More >

Nana Fall River's Easter "Dolls"

Le Pupazze di Nonna Fall River

Makes 10

Easter Bread in Calabria is shaped like dolls or babies called pupazze. My good friend Tomie dePaola, the noted children's author and illustrator, who often sets his stories in Italy, gave me his grandmother's recipe in which the dough is braided and an egg is nestled in the top of the braid, like a small baby wrapped in a blanket. When Tomie makes these, he freezes them to give away to dear friends.


3 packages active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm (110º to 115ºF) water

3 cups plus ½ teaspoon sugar

2 cups milk

31 eggs

1 pound solid vegetable shortening, melted and cooled to lukewarm

5 pounds King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon fine sea salt

2 egg yolks beaten with 2 tablespoons water, for egg wash


In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Sprinkle on 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar and stir to dissolve. Let the yeast proof, covered, for 10 minutes, or until foamy.

In a medium saucepan, scald the milk (bring to just under a boil).

In a heavy-duty electric mixer, beat 21 of the eggs until frothy. Add the milk and the remaining 3 cups sugar and blend well. Add the shortening and mix well. Add the yeast mixture and stir to blend. Add the shortening and mix well.

Sift the flour, cinnamon, and salt together. Using a dough hook, gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, mixing until a ball of dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in a large oiled bowl. Brush the top of the dough with oil and cover the dough with plastic wrap and then a towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place until it is doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Lightly butter two cookie sheets. Punch down the dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 to 3 minutes. Divide into 30 equal balls. Roll each ball into a rope about 12 inches long.

For each bread, braid 3 ropes together, then nestle an egg in the top of the braid. Place the braids on the cookie sheets and brush with the egg wash. Cover the braids with a towel and let rise in a warm place for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Bake the braids for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Note: When completely cool, these may be frozen, well wrapped in aluminum foil.

Variation: Make braided wreaths instead of pupazze.

This recipe is from CELEBRATIONS ITALIAN STYLE by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company Inc., in 1995. There is also a photograph of the finished "Dolls" in this book.


  1. Janet Mastrangelo-Dane's avatar

    Janet Mastrangelo-Dane

    I have an Easter bread recipe that was passed down from my grandmother Guilia from Sulmona Italy... it is very different from any recipe I have found on-line... has fresh cheese and romano... wondering it you have any contacts from Sulmona that would know about it... my mom would make a doll for me and a horse for my dad and place an egg in the dough in the stomach area... my dad use to say Pupalli... but I am wondering if it should have been Pupazze... thank you
  2. Mary Ann Esposito's avatar

    Mary Ann Esposito

    Janet, I think this cheese bread is similar to one we make called crescia and you can find it on the web site under breads or type in the name.
  3. Frankie's avatar


    Nana Fall River's Easter "Dolls"

    Are the eggs raw when placed in the braided bread to bake?
  4. Christine's avatar


    My 'Noni' made an Easter Bread she called 'ciambell(a). She did not read or write so the recipe died with her. Others of my maternal grandmother's friends made it too. They were all from Abruzzi. However, Noni's was the best.
    I thought I heard Tomie DePaola call it by the same name, was I correct? I took down the recipe from the TV show, but in moving twice since then I have misplaced it. Is this the recipe I am thinking of? I know you were making 'dolls' and I simply heard the name as he spoke. Thanks!
  5. louis j pastore's avatar

    louis j pastore

    Are the eggs raw and where do you incorporate the shortening?
    Is the shortening just used for buttering?

Leave a Comment

Looking for even more photos and recipes?
Order my latest book.

Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy

Mary Ann's newest book contains over 150 recipes, 60 gorgeous food photos, and many scenic pictures of Italy taken by Mary Ann on her travels through the years.

Order using this link and receive a signed book plate.

Available now!