Pane di Pasqua (Italian Easter Bread)
My family’s traditional pane di Pasqua or Italian Easter bread made entirely vegan, eggless, and dairy free! Topped with a homemade vegan white chocolate egg, this Italian Easter bread is full of orange zest and almonds with a sweet pillowy soft bread. The perfect bread centerpiece for your Italian Easter celebration!
The PERFECT Vegan Italian Easter bread
If you’ve ever tried Italian Easter bread, or Pane di Pasqua, then you know how absolutely delicious it is. Melt in your mouth, just lightly sweet, and perfectly fluffy. Sprinkled in an aura of rainbow colors and topped with a centerpiece of a real egg.
My family is originally from Sicily, and my great grandpa (whom you’ve probably heard me mention a few times on the blog if you’re a seasoned reader!) was usually the chef and baker. Growing up, along with the traditional Italian Easter celebration of risotto, wine, and pasta, we would also have Pane di Pasqua (and of course, pupi col’uova, a Sicilian version of the more standard Pane di Pasqua!).
However, as this is a vegan blog (and I am vegan!), I wanted to translate my great grandpa’s recipe into an entirely vegan version. Even down to the egg!
Instead of using a real egg, we’re actually making a homemade vegan white chocolate version. How fun right? This is the perfect Pane di Pasqua to serve at your vegan Easter dinner! Absolutely all eaters will love it!
What is Pane di Pasqua?
Pane di Pasqua, or Italian Easter bread (the literal translation is “bread of Easter”), is a sweet bread baked into the shape of a wreath with colored eggs on top. Many say it’s very similar to Challah bread, but it’s slightly different in that the flavors are hints of orange zest and anise. Some families use lemon zest, but we use orange!
The dough is braided or twisted and pinched together, and baked with colored raw eggs and sprinkles that cook in the oven. Traditionally, the bread is braided to represent the Father, Christ, and Holy Spirit. However, more modern takes show the bread simply twisted with two strands. My guess is that this evolved so as to differ in appearance from Challah bread.
I actually derived my vegan version of this classic bread from my family’s recipe. They came to America in the early 1900’s from Sicily and Napoli, which explains why our family’s version includes the orange zest. They also made the more biscuit form of the bread called “Pupi cu l’uova” in Sicilian.
Like many of my family’s recipes, I set about adapting them to be completely plant-based while maintaining the nostalgic flavor and essence from our family traditions. I absolutely adore my grandma, and she’s my main inspiration for any Italian inspired recipes you see on the blog!
On that note, I will let you know that this recipe is fully approved by my Italian grandmother. She absolutely adored it, and wants me to continue making it for Easters to come!
What does Italian Easter bread symbolize?
Italian Easter bread actually has a pretty rich and deep history. The bread wreath originally came about and was baked during the celebration of Easter to represent the crown of thorns that Jesus Christ wore when crucified. Eggs are also very symbolic in Italian culture, as they represent birth and death.
The rising of the bread also represents the rising of Jesus Christ. As many know, the celebration of Easter is about the resurrection of Jesus. So pane di Pasqua really represents Jesus’ transformation and celebration of life.
Overview: How to make Italian Easter bread (Pane di Pasqua, according to my family’s recipe!)
As I mentioned above, this is not a traditional Italian Easter bread, in that I made my version entirely vegan.My family is originally from Sicily, and they celebrate with their more traditional pane di Pasqua (which includes real eggs on top) and pupi cu l’uova (I think pupi con l’uova in standard Italian- the other version is Sicilian dialect, which is what my family speaks).
Seeing as I follow a plant-based diet, I wanted to make my own version of the bread that I love so much. There really isn’t too much of a difference here from my grandmother’s recipe. Although, instead of using yolks, we’re using more vegan butter. Don’t worry- the Easter bread will still be plenty soft and pillow!
The full written instructions, along with ingredient measurements, are found down below in the recipe card. I walk you through exactly how to start the yeast, make the dough, rise the bread, and shape it.
Here are the basic steps:
- Make the dough: Very similarly to a brioche dough, we’ll add the vegan butter in last.
- Rise the dough: You want the dough to be doubled in size.
- Shape the dough: You can make mini Italian Easter breads or do one big pane di Pasqua. I’m showing you how to make four braided breads.
- Bake the bread: Brush with the vegan egg wash and top with sprinkles. Then bake!
- Top with the vegan Easter eggs: We’ll go over how to make those in the next section!
How to make the vegan eggs:
Traditionally, you would place a real egg that has been dyed a color in the middle of your wreaths. However, we’re vegan, so we’re going to make our own vegan version!
The centerpiece egg, as noted above, is actually made using vegan white chocolate, speckled as Robin egg aesthetic with vegan chocolate, and filled with vegan sprinkles. I used Pascha Chocolate (vegan white chocolate and vegan chocolate) and Sweetapolita Rainbow Sprinkles, respectively.
You will also need a silicone egg mold. Making these vegan white chocolate eggs is actually very similar in process to making our vegan Cadbury Creme Eggs. Here are the main steps:
- Melt the vegan white chocolate: Then you’ll color the chocolate blue and fill the molds.
- Scoop out the inside of each egg: This creates the cavity for the sprinkles.
- Fill half of the eggs with sprinkles: The other half will be used to seal the eggs shut.
- Seal the eggs shut: We’ll use a little extra vegan white chocolate to do that!
- Splatter the eggs with regular vegan chocolate: This creates the speckled egg look!
Italian Easter bread baking Tips:
If you’ve been a Banana Diaries reader for a while, then you know how much I love to make yeasted recipes. And I love helping others bake them successfully even more! 🙂
I’ve listed SO many tips and tricks for how to bake vegan bread and any troubleshooting tips and tricks in my Brioche and Dinner Rolls recipe posts. If this is your first time baking bread, please be sure to go check out those two posts and read through the material! It will list so many tips & tricks to help you achieve an amazing bread.
That being said, I do have a few extra tips here to make sure your vegan Italian Easter bread comes out amazing!
- If you’re not vegan: by all means, please decorate your pane di Pasqua according to tradition. I personally chose the chocolate egg route because I wanted to enjoy the bread alongside my family. Plus, I love chocolate and orange together! However, if you would prefer to go the more traditional route, please do! You can still use this vegan version of the bread, and decorate it more traditionally.
- If you don’t have orange: you can use lemon zest as well. I personally don’t like chocolate and lemon though, so I might omit the eggs then and just use sprinkles.
- The vegan egg wash: There are many routes to go for this, but I personally love the maple syrup + vegan butter combo, as it’s already a sweet bread. You can also use agave syrup if you’d prefer. I’ve found my bread browns best on the middle to top rack.
- Can I use rapid rise yeast? For this recipe, you absolutely can. The times listed in the recipe card below will be off, as rapid rise yeast will make your dough rise…well, faster! I’ve actually made this version pictured with rapid rise yeast, so both definitely work.
- How to know if the yeast is not working: I have a very in depth article on activating yeast in my vegan brioche bread post (linked below). Active yeast is just that- active and actually living! However, it stops working at temperature above 138F. I personally have noticed that if I’m not at exactly 110F, I risk ruining the yeast and needing to start over. To ensure that you don’t run into this issue, I highly suggest using a thermometer to make sure your dairy free milk is truly 110F.
Is Pane di Pasqua different from Challah?
Though I’ve seen some conflicting answers online, Pane di Pasqua is actually different from Challah bread, but they are similar! Pane di Pasqua is essentially a type of brioche bread, or enriched dough. Much like Challah is.
The main difference between Italian Easter bread and Challah is that Easter bread has the flavorings of orange juice, orange zest and anise (at least with my family!), whereas Challah is more of a sweet bread made with honey (but I do have a vegan version!).
Because Jared and I celebrate holidays from both religions with our family, we enjoy both! (Accept Challah on Passover 😉 ).
You’re just going to love this take on the classic Italian Easter bread! It’s so flavorful and reminds me so much of childhood! If you make this vegan pane di Pasqua, please be sure to leave a comment down below, as well as a rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ so that others may find it!
Happy bread baking!
More vegan bread recipes you’ll love:
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If you make this recipe, please be sure to leave a comment and a rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ below. This helps others to find the recipes! As always, I absolutely love to see your beautiful creations on Instagram and Pinterest, so be sure to tag me there as well!Print
This is a fun twist on my family’s traditional pane di Pasqua or Italian Easter bread! Made entirely vegan and topped with a homemade vegan white chocolate egg, this Italian Easter bread is full of orange zest and almonds with a sweet pillowy soft bread. The perfect bread centerpiece for your Italian Easter celebration!
Italian Easter Bread
- 1/2 cup (120 mL) dairy free milk, heated to 110F
- 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar or coconut sugar, divided
- 4 cups (550 g) bread flour or all purpose flour
- 2.5 tsp (.25 oz) dry activated yeast
- 12 tbsp (185 g) salted vegan butter*, room temperature
- 1/4 cup (62.5 grams) unsweetened applesauce or dairy free yogurt, room temperature
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) juice from 1 orange
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- orange zest from 1 orange
- 1/2 tsp almond extract (omit if nut free)
- vegan “egg” wash*
Vegan White Chocolate Eggs:
- 2 cups vegan white chocolate
- 1/4 cup vegan chocolate
- 1/2 cup vegan sprinkles
- 2–3 drops blue vegan food coloring or blue butterfly pea powder
- 1 silicone egg mold
- Please read through all instructions before beginning.
- Prep: Grease a medium bowl with olive or coconut oil, and set aside. Generously grease a 9″ loaf pan with olive or coconut oil as well, and set aside.
- Bloom the yeast: In a separate large bowl, combine the dairy free milk, 1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar, 1 tsp bread flour, and activated yeast. Mix with a wooden spoon, and cover. Place in a warm area to activate for about 10 minutes. The yeast should begin to foam and smell yeast-like (similar to beer).
- Make the dough: Once the yeast is activated, you’ll start the dough. In a large bowl or using a stand mixer with paddle attachment, add the bread flour and remaining sugar to the bowl. Mix just until the sugar is mixed throughout the flour. Then add in the dairy free yogurt, orange juice, orange zest, vanilla, almond extract, and bloomed yeast mixture. Mix on medium speed until a very shaggy dough forms, about 3-4 minutes. Then add in the tablespoons of vegan butter, and begin to mix again on medium speed. Stop every so often to reincorporate the butter. Once the vegan butter is incorporated, turn the speed of the stand mixer onto high, and allow the dough to be kneaded in the bowl for about 10-15 minutes, or until soft and pliable. The dough might still be slightly tacky, but should not leave globs of dough on your finger tip.
- Knead the dough: Once it starts to form a ball, lightly flour a clean surface and shape the dough into a ball.
- First proof: Place the dough ball into the medium sized greased bowl. Cover with a clean dish towel and place in a warm area (ideally above 80F) to rest for about 60-120 minutes, or until doubled in size.
- Make the pane di Pasqua: while the dough is rising, you can line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down lightly and gently pull the dough from the bowl onto a clean surface. Use a pizza cutter, bench scraper, or large kitchen knife to divide the dough into 4-6 even pieces (depending on how many loaves you would like to make. You can also just make one loaf). You can weigh them out for a more accurate dough. Take one piece and divide that further into three pieces. Gently roll each of the three pieces into long strands. Pinch them together at the top and start to braid the dough (see post photos). Then carefully and gently tuck the two ends together. Place the braided wreath onto the parchment paper. Repeat for the remaining Pane di Pasqua rolls, placing them on the baking sheet when done.
- Second rise: cover the Pane di Pasqua with a thin clean dish towel again and place in a warm area (by the oven is fine) to nearly double in size again. Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Bake the Pane di Pasqua: once the Pane di Pasqua has risen and the oven is preheated, make the vegan egg wash (see notes section). Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the mixture over the tops of the braids. You can lightly coat them with vegan sprinkles if you’d like. Place the Pane di Pasqua into the oven to bake for 18-20 minutes. The tops should be lightly golden and slightly crusted and hard, but not over baked.
- Shape the bread for the egg: Remove the Easter bread from the oven. Using an oven mitt, take the silicone egg mold and gently press one of the eggs on the egg mold into the center of each loaf. This will create a cavity for the vegan white chocolate egg to rest. Allow them to cool entirely while you make the vegan white chocolate eggs.
- Make the vegan white chocolate eggs: Melt the vegan white chocolate, either via stovetop or microwave. Add the blue food coloring to the white chocolate, and mix until completely mixed in. Pour the vegan white chocolate into the egg molds all the way to the top. You will have 8 egg halves. If you’ve made more than 4 loaves, you can make more eggs.
- Place the egg mold into the freezer to set for just 3-4 minutes. Then remove the egg mold, and scoop out the inside of the eggs (see photos), saving the centers of the eggs for when we seal the eggs together.
- Place the egg mold back into the freezer if the chocolate isn’t quite set. Freeze until it’s cold and set.
- Then remove again and carefully remove 4 of the egg halves. Fill the remaining 4 of the halves with sprinkles. If the saved white chocolate is starting to harden, remelt it.
- Then brush the rims of the sprinkled white chocolate halves with the melted vegan white chocolate. Quickly press the unfilled egg half on top to seal the egg shut. Allow the eggs to harden in the freezer.
- Remove the eggs from the freezer and place them on a plate. Remove the eggs entirely from the mold. Melt the vegan chocolate and take a pastry brush or hard bristle brush, and splatter the outsides of the eggs. Place the eggs back into the freezer for 2 minutes.
- Decorate the Italian Easter bread: place 1 egg into the center of each loaf. Serve immediately and enjoy!
- Storage: store any leftover pane di Pasqua in an airtight container or baggy. They will last at room temperature for 1-2 days, in the fridge for 4-5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Vegan egg wash: 1 tbsp maple syrup + 1 tbsp soy milk, mixed together
Salted vegan butter: If you’d like to use unsalted vegan butter, add in 1/4 tsp sea salt to the dry ingredients.
Keywords: pane di Pasqua, Italian Easter bread