Easter egg bread is a type of braided bread which is made with eggs tucked into the braids. Traditionally, Easter egg bread is made in the form of a ring, and the eggs are typically dyed in festive Easter colors. The bread base is usually similar to challah, and it comes out rich, fluffy, and designed to be easily pulled apart. You can find Easter egg bread at some bakeries around Easter time, and it can also be made at home.
This traditional food is Greek in origin. In Greece, families have been making and exchanging Easter egg bread during Orthodox Easter celebrations for centuries. Traditionally, the eggs are dyed red, to symbolize the blood of Christ and His rebirth. People outside of Greece often use eggs dyed in pastel colors, because these colors are closely associated with Easter, especially in the United States.
To make Easter egg bread, cooks make their favorite egg or milk bread recipe and allow it to rise. After the dough has risen, it is punched down and divided into chunks which can be rolled out into strands for braiding. Many people like to make a simple three strand braided bread, although other patterns are possible. The bread is braided into a ring, with eggs being tucked into pockets in the braid, and it is allowed to rise before being brushed with an egg and milk mixture and then being baked. Some cooks also like to sprinkle seeds on the bread after glazing, for more texture and flavor in the finished Easter egg bread.
Most cooks use raw eggs in their Easter egg bread, because the eggs will bake right along with the bread. As the bread rises, it creates a protective pocket which will hold and insulate each egg from the direct heat of the oven. Because of the risk of salmonella from eggshells, it is a good idea to wash the eggs well before weaving them into the braid. Cooks who want to dye their eggs can soak them in vinegar and food coloring and then pat them dry before adding them to the bread. For cooks concerned about exploding eggs, a small hole can be poked in each egg shell to allow it to release steam as it is baked, although this is not vitally necessary.
For a traditional Greek Easter bread, scald 1 cup (237 ml) of milk and add it to a large bowl with 3/4 quarters of a cup (170 g) of unsalted butter, cut into chunks. Whisk the milk until the butter is melted before adding 2 packages (0.5 oz or 14 g) of yeast and 1 cup (225 g) of sugar. Allow the mixture to rest briefly, and then add three large eggs, 1 teaspoon (5 g) of salt, 1 teaspoon (5 g) of cardamom, and 1 teaspoon (5 g) of lemon zest. Slowly beat in up to 6 cups (660 g) of unbleached white flour to form a dough, and then knead the dough for 20 minutes or until it is elastic. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in bulk, punch it down and braid/glaze it as above, and then allow it to rise for another 30 minutes before baking in a 350 degree Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius) oven until it is golden brown.