Italian Christmas Bread

50 m
7 h 0 m
Ready in:
7 h 50 m
Dessert: Italian Christmas Bread
Print it
Servings: 36
Warm water
1/3 cup (110° F/45° C)
Active dry yeast
2 packages (1/2 oz total)
All-purpose flour
4 cups
Warm milk
½ cup
White sugar
2/3 cup
4 eggs + 2 egg yolks + 1 yolk
Vanilla extract
1 tsp
Unsalted butter
12 tbsps
Candied fruit
2 cups
Lemon zest
2 ½ tsps, grated
Orange zest
2 tbsps, grated
2 tbsps, melted
1 tbsp
  • Place a small bowl under hot running water to warm it up. Add warm water, sprinkle 1 package of yeast on top. Leave in a warm place to let the yeast dissolve. 
  • Add ½ cup flour, mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit until doubled (about 30 minutes or so).
  • In another bowl, sprinkle the other package of yeast over warm milk. Let sit until yeast dissolves.
  • In a large bowl, beat eggs with 2 egg yolks, sugar and vanilla. Add the milk mixture, stir well. Add the flour-yeast mixture, too, and stir until fully incorporated.
  • Cut butter into 3 ½ cups flour until you get dough crumbs. Start beating on high while pouring the egg mixture in a thin thread. Continue beating until you add in all of the egg mixture and get an elastic dough with long strands forming.  Fold in candied fruit and both zests.
  • Oil a clean bowl, place dough inside and cover with plastic wrap. LSet into a warm place for about 2 to 3 hours to rise.
  • Fold 3 oven bags to form 3-in cuffs. Smear with melted butter inside and out.
  • Knead the dough a little on a flour-dusted work surface until deflated. Divide into 3 pieces, roll into balls and place them in the bags. Place the bags onto a baking sheet about 4 inches apart, cover each with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for 2 more hours or till doubled in size.
  • Pre-heat oven to 400°F/200°C/Gas Mark 6.
  • Mix cream with the remaining egg yolk.
  • Oil scissors and cut an X on top of the loaves.  Smear the tops with the egg wash lightly.
  • Place the baking sheet into the lower 1/3 of the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375°F/190°C/Gas Mark 5. Continue baking for 30 minutes. If the tops brown too early, cover them with aluminum foil. Check readiness with a wooden skewer. Slice up when cooled completely.
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