April 5, 2009

Colomba pasquale – Italian Easter dove bread

This recipe makes 2 loaves when using 17 oz capacity paper molds.

Colomba pasquale is a traditional sweet bread made especially for Easter in Italy. I personally believe it is the perfect excuse to eat panettone off-season. The texture and procedure are almost the same, with Colomba di pasqua being a little bit nearer to a French brioche. The process is long and hard to do by hand; however the result is just spectacular.

½ cup warm water
3 ½ tsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
½ cup flour
3 egg yolks

Dissolve the yeast in the ½ cup of warm water. Add the sugar and wait until it doubles in size (about 5 minutes). In a bowl, mix the flour with the active yeast, and add the egg yolks one by one while mixing. The result will be a very sticky dough. Cover and keep it refrigerated overnight. The day after you’ll understand why it’s called sponge.

First dough
Sponge +
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
3/4 cup warm milk
1 ½ cups flour
3 Tbsp butter

Dissolve the sugar in 5 Tbsp of warm milk. Add the yeast and let it rise for about 5 minutes. In a bowl, mix the flour with the active yeast. Add the sponge and the butter, and mix using your hands. Let it double in size for about 2 hours, covered in a warm place.

Second dough
First dough +
½ cup sugar
1 Tbsp honey
3 egg yolks
1 pouch vanilla sugar *
2 pouches orange puree *

Zest of 1 orange
2 cups flour
Pinch of salt
8 Tbsp butter
* I use Dr Oetker brand

Take the first dough, press it with your hands, and then add the flour and all the other ingredients, except the butter. We’ll add the butter later. Work the dough with your hands for at least 10 minutes. One by one add each tablespoon of butter and continue kneading the dough. Take the dough, stretch it and then slap it on the table repeatedly for at least 5 minutes. I know… it’s an excellent way to keep stress away! In the case you’re wondering why we’re doing this, it’s because this process aerates the dough ensuring that the end product is nice and fluffy.

Shape a ball and let it rise for at least 6 hours, covered in a warm place. It sounds like this recipe takes a lot of time, and actually it does. But it’s more the waiting time than anything, and please let the yeast do its work. Meanwhile you can go to work, read a book or – if you live in Quebec City, where you still have snow for Easter – shovel out the entranceway to your house.

And there’s more…
Second dough +
1½ cups chopped candied orange and lemon peel
½ cup flour

Mix the candied orange and lemon peel with the flour, and then add it to the risen second dough. Spray the paper molds with oil. Shape two balls, then with each ball make two ovals and form a dove-like shape directly into the dove paper mold. Now – yes, you’re right – let it rise for a minimum of two hours (overnight is strongly advised). When shaping the doves you should not exceed half of the height of the molds. Let it rise until it has doubled in size.

2 handfuls blanched almonds
8-12 whole unpeeled almonds
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp milk
1 pouch vanilla sugar

Make an egg wash with the milk, sugar and egg yolk. Brush the wash over the doves and sprinkle on the almonds. You can also make a glaze using an egg white and confectioner’s sugar.

Finally it’s baking time! Preheat the oven to 400F. Put a little container with hot water inside and bake the cakes at 350F for 45 minutes until nice and golden brown, and you’re whole house is fragrant. As you should have noticed, you need to start making this magnificent sweet bread at least 3 days before Easter. And trust me, all this work is absolutely worth it!


You’ll need some dove paper molds, which are made in Italy especially for baking Colomba di Pasqua. I found mine in Fante’s Kitchen Wares Shop right in the Italian Market in Philadelphia, PA. Hopefully you’ll find it in your local Italian neighborhood. If you don’t, shape the dove in a pan, as if you were making a bread loaf.

This is also an entry for the Happy Baking Easter event hosted by CindyStar. We expect you in large numbers!

Happy Baking Easter
Posted by Daziano at 8:18 PM |  
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