Italian Easter Bread by Jeanne Scarpato


Jeanne's Italian Easter Bread

Nonna Scarpato’s Torta di Pasqua (Italian prosciutto bread)

This is a traditional Italian Easter specialty known as torta di pasqua. It makes a tasty and savory addition to a brunch, and any left over make inspired post-holiday sandwiches.

Every Easter I looked forward to my grandmother’s prosciutto bread. It would arrive, still warm from the long trek from North Bergen, NJ, to our house. The aromas were enticing.

This Easter will be the first without my grandmother. This past year, my dear nonna went to her eternal rest. Her recipe for the bread, along with other recipes, was given to my Aunt Marie. Most of them scratched on note cards in her hand writing, oil and food stained, and faded.

So this year, even though I will not have the pleasure of my nonna’s company to enjoy this year for Easter, the moment I smell and taste my Aunt Marie’s prosciutto bread, all those great memories will come back for me and her tradition will live on.

Buono Appetito!

Ingredients: Yield: Makes 1 loaf or 2 long rolls

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • ½ cup warm milk (110 to 115°F)
  • 5 large eggs (4 for the dough, 1 for the egg wash)
  • ¼ cup fruity olive oil
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3½ to 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon of hot pepper flakes
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • ½ cup shredded Swiss or Fontina cheese
  • 5 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into thin shreds (4 for the dough, 1 for sprinkling on top)

Directions

1. Stir the yeast into the milk in a large mixing bowl and let stand until dissolved, 5 to 10 minutes. Beat in the eggs, olive oil, and butter until well blended. Combine 3½ cups flour with the salt and hot pepper flakes, add it to the yeast mixture, and stir to form dough. Work in the cheeses and only 4 ounces of the prosciutto.

2. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead, adding more flour if the dough is too sticky, until smooth and satiny, 7 to 10 minutes. Shape the dough into 1 round and bulbous loaf (preferred) or cut dough in half and make two long rolls. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, 1½ to 2 hours.

3. Once dough has risen, uncover and beat the remaining egg to make an egg wash. Brush lightly with the egg and then sprinkle remaining prosciutto on top of the loaf(s).

4. Preheat the oven to 400° F.

5. Bake the bread until the loaf round sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, 30 to 40 minutes. If you are making the two long rolls, check for doneness after 25 minutes. You can put the two rolls in for 5 minutes more if they are not golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack.

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