Colomba Muffins for Easter

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.Β 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).


For 12 muffins or one 750 grams colomba mold

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

2 eggs

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

Put 2 tablespoons of the milk in the bowl of your stand mixer together with a teaspoon of the sugar. Add the crumbled yeast and stir.

Add 50 grams (5 tablespoons) of the flour.

Mix with the paddle attachment until all the flour has been incorporated.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes in the oven with only the light turned on.

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.

Mix with the paddle attachment until homogeneous.

Remove the paddle attachment.

Insert the dough hook and knead for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 80C/175F and turn it off once the temperature is reached.

Scrape the dough off the hook.

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.

Preparation: step 3

The dough needs to be tripled in volume.

Add the remaining flour (50 grams or 5 Tbsp), the remaining egg, the remaining 75 grams (5 1/2 Tbsp) butter, the candied citron and orange peel, and the honey.

Mix until homogeneous.

Grease the muffin molds with butter.

Divide the dough between the muffins. The cups should be filled about halfway.

Use a wet spoon to even out the top of the dough. (Make the spoon wet again after each two muffins or so. You’ll notice the difference between a dry spoon and a wet one immediately.)

Make the glaze by grinding the white almonds into almond flour in the food processor or blender, or just use almond flour.

Add the egg white and icing sugar to the food processor or blender.

Process until you obtain a thick glaze.

Put a layer of glaze on each muffin.

Allow to rise the muffins until doubled in volume, i.e. until they reach the crest of the mold. This takes 30-60 minutes.

Preparation: step 4

Once risen, decorate the muffins with the brown almonds. Preheat the oven to 200C/390F (not fan forced).

Bake the muffins until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 16 minutes.

Allow to cool briefly until you can handle them.

Remove from the mold and allow to cool to room temperature on a rack. Once cool, store in an airtight container.

Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving.


18 thoughts on “Colomba Muffins for Easter

    1. I like to include instructional photos because I sometimes have a hard time figuring out recipes that I’m not familiar with without photos. I would not recommend this to be the first of my baking recipes to try though πŸ˜‰


  1. I saw colombe Saturday morning in the pastry shop of the Italian market. Like panettone, they always bring a smile — just as yours did. It was a great idea using a muffin tin rather than baking a large loaf. If they taste as good as tehy look, you’ve created quite a treat.
    Coincidentally, just today I was looking to order a pandoro pan and came across the paper molds you spoke of. I guess this is a sign but does it mean I should buy the pan or the molds? πŸ™‚


    1. Thanks for the compliment, John.
      I am not sure but I think the idea is that since panettone or colombe are only baked once per year, people buy a single use paper mold rather than a more expensive metal one (that also takes up storage space all year long).
      It may also affect the crust somewhat.


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