What is Colomba Pasquale?
Colomba Pasquale, or Colomba di Pasqua, is a sweet bread not unlike the much-loved Christmas staple, panettone. Similarly a dish enjoyed at a time of celebration, the sweet scent of the Colomba Pasquale fills the Italian air at Easter time, as inferred by the bread's moniker, which roughly translates to ‘Easter Dove’. Though traditional Easter breads are widely consumed in Italy, Lombardy’s bird-shaped effort is perhaps the most iconic and cherished, as a symbol of both peace and resurrection, themes synonymous with the Christian holiday.
Traditionally, this delicate and rich dough is flecked with citrusy morsels of candied peel, though our Chef Roberta likes to add dried fruit to her mixture, which lend delightful juicy bursts of deep flavour to the bread, and while this may stray slightly from convention, her word is gospel here at Pasta Evangelists HQ! Finished with a crunchy glaze of almonds and sugar, the sweet and indulgent Colomba Pasquale is somewhat of a labour of love, but one that yields delicious reward!
Substitutions for an easier Colomba Pasquale at home.
We admit, the list of ingredients in this cherished recipe is fairly behemoth. Not only that, the components of this dish are perhaps not the typical kitchen necessities we’d have stashed in our cupboards. In light of the current situation regarding COVID-19, we definitely do not advise leaving the house on the hunt for pearl sugar and candied citrus peel, so we’ve provided a list of alternatives below that we hope will ease the process of making Colomba Pasquale at home!
- Vanilla pod: while we love both the true vanilla flavour and enticing speckled look vanilla pods lend to a dish, this ingredient is somewhat expensive, and not as accessible as vanilla extracts or flavourings. Most at home will have a bottle of vanilla essence lying around the kitchen, half a teaspoon of which can be used in this recipe. We recommend using vanilla extract (there is a difference!) as a substitute, though whatever vanilla product you have at home should work fine.
- Almond flavouring: despite almond extract being readily available in most stores, should it not reside in your pantry, it's probably not worth trudging out to buy. Simply forgo the almond flavouring, adding a splash more vanilla in its place.
- Candied citrus peel: though candied citrus peel is traditionally a key ingredient of a Colomba Pasquale, feel free to get creative with your add-ins. Dark chocolate, other dried fruits and nuts would all work well here. You could even leave the recipe plain, it will still render a tasty sweet bread! For authenticity’s sake, should you wish to prepare your own candied citrus peel at home, BBC Good Food provides a great recipe (just be sure to forgo the chocolate for true authenticity in your Easter bread).
- Pearl sugar: using a rolling pin, gently crush a couple of sugar cubes. Be sure to maintain slightly larger crystals, as to ensure some texture on your finished Colomba Pasquale. For a more authentic substitute, add ¾ cup of white sugar to a pan, with a teaspoon of water. Over the lowest heat setting, stir this mixture until clumps of sugar form. Allow this mixture to sit over the low heat, as to dry out your newly formed sugar crystals. Stir the mixture occasionally, keeping a watchful eye on the pan - we do not want our sugar to melt and form a caramel. After 15-20 minutes, remove this mixture from the heat and allow to cool completely. Your crystals should firm up during this time and will be ready for use immediately.
- Dove-shaped mold: tradition dictates that this bread be made in a dove-shaped mold or paper case, though this is likewise not commonplace in British kitchens. You can fashion your own mold out of tin foil, by folding a long sheet of foil in on itself to add strength and stability, before forming this strip into a rough, rounded cross shape, that resembles the traditional mold used by Italians. Secure your mold and place this on a lightly greased baking tray, and you’re good to go. By all means, use any tin you have at your disposal - your Colomba Pasquale may be missing its namesake dove-shape, but will still taste delicious!
Chef Roberta’s recipe for Colomba Pasquale, or Easter dove bread
Prep time: 190 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
Calories per serving: 705kcal
- 350g ‘00’ flour
- 115g butter
- 155g caster sugar
- 1 egg (whole)
- 1 egg white
- 3 egg yolks
- 12.5g fresh yeast
- 50g whole milk
- 75g candied citrus peel (Don't have it? See our substitutions above)
- 50g raisins / sultanas
- ½ orange, zested
- ½ vanilla pod (As mentioned, you can always switch this for vanilla extract or essence)
- ½ teaspoon almond flavour (almond extract will work fine here - should you be missing this, see above for alternatives)
- Pinch of salt
- 50g almonds (peeled)
- 50g almonds (unpeeled)
- 80g pearl sugar, or sugar grain (In lieu of the real thing, use the substitutions offered above)
- Start by preparing the ‘lievitino’, our raising agent here. Melt the yeast in a bowl with 50g of milk at room temperature (22 degrees). Combine with 50g of sifted flour to make a smooth and homogeneous dough. Cover it and let it rise for 30 minutes in a warm place.
- While you wait, steep your dried fruit - raisins or sultanas - in a bowl of hot water, to soften.
- Add 75g flour, 20g of warm water and 2 egg yolks, before kneading the ingredients and allowing to rise for a further 40 minutes.
- Incorporate 75g flour, 15g soft butter, 15g sugar and the whole egg, and leave to rise for another 30 minutes.
- Then add the remaining flour and butter and 90g of sugar. Continue by adding the salt, vanilla, grated orange zest, almond flavouring, remaining yolk, softened dried fruit and the candied citrus peel. Again, knead the mixture until all ingredients are fully incorporated.
- Transfer your dough onto a well-floured surface. Divide the mixture into two pieces, one formed of a third of the dough, the other the remaining two thirds. Stretch the two parts gently with your hands, and form a log-like shape.
- Lay the larger piece of dough in the longest section of your dove-shaped mold, to form the body of the bird. Lay the second dough segment in the space designated for the wings forming a cross-like shape.
- Place the mold on a plate and leave the dough to rise, until your dove has doubled its initial volume.
- Meanwhile, prepare the icing for your Colomba Pasquale. In a food processor, simply blend the peeled almonds with 50g of sugar and the egg white until well combined. Distribute this mixture on the dough evenly, starting from the centre of the bird, and working your way out.
- Spread the sugar crystals over the dough, and garnish with the whole unpeeled almonds, before baking in a preheated oven at 180 degrees, for around 45-50 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving.
And there you have it, your own traditional Easter bread, Italian-style. By all means, this is no small baking feat, though your patience and time are justly rewarded by this rich and delicate sweet bread, perfect for enjoying with your household. Lastly, from all of us at Pasta Evangelists HQ, we wish you a safe and happy Easter - buona Pasqua!
For more #ChefRoberta content, be sure to tune in to our Pause for Pasta cook-alongs, every week from Wednesday to Friday at 12pm, live on our instagram channel.
Unable to visit friends or family members this Easter? Why not send them a pasta care package? We’ve partnered with AgeUK to bring you our feasting box with a conscience, consisting of three delicious pasta dishes, delivered to yours or a loved one’s door, all of which are ready in under 10 minutes. We’ll donate £5 from every box to AgeUK*, supporting the amazing work they're doing at this challenging time. #PastaCare
*£5 from every box sold will be donated to Age UK (Registered charity number 1128267) to provide support for older people in need. Funds will be used wherever the need is greatest.