The Colomba Pasquale is an Italian sweet bread, somewhat similar to the panetonne, and is baked at Easter. Shaped like a dove, the bread is glazed and covered with crystallized sugar and unpeeled almonds. Hence the name, Colomba (meaning dove) and Pasquale (meaning Easter).
There are a couple of stories about the origin of this bread. According to this source, "Colomba's history can be traced to Milan and the victory of Legnano, in 1176, when cities of the Lombard League defeated Emperor Frederick Barbarossa,who was intent on capturing Italy for the Holy Roman Empire. It is said that two doves, symbolizing the Holy Ghost, appeared on the altar of the chariot carrying the battle standards and that the colomba commemorates that event and victory - an example of the role of food in history and food as history."
I came across references to the Colomba Pasquale when I was going through some articles on the various types of bread baked for Easter. The unusual shape of this bread caught my attention and I almost did not make it, as the shape of the bread comes from using a dove shaped mould which I did not have. I understand that one can make the mould oneself, but it seemed too much of an effort.
Then I chanced upon Lien's BBD #8 post at her blog, Notitie Van Lien. In a very detailed and well explained post, she writes how she made and shaped her beautiful Colomba Pasquale by hand. I chose to use her recipe to make the bread, as it is much simpler and can be done in one day compared to most other traditional recipes which involve quite a few rises, including one overnight.
I halved Lien's recipe and made some small changes, only to adjust for ingredients that are not available here.
I used salted butter throughout, omitted the orange zest (it's not the season for oranges and my family is not partial to zest anyway) and the candied peel.
To keep the orange flavour of the bread, I used warm orange juice (store bought) to proof the yeast for the sponge and the first dough.
I only used 2 egg yolks instead of the 1 1/2 + 1 1/2 yolks required as a result of halving Lien's recipe.
I must say I was quite happy with the way my Colomba Pasquale turned out, shape-wise and taste-wise. I know that’s not the best looking bird any of us has seen by far, but I thought my slightly podgy and plump little dove looked a little cute.
The butter, eggs and sugar ensure that the texture and taste of this bread is more cake-like than a bread. They also result in a very tasty bread.
Even though the bread making process took a greater part of my day, this is not a very difficult bread to make. All that is required is a bit of planning, as most of the time involved in baking a colomba pasquale is taken up in the 4 different rising periods required for the dough.
I am sending this to Cinzia at CindyStar for her Easter Colomba Pasquale baking event. This also goes to Zorra who is hosting YeastSpotting this week.