Editor's Note — Still "Searching for Italy"? Watch all six episodes of Stanley Tucci's CNN Original Series on demand via CNNgo. And tune in to season two Sundays at 9 p.m.
The "Searching for Italy" host included a recipe for the seasonal baked good in his 2012 recipe collection, "The Tucci Cookbook," and explains that it's a mainstay for his family every year.
"My grandmother Nonna Tucci baked this cake-like bread, decorated with eggs, every Easter," Tucci says. "Now my cousin Maria Pia has taken over ... She knows just how soft and sticky the dough should feel to create a light, not-too-sweet bread, and she serves it along with other desserts and coffee. Leftovers are great for breakfast, too."
In Italy, as in many countries, there's a tradition of baking sweet, enriched breads to celebrate the Easter holiday.
Maria Pia's Easter bread with lemon icing.
Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
In the Tucci family, it's all about the anello di pasqua, or Easter "ring," that's studded with whole eggs before it's placed in the oven.
If you want a festive look to your finished loaf, you can dye the raw eggs before placing them onto the dough; "they bake along with the bread and can be removed from their shells and eaten just like hard-boiled eggs," Tucci explains. No food dye? No problem -- plain eggs will work just as well.
"When I was growing up, my other grandmother, Nonna Tropiano, or my aunt Angie would give us each one of these breads as an Easter gift," Tucci says in his book. "We would carry them around, munching on the sweet dough for hours."
We can't imagine a better way to eat this spring.
Maria Pia's Easter bread from 'The Tucci Cookbook'
9 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) butter, softened
1½ cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk or water
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
2. In a medium-size bowl, beat six of the eggs, the granulated sugar and the vanilla until pale yellow and frothy. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, stir together three cups of the flour, the salt, and the baking powder. Add the butter and blend with an electric mixer to form a crumbly mixture. Gradually beat in the egg mixture. Add up to ½ cup of the remaining flour to form a soft dough that is dry on the outside but still sticky on the inside.
4. Gently roll the dough into a log about 15 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Cut off a 1-inch-long piece of the dough and set aside. Place the log on a baking sheet. Bring the ends of the log together to form a circle, pinching the dough together to seal the ends. Press one of the remaining eggs into the dough at this joint. Place the other 2 eggs an even distance apart on either side of the joint, gently pressing them into the dough.
5. Roll the reserved dough into six ropes about ½ inch wide and 4 inches long. Place two ropes over each egg to form an X, or cross, pinching gently to seal the ends of the ropes to the bread dough. Bake until the bread is light golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
6. In a small bowl mix the confectioners' sugar, milk, and lemon extract until smooth. Drizzle the icing back and forth over the bread to create a decorative topping. Allow the icing to set for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.