Colomba Pasquale - Italian Easter Dove Bread
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 adapted it a little. 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.
For the Sponge :
For the First Dough :
For the Second Dough :
For the Second Dough :
For the Topping :
- Make the Sponge : Mix together the yeast, sugar and warm water in a bowl and let it stand for about 10 minutes. Then whisk in the egg and flour until smooth. Cover loosely, and let it sit at room temperature for about half an hour.
- To make the first dough, Stir the yeast , water, butter and then the flour into the sponge. The dough should be stiff but sticky to touch. Cover loosely and let it rise for about 1 1/2 hours or till double in volume.
- To make the 2nd and final dough, add the sugar, egg vanilla, butter and orange zest to the first dough and knead until smooth. This is easiest done using a machine/ processor. Add the salt and add 1 cup flour and knead, adding as much more flour as you need to make a smooth and elastic dough.
- Cover loosely and let the dough rise for about 3 to 4 hours or until it double in volume. Divide the dough in two parts, and shape them into rolls - one short (8") and fat for the wings and one a bit longer (12") for head/body and tail. Taper one end of the longer roll a bit and shape it into a head and beak. Flatten the other end and using scissors, snip about an inch from the end into the dough in three places of equal distance from each other. Separate the bits by fanning them out a little to form the tail. Plave on a parchment lined baking sheet. Shape the smaller roll into a rough rectnagle and snip like for the tail but at both of the shorter sides of the rectangle. This is for the wings.
- Place this bit over the "body" of the dove to form the wings.Cover loosely and let it rise for about 2 to 3 hours till almost double.
- Stir the ground almonds, almond extract, and granulated sugar and milk to a thick mixture that is spreadable but not runny. Spread this onto the surface of the bird and decorate with the unpeeled almonds. Sprinkle the pearl sugar and then dust with a some what thick layer of icing sugar.
- Bake at 200C (400F) for 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperture to 180C (350F) and bake for another 40 minutes. If the bread is browning too soon, cover with aluminium foil. Cool on a wire rack and serve.