Friday, 29 March 2013

Columba Di Pasqua - Italian Easter Bread

Columba Di Pasqua sometimes called Columba Di Pasquale  is an Italian Easter bread which literally means Easter Dove and traditionally it is made in the shape of a dove although the shape usually looks more like a cross to me (one long piece in the middle and two balls usually get baked in a paper mould) This bread is very similar to the Christmas Panettone which I just love (I have posted a recipe  for Panettone )  This bread usually has candied orange peel  or other fruits but, unlike the Panettone does not normally have raisins in it. Very few people ever make this or the Panettone because it is a labour of love and is made over two days. I say what a nice way to show someone you love them by making this kind of special treat! Mine has the lovely scent of orange, lemon, candied ginger and a bit of orange flavoured cranberries. 

The house smells magnificent!

You will need:

Biga (overnight starter) 
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1/8 tsp dry yeast (instant or regular is fine here)     

First Rise - Started the day before you want to bake this bread
  • 3/4 cup starter or the Biga recipe above which you need to make 2 days before baking the bread if you have a sourdough starter that you keep in the fridge you just need it to come to room temp and use it the day before you bake this bread
  • 2 cups flour (all-purpose)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 egg yolks - room temperature
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/8 tsp yeast
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter - cut into small cubes and then allow to come to room temperature
Second Rise - This is done on the day you are baking the bread and after the first rise has occurred.
  • all the dough from the first rise plus....
  • 1 1/2 cups flour 
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil - I used a fruity Donna Ricca
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 egg yolks - room temperature
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla or vanilla paste
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cups chopped candied peel like orange and lemon or other dried fruits you like. I made mine with candied orange and lemon peel, crystallized ginger and a bit of dried orange flavoured cranberries.
  • 1 cup additional flour for kneading out on counter
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds - I used sliced almonds with the skins on 
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds for top

2 days before you want to bake your bread

If you do not have a sourdough starter then you need to create a quick overnight starter. Make the Biga by mixing all ingredients and leaving in a covered plastic container on the counter for 15-19 hours. So...if you want to make your bread on a Saturday create the Biga on a Thursday and leave it until Friday when you will start to make your bread with the First Rise portion of the recipe. This is important because time creates a better flavoured bread rather than making it quicker with more yeast. I told you this was a labour of love! This is what the Biga looks like after 17 hours.

1 day before you want to bake your bread
In the bowl of a stand mixer add everything for the First Rise: your Biga or sourdough starter, flour, honey, egg yolks, water and yeast. Mix well to incorporate and then mix on high for 5 minutes. Once you have mixed it then add your softened butter and mix another minute. At this stage the dough is very wet. Cover with plastic wrap and leave on the counter to rise 15-18 hours. I started mine in the afternoon and then did the second rise the next morning.

This is how much it rises after 17 hours

The day you are going to bake

Chop all your peel (I make my own - see link) and dried fruit.  Add everything to the bowl for the Second Rise: the dough from the day before, flour, honey, olive oil, salt. 3 egg yolks, vanilla, orange zest, lemon zest, chopped orange peel, lemon peel, candied ginger and cranberries. Mix until incorporated and then mix on high for 5 minutes.

Cover and let rise 3 hours. The dough will still be quite wet. 

In a food processor make frosting. Mix all ingredients for 1 minute. Set aside.

Once the dough has risen for 3 hours take the additional 1 cup of flour and add a bit at a time until it is all incorporated. I like to do this by hand because I like to feel the bread. The dough is very soft at this stage and I use a scraper to move it around the flour until it is dry enough for me to start kneading. If you prefer you can simply add the flour to the dough in the stand mixer with the dough attachment until it is absorbed and easy enough to manage. 

You can form into the traditional dove shape or make into smaller loaves. I made 3 so I could share with my neighbors.  

I used foil tins because I was giving them away but, they are not ideal. Make sure you oil them to avoid sticking and I turned up the rim of the tins so they would contain the frosting. Generously add frosting and then a sprinkle of sliced almonds. When I make the Panettone I like to use tall sided non stick baking pans.

 Let rise again 1 hour. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

 after their final rise

Bake for 30-40 minutes. I like to put a sheet of foil under the pans because they will rise high and some of the topping will overflow

Let cool and then slice  and enjoy! Share with your neighbors while the bread is still warm for optimal wow factor!

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