Whatever your spring food traditions, you likely have a family favorite dish that is the star of your dinner table. Or maybe you have memories of a treat you enjoyed as a child, but the recipe has been lost to time. If you grew up in an Italian-American household, you can probably identify your Nonna's traditional Easter bread by smell alone. But have you ever made it?
This Colomba di Pasqua recipe from The Culinary Institute of America is the opportunity to reclaim a memory or start a new one of your own. Colomba di Pasqua is a traditional Italian Easter bread that might remind you of panettone, stollen, or other rich, fruit-filled breads from around the world. Paired with a cup of coffee or tea, this bread is the perfect breakfast, mid-afternoon treat, dessert, or midnight snack. What we're saying is, you'll have to pace yourself.
Each loaf is specially shaped to look like the iconic Easter dove. Though it can be baked in more common baking pans, it is traditionally prepared in a special Colomba di Pasqua mold. Good news, though: this mold will not be one more thing to clutter your kitchen cabinets because the bread is typically made using disposable (but still sturdy) paper molds, which can be easily purchased online.
Colomba di Pasqua is traditionally studded with candied orange peel. This ingredient can be challenging to find in stores, but it is easily prepared at home (we've included a recipe if you want to try it), or you can substitute any dried fruit.
The texture of the dough may surprise you, especially if you're an experienced at-home bread maker. It is very soft and sticky, and it takes a fair amount of mixing for it to come together. In your final dough, the use of chilled butter and eggs will help keep your dough firm enough to handle.
By now, you might be assessing this multi-part recipe with that how-much-free-time-do-you-think-I have face, but don't turn the page yet. Yes, this recipe requires some advance planning, and yes, it will take a few days. But the hands-on work is literally minutes at a time, and then you get to ignore it for hours. Once the smell fills your kitchen, you'll know it's worth it.
Makes 1 loaf (10 servings)
Start to finish: 26 hours and 45 minutes (Active time: 45 minutes)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1 tablespoon room temperature water
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon instant dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons whole milk, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks (reserve 1 white for topping)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup chopped candied orange peel
1 tablespoon almond paste, broken into pieces
1/3 cup corn flour
1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons almond flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg white
1/3 cup slivered almonds
To prepare the preferment (see Chef's note), combine the flour and yeast in a small bowl and mix to combine. Add the water and mix by hand until a dough forms, about 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until bubbly and doubled in size, about 10 hours.
To prepare the first dough, place the preferment dough in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the flour, yeast, sugar, butter, milk, and egg yolk. Using the dough hook, mix on medium-high speed until a dough forms and the butter is incorporated, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm place until doubled in size, about 12 hours or overnight.
To prepare the final dough, place the first dough in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the flour, yeast, salt, vanilla, egg yolks, and zest. Using the dough hook, mix on medium speed for 3 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally. Increase the speed to high, and mix until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, about 4 minutes.
Add about one-third of the butter and mix on high speed until the butter is incorporated and the dough begins to form around the hook, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add half of the sugar and half of the remaining butter. Add the remaining sugar and remaining butter, then increase the speed to high and mix until the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl and formed a ball around the dough hook, about 5 minutes. The dough will be very sticky, but should be firm enough to handle (it may be helpful to dust your hands with flour).
Add the candied orange peel and almond paste, and fold into the dough, kneading gently just until incorporated.
Transfer the dough to a lightly-oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to rest for 10 minutes. In the bowl, fold the dough in half, then in half again. Re-cover and rest for an additional 10 minutes.
Shape the dough into a loose loaf and transfer to a Colomba di Pasqua mold (or 8- by 4-inch loaf pan). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to ferment until nearly doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Meanwhile, to prepare the topping, combine the corn flour, all-purpose flour, almond flour, sugar, oil, vanilla, and egg white in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until small crumbs form, about 30 seconds. Remove from the mixer and add the almonds, tossing gently to combine. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Gently stretch the sides of the dough to fit the shape of the mold (skip this step if using a loaf pan). Sprinkle the bread with the topping (depending on the mold, you may not use it all) and set aside to rest for one more hour. When pressed gently, the dough should spring back about halfway.
Bake until the topping is golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Place on a rack to cool completely before serving.
With some simple planning, this dough can be prepared in two days. In the morning, prepare the preferment dough. It will be ready by that evening, when you can mix the first dough. After it rests overnight, you can prepare the final dough the next morning.
CANDIED ORANGE PEEL
Makes about 1 cup (40 servings)
2 navel oranges
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
Cut across the stem ends of each orange to remove the top and bottom "caps." Use a sharp knife to score the skin from top to bottom, without slicing into the flesh, around the four quarters of each orange.
Peel the skin from the oranges and scrape away any flesh, leaving the white pith. Slice the peels into 1/4-inch strips.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the orange peels and simmer for 2 minutes. Drain, then repeat the process with clean water.
Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the orange peel and reduce to a simmer. Cook, covered, until the orange peel is soft and translucent, about 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool completely.
Transfer the peels, with their syrup, to a jar or covered container and refrigerate until needed.
The resulting cooking liquid is a flavorful syrup that can be used in cocktails, to soak cakes, or as a sweetener in sorbets and popsicles. Simmer it over low heat to reduce it further, if desired.
Nutrition information per serving of bread: 197 calories; 109 calories from fat; 12 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 75 mg cholesterol; 108 mg sodium; 19 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 4 g protein.
Nutrition information per serving of candied orange peel: 21 calories; 0 calories from fat; 0 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 0 mg sodium; 6 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 0 g protein.