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April is here, and so is Easter

Lisa Keys,

A beautiful and delicious Italian Easter bread is a great way to make your holiday celebration a little bit better.


Well, April has arrived and Easter will be on the 21st this year.

Most of us have some nice memories of this holiday, especially from when we were kids. It was a very exciting time for me, even though I had to wear fancy foo-foo dresses my Godmother Mary sent every year. Being a tomboy, I hated wearing dresses, but I knew it was something that was, at least on Easter Sunday, nonnegotiable. Luckily, I learned to just accept and endure, although to this day I haven’t got one dress in my wardrobe.

Seeing all my favorite relatives and a table set with favorite foods helped make for an exciting day, plus the annual Easter egg hunt. For my own kids, I had to change from decorated hard-boiled eggs to the plastic kind, because there were always at least a couple of missing eggs and after a while, those become pretty foul. Especially indoors. We always had to hunt for the Easter baskets too.

When everything was found, my kids always wanted me to “hide them again, Mom”. Most of the time I would comply. Anyway, back to the food aspect.

My Italian Nana worked for days making delicious yeast breads to enjoy after church. I used to help, both with the making and the eating.

Here are some recipes that might inspire you to start a tradition of your own, or add to the one you may already have. I hope you are enjoying Spring so far.

Butterscotch sticky bun ring

2 small tubes refrigerator buttermilk biscuits or 1 tube Pillsbury Grands buttermilk biscuits

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 cup pancake syrup (any brand you like, I used Mrs. Butterworth’s)

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped pecans, optional

1/4 cup chopped almonds, optional

1. Preheat oven to 375. Spray a fluted pan with non-stick spray. Combine the melted butter and syrup in a small bowl and set aside. In another bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts (if desired).

2. Place about half of the syrup mixture in the bottom of the pan. Then sprinkle half of the brown sugar mixture on top.

3. Lay the biscuits on the bottom of the pan, overlapping edges (closely together) to form a ring. Top with remaining syrup and sugar mixtures.

4. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 1 minute in the pan, then invert onto a serving platter and enjoy!

Note: You can use 1 1/2 tubes of the Pillsbury Grands buttermilk biscuits if 1 doesn’t seem like enough and bake it for about 30 minutes.

Italian Easter bread

I found it easier to just dye hard-boiled eggs, and when bread was baking, I used balls of crinkled aluminum foil about the size of the eggs. When baking was done, I removed the foil and replaced it with the colored eggs. Doing it any other way always caused the color to blister in the oven, plus the eggs would never peel easily. Also, I drizzled a confectioners’ sugar icing on the baked bread, and added a few colorful sprinkles.

3 to 3 1/2 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 package (1/4-ounce) active dry yeast

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup warm milk (120 to 130 degrees)

2 tablespoons butter, softened

7 eggs

1/2 cup chopped mixed candied fruit

1/4 cup chopped blanched almonds

1/2 teaspoon aniseed

Canola oil (or other vegetable oil)

1. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Add milk and butter; beat 2 minutes on medium. Add 2 eggs and 1/2 cup flour; beat 2 minutes on high. Stir in fruit, nuts and aniseed; mix well. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

2. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, 6 to 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl; turn once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

3. If desired, dye remaining eggs (leave them uncooked); lightly rub with oil. Punch dough down. Divide in half; roll each piece into a 24-inch rope. Loosely twist ropes and tuck eggs into openings. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan; cool on a wire rack.


Something I started making back in the early ‘70s. Prepare the filling ahead of time.

1 package active dry yeast

1 cup warm milk (105 to 115 degrees F), divided

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 large eggs

6 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

4 cups flour, divided

Egg wash:

1 large egg, beaten

1 teaspoon cream, milk or water

Prune topping, see instructions below:

1 pound pitted prunes, or 8 ounces pitted prunes and 8 ounces dried pitted cherries

2 cups water

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice or prune juice

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)

Apricot topping, see instructions below:

2 cups dried apricots

1 cup orange juice (or 1 cup water and 1 tablespoon lemon juice)

1/2 cup granulated sugar, light brown sugar, or honey

1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice or dark rum

For prune topping: In a bowl or large bottle, pour the water over the prunes and let stand at room temperature for several hours or overnight. In a large saucepan, simmer the prunes and water until very tender, about 30 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. To the hot prunes, add the sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and optional cloves and mash until smooth. Stir in the reserved cooking liquid. Let cool. The topping can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

For apricot topping: In a medium saucepan, simmer the apricots and orange juice over medium heat until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain. In a food processor, puree the apricots with the sugar and lemon juice until smooth. The topping can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

1. In a small bowl or measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup warm milk (according to package directions).

2. In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture with the remaining milk, butter, eggs, sugar, salt and zest. Blend in 1 1/2 cups flour. Gradually add enough of the remaining flour to make a workable dough.

3. On a lightly floured surface or in a mixer with a dough hook, knead the dough until smooth and springy, about 5 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl and turn to coat.

4. Cover with a kitchen towel or loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in bulk, 2 to 3 hours, or in the refrigerator overnight.

5. Punch down the dough, knead briefly, cover, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 1/4 hours.

6. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease the sheet. Punch down the dough, knead briefly, divide in half, form into balls, and let stand for 10 minutes.

7. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough 1/2-inch thick. Cut into 2 1/2-inch rounds. Reroll and cut out the scraps.

8. Place on parchment paper-lined or greased baking sheets about 1 inch apart, cover with a towel or plastic wrap spritzed with cooking spray, and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

9. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375. Using your thumb or the back of a spoon, press 1 large or 2 smaller deep indentations into the center of each round, leaving a 1/2-inch wide rim. Brush the edges with the egg wash. Spoon about 1 tablespoon topping into the indentations

10. Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes, or until the center of the dough registers about 180 on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

11. Kolache are best eaten on the same day they are made, but can be covered with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days on in freezer for up to 3 months.

Easy cream cheese Danish

2 (10-ounce) cans refrigerated crescent roll dough

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, diced

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons sour cream

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon milk

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Line bottom of baking pan with 1 can of crescent rolls. Pinch all seams together to seal.

2. In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese, granulated sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and sour cream. Spread filling on top of rolls. Place second can of rolls on top of filling.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together confectioners’ sugar, milk and butter. After Danish has cooled, drizzle with icing.

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