In Italy, Colomba Pasquale is for Easter what Panettone is for Christmas. Colomba is a sweet bread in the shape of a cross with candied citrus and an almond glaze. It is actually not supposed to be a cross but a dove, since that is what “colomba” means. It takes a bit of good will to recognize the shape of a flying dove. The traditional way of making colomba takes about 24 hours and 5 different rising steps. This recipe requires ‘only’ three, and with a stand mixer it is not a lot of work and just takes time.
In Italy cardboard molds are sold before Easter for baking a colomba at home. I made the colomba for Easter dinner and I thought it would be nice to use a muffin tin instead. This makes for a nice presentation, even though it now certainly does not look like a dove anymore. These muffins turned out great, very soft and fragrant. I based the recipe on GialloZafferano, with some modifications. Of course you can also use the same recipe to make one big colomba if you have a suitable mold. You’d have to bake that for about 50 minutes at 160C/325F rather than the baking time and temperature indicated below. If you don’t like candied citrus peel, feel free to substitute by raisins (soaked and drained).
300 grams (1 7/8 cup) flour
15 grams (.5 oz) fresh yeast, or 2 tsp dry yeast
85 ml (1/3 cup) whole milk, lukewarm (about 37C/98F)
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
125 grams (9 Tbsp) butter (at room temperature), plus more for greasing the mold
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
grated zest of 1/2 orange
1 tsp real vanilla extract, or the seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod
1 tsp orange extract (optional)
pinch of salt
40 grams (1/5 cup) candied citron
40 grams (1/5 cup) candied orange
1 Tbsp honey
For the glaze
40 grams (1.5 oz) white almonds or almond flour
40 grams (1.5 oz or 1/3 cup) icing sugar, plus more for serving
1 egg white
48 brown almonds (about 50 grams or 2 oz)
Preparation: step 1
Preparation: step 2
Add 1 egg, the remaining sugar, the lemon and orange zest, a pinch of salt, 200 grams (1 1/4 cup) of the flour, 50 grams (3 1/2 Tbsp) of the butter, the remaining milk (again lukewarm around 37C/98F), the vanilla, and the orange extract if using.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in the oven that was previously heated to 80C/175F until tripled in volume, about 90 minutes. The oven should be turned off but with the light turned on and the door closed. This warm chamber helps the rising process.