Colomba di Pasqua (Italian Easter Bread). In Italy it is a rite of spring and a symbol of Easter. Baked or decorated in the shape of a dove, Italian bakers dedicate up to 18 hours over a period of 4 days to make this triumphal bread. The most recent recipe I looked at had 45 steps! Other cultures (Slavic, Greek and Polish) have similar traditional breads made to celebrate the Resurrection and all require the fortitude of an early Christian martyr.
I have made this bread and Byzantine Paska, a larger than life bread made with not one but two doughs. The outer bread dough surrounds a brilliant yellow sweet cheese bread dough hidden inside to represent the risen Christ. Neither came easy and I needed an easy way to “bring Italy home” for Easter. Enter the bread machine. Using the following ingredients in the exact order I was able to create a reasonable facsimile of an Italian Colomba. This left me thinking about the trade-offs between tradition and cyber society. Is it better to push the easy button or to strictly follow the customs and rituals of the past? Who has 18 hours to devote to baking bread? Rather than allow the culinary history of our families to become a distant memory wouldn’t it be better to keep our traditions alive? If that means using a bread machine then so be it.
Colomba di Pasqua Minus the 18 Hours
- ½ cup milk, warmed to 80-90 F
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp almond extract or almond paste
- 2 tbsp grated lemon peel
- 4 ½ cups unbleached all- purpose flour
- 2 ½ tsp active dry or bread machine yeast
- Add milk, eggs, unsalted butter, granulated sugar, salt, vanilla, flour and yeast in the bread pan fitted with the kneading paddle.
- Place the bread pan in the bread maker and select the ‘Dough’ option. Press Start to mix, knead and rise.
- When the cycle is completed, (completion time may vary with different bread makers) leave the dough in the bread pan, turn off the machine and let rise another hour.
- Remove dough and punch to deflate.
- Grease pan or Colomba mold and place the dough in the pan creating a dove design on top with a portion of the dough. Or place entire dough in the Colomba mold. Cover with greased plastic wrap and towel. Let rise in warm spot for another hour or until dough has reached the top of the pans/mold.
- Place oven rack in the middle position of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place the Colomba mold on cookie sheet and place in oven. Brush with an almond glaze made with 1/2 c blanched almonds and 1/2 c sugar finely ground together in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Place in a bowl and combine with 2 tsp cornstarch and 2 egg whites. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and powdered sugar.
- Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes – 30 minutes until golden brown (baking times may vary according to different oven temperatures). Test for doneness with a toothpick.