Colomba is a classic Italian Easter enriched bread, similar to the more illustrious Panettone, traditionally baked in a dove-shaped mould, hence its name (colomba in Italian means dove).
The dough is built in various stages and the thought alone may be enough to put off many people with busy lives, but , don’t despair! The stages themselves are quite straight-forward and the actual labour involved is negligible, if you are using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.I have to admit you probably need to have quite a large amount of nuttiness to make this from scratch, since you can buy the ready-made stuff in well-stocked Italian delis, but the ego boost you get by creating this yourself is definitely worth the effort.I wish to thank a few fellow bloggers for inspiring me to have a go. Without their knowledge and advise I doubt I’d be posting anything tonight…
My heart-felt Grazie to Adriano of Profumo di Lievito, Vittorio of Viva la Focaccia and the vivacious Paoletta of Anice e Cannella.
Step 1 , making the ferment
50 ml (1/4 cup) of lukewarm milk
2 tablespoons of dry yeast
40 gr (1/3 cup)of all purpose flour
Dissolve the yeast in the milk and stand for 5 minutes. Add the flour and mix well. Rest the ferment at room temperature, well covered with a tea towel, for 1 hour.
Step 2 -Building the dough-
the ferment from step 1
150 ml ( a little less than 2/3 cups) of Prosecco (Italian sparkling dry white wine)
100 gr all-purpose flour
Work the ferment with Prosecco, then mix the flour in. Rest at room temperature, well covered, for 1 hour.
Step 3 – Building the dough-
the dough from step 2
2 tablespoons of sugar
90 gr (3/4 cup) of all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons of soft butter
If you have a stand mixer, you might need to get it out now. The next two stages require a lot of strong kneading and if you mean to do this by hand you are a saint.
Mix the dough from step 2 with sugar, then add the flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Add the butter and knead for a further 2 minutes. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and rest at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours.
Step 4 – Building the dough with the addition of fats, proteins and flavourings
The dough from step 3
280/320 gr (2-1/2/2-3/4 cups) of all-purpose flour
100 gr (1/2 cup) of sugar
2 tablespoons of honey
60 gr (1/4 cup)of soft butter, cubed
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
100 gr (1/2 cup) of mixed candied peel, mixed with 1 table-spoon of flour (to stop them drop to the bottom of the cake)
100 gr (3/4 cup)of dark chocolate chips
Add the flour to the rested dough, knead on low speed for 1 minute, then add the sugar , vanilla and honey keep kneading for 3-4 minutes. Add the butter, a little at a time and, when well incorporated, the eggs, one at a time. Don’t panic if the dough looks really wet at this stage, the constant kneading will make it come together in around 15/20 minutes or until it looks transparent if stretched. Add a bit more flour if needed. The dough should be soft and manageable, not sticky and wet.
After this time, add the peel, zest and chocolate chips and amalgamate.
Tip the dough onto an oiled container, cover with a tea towel and rest for 1 hour.
Place the dough onto a floured surface, stretch it with floured hands to shape a rectangle and fold it into three, then shape it back into a ball and rest it in the oiled bowl until it has doubled in size, approximately 2-3 hours.
Stretch and fold the dough one last time, than put it into the mould you wish to use. I couldn’t find a dove-shaped one, so I resorted to a pretty star. Still festive!
Cover well with a tea towel and rest overnight in the fridge.
Step 5 -Glazing and Baking (finally!)-
The dough, well risen in its mould
30 gr (1/4 cup) of ground almonds
70 gr (1/3 cup) of sugar
2 egg whites
2 handfuls of almonds
Bring your oven to 180 C (350 F).
Make a glaze by mixing together the ground almond with the icing sugar and the egg whites.
Take the Colomba out of the fridge and gently glaze it. Scatter the almond on top and bake for 35-40 minutes or until cooked through.
Cool at room temperature, in its mould.
This laborious Easter bread will keep fresh for 2 days and will still be delicious tosted and dusted with using sugar after 4 or 5 days.
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