warm spot.  Keep away from drafts, leave there until dough doubles in bulk (3-4 hours) or may be left to rise over night.

Cover bowl with a warm jacket or blanket to keep in warmth.  When done rising punch dough down by plunging fist into center to let gas escape.

To shape loaves:
Cut off several portions with a knife (will make about 15 loaves), round each portion into a ball to seal pores left after dough is cut.  Set them on baking sheet to rest while you shape the first loaves.  Shape the loaves into anything you like on a lightly greased cookie sheet (or lined with silpat/parchment paper).  If eggs are used to decorate loaves they should be room temperature and held in place by thinner than pencil strips of dough which are rolled out with fingertips.  Brush top of loaves lightly with and egg-wash of milk and egg yolk.

Let the loaves rise in a warm spot for 1 hour. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees until lightly brown (about 30 minutes depending on size). If both oven racks are used, switch sheets after the first 15 minutes. Cool on cooling racks before slicing. May be frozen.

This recipe takes some time and has a lot of steps but I think it is really important to keep family traditions. A few years ago for Christmas Brian's mom gave me a book of family recipes, including this recipe.


  1. Beautiful bread, and I love that this is a recipe that's been passed down through many generations.