A few weeks ago I was researching celebration breads from around the world and was excited when I began to learn about Colomba di Pasqua (Dove of Peace), the traditional Easter bread from Italy. If you're a fan of panettone or broiche, you're sure to love this rich, sweet bread that is baked in the shape of a dove to celebrate Easter.
I started with a recipe from Food Network and made a few alterations to give my Colomba di Pasqua a unique twist. Several years ago I had the most incredible brioche that contained bits of chocolate and candied orange peel inside it's buttery, flaky crust. I had that brioche in mind when selecting the ingredients to make my Colomba di Pasqua.
The results were wonderful -- The exterior was golden and toasted, and had the delicious crunch of sugared sliced almonds. The inside was buttery, rich and tender. The chocolate, nor the orange were overpowering. Rather, they harmonized nicely with the pastry-like bread that has a slight almond flavor.
I really heard the angels sing when I prepared slices of the bread the same way my family enjoys our panettone -- lightly toasted with cream cheese (or mascarpone) and a drizzle of honey. Out of this world!!
You may be able to find the Colomba di Pasqua baking pans at specialty cooking stores, but I purchased mine through Fantes. At just 89-cents each, they're a bargain, and have insured that I'll be baking many loaves of this delightful bread all April long.
Here's the recipe. I hope you'll give it a try this Easter!
Colomba di Pasqua
adapted from the Food Network recipe by Betsy Openneer
Makes 2 loaves
2 quarter ounce packages of active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (approx. 110 degrees)
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
7 oz. package almond paste (in the baking aisle of most grocery stores)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 Tablespoons candied orange peel
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 large egg, separated
1/2 cup warm milk (approx. 110 degrees)
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup thinly sliced almonds
granulated sugar (for sprinkling on top of loaves)
1. In a small cup or bowl, stir the yeast into water to soften.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter, almond paste and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the softened yeast, candied orange peel, vanilla, salt, eggs, egg yolk, milk, and 3 cups flour to the creamed mixture. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.
3. Gradually add flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Gently stir in the chocolate chips.
4. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead, adding flour a little at a time, until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Put the dough into an oiled bowl. Turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a tightly woven cloth and let rise about 1 1/2 hours. Due to the almond paste, this recipe doesn't double in size.
5. Divide dough into halves. Place the two dove shaped pans on a large baking sheet, then arrange dough in the pans. Cover with a towel and let rise 45 minutes. Although the dough won't rise as high as other types of yeast dough, it will rise during baking.
6. About 10 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Just before baking, beat the egg white until frothy. Lightly brush the doves with the beaten egg white and place thinly sliced almonds, overlapping slightly, on the tails and wings to simulate feathers. Carefully brush the almond "feathers" with the remaining beaten egg white then sprinkle the doves with granulated sugar.
7. Bake for 25 minutes. Immediately remove the doves from baking sheet and cool on a rack.