Soft and lightly sweet Italian Easter Bread
Warm the milk to 110°F or just warm to touch. Make sure that the eggs and butter are at room temperature.
Take 1 C flour and 1/4 C sugar in the mixing bowl. Stir to combine. Sprinkle the yeast on top and pour about 1/2 of the milk. Mix and set aside for 10 minutes. The mix would have visibly puffed up by then.
Turn the dough out to a floured work surface and knead by hand for about 1 minute. Form into a smooth ball.
Mix flour , salt and butter into a pile on a well floured kneading surface . Make a well in the middle and add the yeast mix . Beat the egg a little and add to the mix. Slowly incorporate the flour into the wet mix in the middle adding as much of the milk as necessary. Once the dough has comes together add the softened butter , essence and zest. Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough feels soft and elastic and visibly shiny. It should no longer stick to the surfaces. If needed add a few more tablespoons of flour.
Place the dough in a greased bowl and turn it over once to coat all sides with oil. Cover with plastic wrap (wet towel or a fairly tight lid) and allow the dough to rise in a warm place, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Gently punch down the risen dough to deflate. Transfer to a floured work surface and pat down to a thick rectangle. Divide into 12 even pieces.
Roll each piece to form a rope of about 14 to 16 inches in length. Take two ropes and twist them together. Loop the twist into a circle and interlace the ends and tuck them under. transfer the circle onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
If making the filled circles, pinch off a piece from the rope before connecting the ends. Roll the pinched piece into a ball and place in the center.
Cover with plastic wrap p and set aside to double in size , about 30 minutes.
Place the oven rack in the center. Preheat the oven to 350°F (170°C).
Beat 1 egg with 1 tsp of water to make the egg wash. Using a pastry brush brush the tops of the risen loaves. If not using the glaze sprinkle sugar or decorative sprinkles on top. Place the colored raw eggs in the middle of the risen circles.
Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
Transfer to a cooling rack.
Mix the confectioner's sugar, vanilla extract and milk/water together to form a thick paste. Drizzle over the warm loaves. Decorate with sprinkles