lemon and anise easter bread

italian easter bread easter eggitalian easter breadanise and marscapone easter bread

It has been perhaps a couple years since I last made bread using commercial yeast. It was like a dream – a dream of the most insanely active and bubbly sourdough starter that there ever was. The dough rose in an hour! I would look away, and then look back and it was already bigger. The second rise was even shorter.

My sourdough starter has acquainted me well with long fermentations and rises at a snail pace. I’ve become fairly patient, but the need for an overnight start, then a 6-8 rise, and a last 4-6 hour rise means that it takes some careful scheduling to ensure it works out.It was a couple weeks ago that I made a rye and caraway bread. It, by the end, had no gluten left to support the structure. You see, I intended to take out the dough, I ended up going out and forgot. For the next three days I was spending well over 10 hours away and so leaving my dough out overnight would result in a longer bulk fermentation than would be required. It needed to be a day where I ended early enough to come back, form the dough and set it aside for the final rise.

By the time that happened, the dough had spent five days in the fridge. It had puffed a little bit, but had also disintegrated (overly acidic sourdough starter problems again? still in hypothesis stage though…)Slow rises aside, another problem? I tend to have a tougher crumb when I make sourdough. I’ve made breads with higher fat and egg content than this, and ended up with something much drier and tougher. This bread was fluffy and very soft and very tender. My grandparents expressed enough appreciation of the fluffiness to make me wonder whether they particularly like the sourdough I normally make.

And of course, there is the taste. I think just plain breads taste best with sourdough, but in my more sweet-oriented baking experiences, the tang of sourdough can be a bit too much – for example, the time I made sourdough baba au rhum. The combination of sweet rum syrup and a very strong tasting and acidic sourdough bread was not the best.

This is a bit dangerous actually–I already neglect my sourdough starter enough and having rediscovered the convenience and ease of commercial yeast….

Anyways, I quite unequivocally recommend this bread. It is adapted, with some additions of lemon and spices, from the Italian Dish. The eggs have been coloured with sumac (sumac is my new favourite colouring agent–more to come on that in later posts!), and I also made a big mascarpone-and-raisin stuffed braided bread. The mascarpone cooks down, but the raisins are plump and the whole bread is rich.

I’m bringing this bread to Angie’s marvellous Fiesta Friday. Angie is the most welcoming host I know. After all, she always puts on such a fun and warm party every week. Lately I have not been attending too much, so I’m glad to be back this week.

This week is cohosted by the absolutely wonderful Sonal from simplyvegetarian777…and me! So I hope to meet a lot of you–as I’ve sort of lost touch with FF recently, I think there are a lot of bloggers that I have yet to have encountered.

lemon and anise easter bread

Adapted from the Italian DishEnough dough and filling for 3 egg breads, and one big mascarpone-filled bread. The nonpareils melted a bit and the dragΓ©es (which also happen to be marked as “only for decoration”) didn’t, so it is up to you!

kamut, lemon and anise dough

280 mL warm milk

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

generous pinch salt

zest of 1/2 lemon

1 tsp ground anise

1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

75 g sugar (~1/3 c)

120 g Kamut (~3/4 c)

464 g all purpose flour (~3 1/2 c), or as needed

2 tsp instant yeast

75 g butter, room temperature (~1/3 c)

for the eggs


sumac (or hibiscus would be another option)

for the filling

150 g mascarpone

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp milk

1 generous capful of Sambucca (or Amaretto)

zest of 1 lemon

40 g raisins

to bake

1 egg, beaten

pearly dragΓ©es or nonpareils (if you like)

To make the dough, mix the milk and vanilla together. In a bowl, combined the salt, lemon, anise, nutmeg, sugar, kamut, and 150 g of the flour. Beat in the milk and eggs. Add the butter and beat until combined. Then mix in flour as needed to form a nice soft dough that is on the sticky end of tacky.

Let rise for around one hour or until doubled.

While it rises, prepare the eggs. Heat up enough water to cover the eggs and a spoonful of sumac in a saucepan. Let the water cool before submerging the eggs. I let them steep for around two hours before removing and drying off the eggs.

Also prepare the filling. Combine all the ingredients except for the raisins and beat until smooth. Let the raisins soak in hot water for 5 minutes to soften before draining and adding to the filling.

Use half the dough to make a big mascarpone-filled bread. Divide the half portion of the dough into three pieces and roll each into a long snake. Flatten each into a wide strip (the wider, the easier). Fill a piping bag (use a big tip or no tip to let the raisins through) and pipe a stripe of filling over each piece of dough. Wrap each one up to completely encase the filling. Braid the three strands gently and form into a circle or spiral. Place on a baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let proof for an hour or until nicely puffed.

Use the remaining half of the dough to make three egg breads. Divide the remaining dough into 6 pieces. Roll each into a thin snake. Twist two of them together and then form it into a circle. Repeat for the remaining 4 pieces of dough. Place on a baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let proof for an hour or until nicely puffed.

Preheat the oven to 380F.

Just before baking, brush each bread with beaten egg and scatter with some dragΓ©es if desired.

Bake at 380F for first 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 for another 25-30 minutes for the big bread and another 10-15 minutes for the small breads.

Let cool on a wire rack–especially let the mascarpone bread cool completely before slicing open.

56 thoughts on “lemon and anise easter bread

  1. These are so pretty! Love them and the flavours. The spiral and circle plaited shapes are great – would like to try that one day. And welcome back to baking bread with yeast! πŸ™‚ I still have to try sourdough one day… Hey, just noticed you’re hosting FF – so happy hosting! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Lili! I’m still working on the braid–after I made it, I tried to push it together into some circular shape with mixed results πŸ˜€ Haha, and yes! I’m quite pleased to be back to quick yeast, and maybe a bit too pleased! It’s certainly a lot less troublesome than the dear sourdough starter πŸ™‚ And thanks! I do like how cohosting ensures I visit and see so many other bloggers πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Ah, shaping braided-type breads is always my nemesis. I was a bit stuck on what to do with the braid after I finished it, so I squished it together. I think next time I would just leave it in a long braid instead. And it’s a pleasure to cohost! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thank you! I quite agree–while the bread stayed tender enough for the next couple days, I enjoyed it toasted and buttered with coffee for breakfast. And then I usually ate a bit more for lunch πŸ˜‰


    1. Thank you Jenny! It was quite subtle, so nothing stood out as too dominant. I do love anise, so I wouldn’t mind a stronger flavour, but this way it had that spring-y Easter bread taste and went well with anything, sweet or savoury, smeared on top πŸ™‚


    1. Haha, this Easter bread has been on my baking list for a few years now–and I’ve only just gotten around to it this year! So I think you’re still ahead of me πŸ™‚ Thank you Caroline!


    1. Thank you Aunt Juju! Yes, hurrah for marscapone! It cooks down and mostly seeps into the bread, leaving little pockets of richness and raisins. It’s quite nice, but for a thick and smooth filling, I think there would need to be quite a bit more! Ah, I do find all this scheduling of bread tough, and so quite often it gets pushed to the weekend. I agree though–very worth it to take the time!
      Cohosting has been a pleasure! πŸ™‚


    1. Thank you Julie! Haha, you should be careful what you say as I’m sure I could write hours worth of bread complaints and disasters–mostly on the sourdough side of things! And then sometimes there’s an occasional success such as this one…oh the power of quick instant yeast πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Lily! Still working on the braiding and figuring out the mechanics–such as how to make a nice shape with the braid after it’s done! At least everything rises and poofs evenly and that helps smooth things over πŸ™‚


    1. Thank you Anjana!! I’m still debating whether the pearly dragees were a wise choice though, and trying to figure out whether they’re better tucked in the nooks and creases or dotted all over. Hmm, hmm so many things to try πŸ™‚


  2. This looks gorgeous! And I admire your patience! I don’t think I could handle such long rises as you mentioned! But I’m glad this recipe also worked so well with that yeast! The yeast beast can be quite fickle!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The long rises definitely test the patience, but as long as you can fit your schedule around it, it’s fine…though it’s sometimes too unwieldily a bake for the week! Thank you Nell! Good luck with your own fickle yeast beasts πŸ™‚


    1. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one Liz! It precipitates itself in a vicious circle–I neglect my sourdough starter because sometimes I find it too troublesome to work with the timing. The neglected sourdough starter becomes more and more sluggish and the rises longer and longer, making it even more tricky to deal with!
      Cohosting has been a pleasure πŸ™‚


    1. Thank you Naina! The sumac colour took a little while to set in, but it turned out very pleasantly. I think hibiscus is worth an experiment to see if it sets and stays a bit faster–I think it would give a similar pink colour πŸ™‚


  3. Oh, these look so wonderful! I did make the Italian Easter bread a couple of years ago, but not like these. Not with filling or sumac dyed eggs, etc. Nothing like these! These are so professionally done. Perfect! Thanks for hosting Fiesta Friday, Laurie! You’re a sweetheart! ❀️❀️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thank you Angie! Sometimes I end up trying to fit all my ideas in one recipe… But a nice fluffy bread just needs some butter, I think, fillings and sumac-colours optional! It was a pleasure to cohost for such a sweet host πŸ™‚ xx


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