Easter Dove Bread 
Colomba di Pasqua or Colomba Pasquale
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Easter Dove Bread - Colomba di Pasqua
Colomba di Pasqua is a traditional Italian Easter yeast bread.  It is shaped like a dove (colomba in
Italian), the symbol of peace and resurrection. Soft and fragrant, colomba is rich with butter and eggs,
and filled with raisins and candied orange peel. Topping it off is a baked-on almond icing that is
applied before baking, giving it a sweet, crisp crust. The bread dough starts with a sponge that must
rest overnight and then the dough requires two rising times.  Traditional colombas are baked in
dove-shaped paper molds. These molds can be difficult to find, in which case the dough may be
baked in loaf pans or a dove-shaped cake pan.  We are also providing you with a recipe for colomba
that is made with baking powder and produces a relatively quick and easy sweet bread.  Colomba is
a wonderful addition to an Easter brunch or an appropriate finish to Easter dinner.

Traditional Colomba di Pasqua
Traditional Colomba di Pasqua

(Makes one 8 x 11-inch loaf)

Ingredients:

Sponge:
1/2 cup warm milk, 105 -115 degrees F.
1 envelope (2-1/4 teaspoons) dry yeast, divided
3/4 cup flour

Dough:
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2  teaspoon fiori di sicilia or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Grated  zest of 1 orange or lemon
2 cups flour
1 cup dried fruit (combination of dark and golden raisins and candied orange peel)

Almond Icing:
1/2 cup sliced almonds, divided
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 egg white
Confectioners' sugar

Directions:

To make the sponge:
In a small bowl, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of yeast into the warm milk.  Stir the yeast into the milk and allow to sit for 5 minutes to dissolve.  Stir in the 3/4 cup flour to form a smooth paste.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Let sit in 12 hours or overnight, unrefrigerated.


To make the dough:
Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and yolk together.  Beat in the sugar, remaining yeast, salt, and extract.  Add the sponge and softened butter; beat to combine.  Add 2 cups of flour and beat just enough to blend in the flour.  If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook.  Otherwise, transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface.  Knead the dough until smooth and elastic. By hand you will knead for about 10 minutes.  If you are using a dough hook, knead about 5 minutes.  Add the dried fruit and knead just enough to incorporate.

Place the dough in a large buttered bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 hours.

Punch down the dough and transfer to a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough into 2 equal size pieces.  Form each piece into a log about 12-inches long.  Place the first piece into the dove mold in what would be the wings of the dove.  The log goes across the body and around the edges of the wings.  The second piece is placed from head to tail on top of the first piece.
Pat the dough down around the edges of the mold to fill in any gaps.  Cover with a kitchen towel.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled, 45 to 60 minutes.
In the meantime, make the icing.

To make the icing:
In a food processor, combine 1/4 cup of almonds, sugar, cornstarch and egg white.  Process to a smooth paste.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Carefully spread the icing on the risen bread.  Spread the remaining sliced almonds on top. Dust with a heavy coat of confectioners' sugar.  Place the mold on a baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F.  Bake an additional 20-30 minutes.  If the top is getting too brown, cover the bread with a piece of foil during the last 10 minutes of baking.  The internal temperature of the bread should be about 190 degrees F.  Remove from the oven and transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool.
Colomba di Pasqua (made with baking powder)

(Makes 2 loaves)
Colomba di Pasqua (made with baking powder)
This recipe is based on a recipe from Mary Ann Esposito's book, Celebrations Italian Style.  It uses baking powder and produces a relatively quick, easy, and attractive sweet bread.  The dough is cut using a paper pattern cut into the shape of a dove.

Ingredients:

6-7 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs, divided
4 ounces unsalted butter, melted
1-1/4 cups milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 hard-boiled eggs
2 dark raisins
Colored sprinkles

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease two baking sheets.  From a piece of paper, cut out a dove shape pattern that is 12-inches long from beak to tail and 7-inches wide.

Combine 6 cups of flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, add 4 eggs, butter, milk and vanilla.  Beat until well blended.  Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and mix with your hands to form a dough.
The dough should not be sticky.  If it is, add a little more flour. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead it until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.  Divide the dough into two pieces.

Roll each piece of dough into a 13-inch by 10-inch rectangle.  Place the dove-shaped pattern on each piece of dough and cut around it.  Remove scraps of dough.  Using scissors, make cuts in the tail to resemble feathers and one cut in the beak area.  Push one raisin in each dove for an eye.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the remaining egg and  brush it lightly over each loaf.  Place 1 hard-boiled egg in the middle of each dove body.  Cut 2 thin strips 4-inches long from dough scraps. Cross 2 over each egg.  In a small bowl, lightly beat the remaining egg and  brush it lightly over each loaf.  Sprinkle the loaves with the colored sprinkles.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the loaves are lightly browned and firm to the touch.  Remove to cooling racks.
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HOLIDAY RECIPES  >  ITALIAN EASTER  >  EASTER DOVE BREAD
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SPECIAL FEATURES
SPECIALTY BAKEWARE
Active Yeast has coarse granules that should be dissolved in a warm liquid to 'bloom' or activate and get foamy; adding a pinch of sugar with the yeast encourages the blooming process. This takes about 5 to 10 minutes.

Instant Yeast includes bread-machine, rapid-rise and quick rise yeast.  They're finer in texture and can be added directly to dry ingredients; no blooming is necessary.  Many promise a shorter rising time but that isn't necessarily a good thing because dough develops flavor and texture as it rises.
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Use about ½ teaspoon in a typical recipe for cookies, pound cake, pie, meringues, or sweet bread.