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German Easter Bread (Osterbrot): Easy Sweet Bread

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Celebrate the season with an easy-to-make, delicious, and fragrant German Easter Bread called Osterbrot. Full of sweet flavors and hints of citrus, it’s a rich sweet bread topped with almonds. It’s traditionally enjoyed for Easter but delicious enough for any occasion.

Osterbrot, German Easter Bread loaf on a round wood board with a cross etched in the top.

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German Easter Bread Tradition and Symbolism

The custom of baking Easter bread is a long tradition in German families, including my own. I’ve written about my great-grandmother Schell in my Paska: Ukrainian Easter Bread post.

Easter bread is often baked on Easter Saturday (or Kar-Samstag) so it can be blessed at the church prior to Sunday. The baking of this delicious, irresistible bread fills the home with the fragrance of the holiday. And that alone is a treat!

What is Osterbrot, or German Easter Bread?

Much like Jewish Challah or Italian Easter Bread, Osterbrot is a rich, fragrant sweet bread. It has symbolic significance and is served to break the Lenten fast, for breakfast or teatime.

Leftovers can be toasted (which is utterly divine) or made into bread pudding, much like my Cinnamon Brioche Bread Pudding.

Breadmaking has a long tradition in many European countries and dates to early Byzantium and Orthodox Christian churches. Hot Cross Buns were traditionally made on Good Friday, and German Easter breads are often made on Easter Saturday.

German Easter Bread Symbolism

While many Easter breads are braided or have braided decorations (like Italian Easter Bread and Paska), Osterbrot is shaped into a round “boulle.” It is often baked until the crust is golden, and a cross is etched on the top, symbolizing crucifixion.

What is Sweet Bread Dough?

You may wonder what sweet dough is. Essentially, it differs from regular bread dough in that it often contains fat (like butter), milk, and a sweetener, in this case, sugar. They also often contain dried fruit.

Sweet dough is used in many recipes. Some of my favorite Easter yeasted sweet bread recipes include the above-mentioned Italian Easter Bread and Paska, but I also love Ukrainian Kulich. More sweet bread favorites you may also want to take a look at are:

Top view of ingredients for German Easter Bread on a round wood board.

Ingredients for German Easter Bread

You will find ingredient measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of this post, but this is the list of what you will need.

  • Dried fruit: Raisins, golden raisins and/or currants are delicious in this bread. They will be soaked in hot water before being added to the dough.
  • Milk and butter (salted or unsalted) are heated together until the milk is gently scalded, which aids in activating the yeast and gives the bread extra moisture and a beautiful rise.
  • Sugar: I prefer granulated sugar in this recipe
  • Instant Yeast is added directly to the dry ingredients instead of active dry yeast which needs to proof.
  • All-purpose flour is measured by spooning and leveling in the measuring cups.
  • Large eggs help the dough rise and create a large crumb.
  • Citrus Zest: You can use either orange or lemon zest. My German grandmothers always used orange, so the tradition continues with me!

How to Make German Easter Bread

The recipe card at the bottom of this post provides more detailed step-by-step instructions, but here is an overview of how to make Osterbrot.

Step 1: Soak dried fruit and scald milk

Soak the raisins in hot water for up to 30 minutes, then warm the milk and butter in a small saucepan until lukewarm.

Top view of scalded milk in a sauce pan with soaking fruit above.

Step 2: Make the dough

Add sugar, yeast, flour, salt, citrus zest, milk mixture, and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook, mix and knead until combined.

Add the soaked dried fruit and knead the dough for 5-7 minutes.

Step 3: Rise

Shape the dough into a round ball, cover it, and let it rise in an oiled bowl for 90 minutes to 2 hours.

Top view of German Easter Bread dough rising in a glass bowl.

Step 4: Prepare for baking

Deflate the dough gently and form it into a round shape. Place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Let it rest at room temperature for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375℉ and place a tray with water on the bottom shelf. This will create steam in the oven. Prepare the egg wash and set aside.

Step 5: Score the cross and bake the bread

When ready to bake, brush the dough with egg wash. Use a sharp knife or a dough etching tool and score a cross on the top of the loaf. Sprinkle generously with sliced almonds and additional sugar if desired.

Top view of sweet bread dough on parchment lined baking dish, brushed with egg wash, scored with a cross, and sliced almonds sprinkled over the top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until it’s a deep golden brown. If it’s browning too quickly, loosely tent it with foil. Let cool before slicing and enjoying for Easter.

German Easter Bread on a wooden stand sliced into wedges.

More Easter Recipes to Try!

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German Easter Bread on a wooden stand sliced into wedges.

German Easter Bread (Osterbrot)

Celebrate the season with an easy German Easter Bread called Osterbrot. A rich, soft sweet bread with hints of citrus, and utterly delicious!
5 from 2 votes
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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Rising Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Servings: 1 large loaf

Ingredients

Dough

  • 1 cup dried fruit like raisins, golden raisins and/or currants soaked
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (to 4¼ cups) spooned and leveled
  • 1 ½ teaspoons table salt
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest or lemon zest
  • 2 large eggs

Topping

  • egg wash egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water.
  • sliced almonds for garnish

Instructions

  • Soak the raisins in hot water for up to 30 minutes, then drain off the liquid and pat dry.
  • Warm the milk and butter in a small saucepan until the butter melts. Let cool to lukewarm.
  • Add sugar, yeast, flour, salt, zest, lukewarm milk mixture, and the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook, mix and knead until combined. Then add the soaked (and pat dried) fruit and knead for 5-7 minutes. The dough will be tacky but not sticky. Depending on how wet and plump the dried fruit is, you may need to add a little extra flour (1 tablespoon at a time). For me, I haven't needed to add any additional flour.
  • Shape the dough into a round ball or "boule," cover, and let it rise in an oiled bowl in a warm place until puffy, about 90 minutes to 2 hours.
  • Deflate gently and form the dough into a round "boule" shape. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and rest at room temperature for 45 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375℉ and place a tray with water on the bottom shelf. This will create steam in the oven. Prepare the egg wash and set aside.
  • When ready to bake, brush the risen dough with the egg wash. Use a sharp knife or a dough etching tool (which I absolutely love), and score a cross on the top of the loaf. Sprinkle generously with sliced almonds and additional sugar if desired.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until it's a deep golden brown and a digital thermometer inserted into the center reads 185-190℉. Loosely tent with foil if it's browning too quickly. Let cool before slicing.

Video

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

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Course: Bread
Cuisine: German
Keyword: German Easter Bread, Osterbrot

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