As Easter approaches I have been checking various recipes and came across one on KIng Arthur Baking for and Italian Easter Bread, which they called Colomba Pasquale(Colomba di Pasqua). However, much as I liked the look of the recipe I was not convinced that it should be called that. So instead I call mine Italian Style Easter Bread.
Colomba di Pasqua is a bread made at Easter. It is usually made in a mould, supposedly resembling a flying dove. The bread is heavily enriched with butter and eggs. The texture is similar to Panettone or Pandoro. So Colomba di Pasqua is a light and open texture. One of the very common things are such breads is that they are hung, by skewers, upside down to cool. That method helps to retain the open texture.
The recipe on King Arthur Flour didn’t have such an open texture. It didn’t require inverting to cool and seemed to be a much quicker version. So when I decided to make the recipe I decided that I could only call it Italian Style Easter Bread. It certainly has similarities, particularly in flavours and ingredients. It also has a very soft and light texture, and is perfect for eating. But it is not quite the same.
So “Italian Style Easter Bread” it will be.
The recipe is not difficult, but it takes a long time. Firstly we need a starter dough. That needs to be proofed overnight. Then we need to make the bread dough, incorporating the starter. The dough must be left to proof until it is puffy, which can take about 3 hours.
Once proofed the dough can be shaped and then proofed again, for 1 to 2 hours. Then we brush almond paste over the top. The we ad pearl sugar and flaked almonds. The dough is then ready to bake.
I think the fruit used in the bread can be varied according to taste. I watched several videos and decided that chopped mixed peel and sultanas would work best for me. But the variations are limitless. So you can use whatever you prefer.
I made my starter and left it for 16 hours. Then I used that as I made the dough. That process was simple since I added everything except the fruit and zest all at once. I kneaded, with my stand mixer for 12 minutes.
Then I added in the fruits and kneaded again until they were distributed throughout.
I left the dough to proof for 3 hours, allowing it to become puffy. Then I divided it into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other.
I shaped the larger piece into a 10 inch/25cm log, creating a crease across the centre with the side of my hand. I created a 7 inch/18cm log with the remaining dough and place into the crease, forming a cross, and turned down the ends.
After that I covered the dough and left it to proof until it had become puffy again. Once that had occurred I brushed a loose paste over the top and covered the almonds and sugar. The baked the bread, starting at 190C/170C Fan/375F and reducing the temperature after 15 minutes, to 180C/160C Fan/350F and baking for a further 20 minutes.
I transferred the baked bread to a wire rack to cool. Then I sliced it and had a taste.
The texture was light and airy and the aroma was fantastic. I tasted the bread, with some butter on too, and it was wonderful. The flavour was perfect with the light orange flavour enhanced when encountering the fruit. The texture was so soft. This is a perfect alternative to my more usual Hot Cross Buns that I enjoy at Easter.
Of course Hot Cross Buns are just so good too.
Italian Style Easter BreadCourse: Bread, Easter BakingCuisine: Italian StyleDifficulty: Medium
- Starter Dough
120g(2/3 cups + 2 1/2 tbsp, based on scooping packed flour into a 250ml cup) strong white bread flour
113ml(1/2 cup minus 1/2 tbsp) cool water
0.367g(1/8 tsp) instant yeast
Starter from above
270G(1 2/3 cups + 2 1/2 tbps, based on scooping packed flour into a 250ml cup) strong white bread flour
9g(3 tsp) instant yeast
8g(1 1/4 tsp) salt
67g(1/3 cup) caster sugar
56g(1/4 cup) soft unsalted butter
2 medium eggs(large in USA)
1 medium egg yolk(large in USA)
10ml(2 tsp) vanilla extract
zest from one large orange
120g(3/4 cup) sultanas
50g(1/4 cpu) chopped mixed peel
1 medium egg white(large in USA)
18g(3 tbsp) ground almonds
25g(2 tbsp) caster sugar
28g(1/4 cup) pearl sugar
14g(2 tbsp) flaked almonds
- Mix the flour, water and yeast for the starter together into a a thick paste.
- Cover the bowl and leave the starter to proof on the counter overnight( I left mine for 16 hours).
- Place the starter into the bowl of a stand mixer and add in the eggs, egg yolk, butter, vanilla extract, yeast, sugar, flour and salt
- Mix everything together into a shaggy dough.
- Knead, with the dough hook, on medium speed for about 12 minutes, until the dough is stretchy and has begun to come away from the side of the bowl.
- With the mixer on medium speed gradually add the zest, chopped mixed peel and sultanas until every distributed.
- If necessary tip the dough onto the counter and work it to distribute the fruit.
- Cover the dough in the mixing bowl and leave it to proof until it is puffy, about 3 hours.
- Tip the dough onto a lightly oiled surface and divide it into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other.
- Roll out the large piece into a log 10 inches/25cm long.
- Use the side of a hand to create a crease across the width of the log.
- Roll out the 2nd piece of dough into a 7inch/18cm log and place it into the crease of the large log.
- Turn the ends of the 7 inch log down a little, like a crescent shape.
- Place the shaped dough onto a parchment line baking tray and cover it with greased plastic wrap.
- Proof the dough for between 1 and 2 hours, until it is risen and puffy.
- Preheat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/375F.
- Whisk the ground almonds and caster sugar into the egg white until you have a loose paster.
- Gently brush the paster all over the dough.
- Sprinkle the pearl sugar and flaked almonds onto the top.
- Bake the bread for 15 minutes then reduce the temperature to 180C/160C Fan/350F and bake for a further 20 minutes( covering it for the last 10 minutes with some aluminium foil to prevent excess browning.
- Remove the bread from the oven, the internal temperature should have reached at least 88C/190F.
- Allow the bread to cool before slicing and serving.