Sunday, April 12, 2009

Colomba Pasquale-Easter Dove

A great group of accomplished bakers had the wonderful idea to bake a Colomba, a traditional Italian Easter bread. Natalia, Cinzia, Cinzia, Elra, Lien, Rosa, and Zorra then invited the blogsphere to join in to bake this challenging yet worth all the efforts bread. Cinzia of cindystar is hosting the event so check her site if you want to participate, the deadline is April 18th. The recipe belongs to a family of yeast breads found throughout Europe dating back to medieval times, studded with nuts, candied citrus peel and spices in some cases. Panettone, Stollen, Gubana, to name just a few, are all versions of this very rich dough, containing eggs, butter and sometimes milk. Reading all the mistakes, mishaps, and changes made by the bakers in the original group helped me decide what I wanted to do. Few bakers complained that the dough made from the original recipe was slow to rise on accounts of a sourdough starter. I have a starter in the fridge, so I could have tried it to be true to the bread, but I wanted to make sure I had a freshly baked Colomba on Easter Sunday, hence I used a recipe that used dry active yeast instead of a starter. I don't remember how I found this site but I used their recipe. The recipe is very well written, the dough behaved exactly as it said, and the aroma of the dough was amazing. The second to the last rise is an 8 to 10 hour process, so I refrigerated the dough with the intent of taking it out after our dinner with friends, and let it rise overnight. Do you guess what happened, right? Yes, I forgot to take it out when I got home at almost 11pm, but my brain must have been thinking about it thought because I woke up at 1am, jumped out of bed and saved the Colomba. I left it in the oven with the light on and went back to sleep. At 6 the dough had risen beautifully, was full of bubbles, nice long strands of gluten and all so sexy (yes, brioche dough is sexy). It felt amazingly soft and buttery and full of promises. It was easy to shape and it fit the molds perfectly. If you can't find the molds, you can bake it in a spring form pan, or visit Lien's site and check out her tutorial on how to make a mold from things you can easily find at you local store, pretty ingenious.

I checked the dough at 8 and it looked like it was not moving, so much to my desire to eat it for breakfast. The recipe says that it takes more than 3 hours. Patience.....At 10 it was almost there, it was going to be ready for lunch at that point.

At 11:30 I decided to call it, the dough was almost at the rim and looked nicely proofed. After thirty minutes I had to turn down the oven temperature to 350, and later to 330 because the top was getting too dark and the center of the dough was still really wet. The top came out a little too dark for my taste, I would lower the temperature earlier next time.

We never ate it at lunch because we went to visit some friends who were celebrating Passover so yeast was out of the question. The bread tasted perfect at dinner time, rich, moist, super delicious with the orange peel and the crunchy topping. It was denser than the commercial dove, but the traditional taste was all there. I would keep this recipe, and make it again, it was well worth the effort.

Thanks to all the wonderful bakers who came up with the idea of baking this bread and gave me the much needed push to try it again. Do you feel all the energy and passion coming out of your computer? Go make a Colomba now.

Colomba Pasquale

Easter Dove

These traditional holiday loaves are made in several easy steps over about 18 hours. We recommend doing steps one through four on the first day, since step four includes an eight- to ten-hour rising that, ideally, could be done overnight. Then finish the next day.

Yield: 2 loaves

Step 1 (Starter)
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cool water
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
7 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour

Step 2
2/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
4 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cool water
2 teaspoons sugar

Step 3
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature (very soft), cut into 6 pieces
5 tablespoons sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons lukewarm whole milk
1 tablespoon honey

2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour

Step 4
1/2 cup cool water
1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (very soft), cut into 12 pieces
6 tablespoons sugar
4 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons lukewarm whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups (about 10 oz.) chopped candied orange peel ( can be found in some specialty foods stores)

Step 5
1/2 cup (about) all purpose flour
2 dove-shaped paper baking molds or two buttered and floured ten-inch-diameter cheesecake pans

Step 6 (Glaze and baking)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup whole unblanched almonds
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/3 cups sliced almonds
Powdered sugar

For step 1 (Making starter):
Combine water and sugar in bowl of a heavy duty mixer. Stir in yeast. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 10 minutes. Using rubber spatula, mix in flour (dough will be firm). Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let starter rise until puffy, about 45 minutes. (Initially, the starter is firm and compact, but it softens and becomes puffy and spongy after rising.)

For step 2:
Attach dough hook to mixer. Add all ingredients in step 2 to starter. Beat until blended, scraping down sides of bowl often, about 5 minutes (dough will be soft and thick). Scrape dough off hook; remove hook. Cover bowl with plastic. Let dough rise at room temperature until puffy and bubbly on top, about 1 hour. The dough will look thick, shiny, and slightly puffed.

For step 3:
Reattach clean dough hook. Add first 5 ingredients in step 3 to dough; beat until blended. Add flour. Beat at low speed until smooth, scraping down bowl and hook often, about 5 minutes (dough will be firm and compact). Scrape dough off hook; remove hook. Cover bowl with plastic; let dough rise at room temperature until lighter in texture and slightly puffed, about 3 1/2 hours. The dough will double in volume and become lighter in texture but less glossy.

For step 4:
Reattach clean dough hook. Mix water and yeast in small cup. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 10 minutes; add to dough. Add 1 1/3 cups flour, half of butter, sugar, and 2 yolks; beat until dough is smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down dough hook and sides of bowl. Add remaining 2 yolks, milk, vanilla extract, and salt. Beat at low speed until blended, about 3 minutes. Scrape down hook. Add remaining 2/3 cup flour, remaining butter, and orange peel. Beat dough until well blended, about 5 minutes. Scrape dough into very large (at least 4-quart) buttered bowl. Cover with plastic. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled and indentation remains when 2 fingers are pressed about 1/4 inch into dough, 8 to 10 hours.

For step 5:
Sprinkle 1/2 cup flour onto work surface. Scrape dough out onto floured work surface (dough will be soft and sticky). Gently toss dough in flour until easy to handle. Brush away excess flour. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Divide 1 piece in half; shape each half into 10-inch-long log. Arrange 1 log crosswise in each paper baking mold, curving ends to fit. Roll each remaining dough piece into 11-inch-long log, slightly tapered at ends. Place 1 log across dough in each mold. (If using 2 cheesecake pans, divide dough in half; place half in each prepared pan). Cover molds (or pans) with plastic. Let stand at room temperature until dough rises to top of each mold and indentation remains when 2 fingers are pressed about 1/4 inch into dough, about 3 1/4 hours.

For step 6 (Glaze and baking):
Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 375 F. Finely grind sugar and whole almonds in a food processon. Add egg whites and almond extract; blend 10 seconds. Peel plastic off dough in molds. Spoon half of almond glaze over top of each. Sprinkle each with sliced almonds. Sift powdered sugar over. Slide rimless baking sheet under molds; slide molds directly onto oven rack.

Bake breads until brown on top and slender wooden skewer inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool breads completely on rack. (Can be made ahead. Wrap; let stand at room temperature up to 2 days or freeze up to 1 week.

Buona Pasqua!

PS I submitted this post to the amazing weekly event organized by YeastSpotting, Zorra is the host this week. To see how to participate check Susan's web site.


Lien said...

Hope you had a great pasqua too. This bread looks soooo professional! I used the same recipe you did, I think it's a very good recipe too.

Cindystar said...

Laura, this is super!!!
I will try this recipe next year, it sounds very good indeed!
I am so happy of your participation, thanks!
Hope you had a lovely Easter Day!

Y said...

oh my, that bread looks incredible!

zorra said...

Yes I can feel all the energy and passion! Well done Laura!

Laura said...

Lien, thank you, I must have found the recipe through you then. I worked really well. Our Easter was quiet, next year I will plan it more Italian style.

Cinzia, give this recipe a try because as you can see gives great results. Thanks for hosting the event. Siete in vacanza questa settimana?

Y, thanks, the bread turned out really beautiful, and it tastes great too. A keeper!

Zorra, thanks for stopping by, can't wait to see what other breads you get this week at tastespotting. I just found the site and I feel I will use it for inspiration for years to come.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I have been seeing so many terrific colombe. I will have to try it next year. But I wish I had some now.

Big Boys Oven said...

look's like you did well!weel done

natalia said...

Ciao Laura che bellezza la tua colomba !! Come vanno le cose laggiù ? Io continuo a lavorare su quel tessuto quando finisco ti mando altre foto !

Esi said...

It looks beautiful. Homemade breads can sometimes be a bit of a chore, but it's so worth it!

Cindystar said...

Laura...ero in vacanza in montagna, ora siamo tornati e abbiamo ripreso alla grande.
Devo stare dietro ai piccoli che a scuola ne combinano una per colore...e il profitto ne risente...mi sa che mi toccherà abbandonare un pochino la cucina e rimettermi sui banchi anch'io!
bacio e buonissimo w.e.!!!

Laura said...

Linda, try it next year, yes, it is a long process, but very rewarding.

BBO, thanks, I had fun doing it.

Esi, making bread has a different dimension than just baking, maybe because the yeast is alive.

Natalia, thanks for stopping by as always.

Cinzia, sembri cosi' presa. Blogging prende tanto tempo, e' vero. Ti mandero' una e-mail perche' ho una domanda da porti.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Wow, your colomba looks magnificent and perfect! Very well done! I'll have to bake that speciality very soon again....



Nancy/n.o.e said...

I found your site through cindystar. Your colomba is so beautiful and your description is very clear and detailed. I may make this version next year; the one I made is so very simple, but we still loved the taste.

Stefanie said...

The recipe sounds great and the bread looks gorgeous!

Laura said...

Rose, thanks, you can make colomba anytime you want. In Venice, there is a baker who bakes this bread in a round mold and call it Focaccia. No need to wait until Easter.

Noe, your bread looks great too. The taste is what matters. The molds I used were from Sur La Table, at $.45 each, pretty cheap I must say. Maybe you can find them on line.

Stephanie, thanks for stopping by, it was a fun bread to make.

Susan/Wild Yeast said...

Such a beautiful Colomba! I really like the dark top myself.

chemcookit said...

Ooooohhhh --- Laura, che piacere conoscerti! Sono contenta che Simona ti abbia introdotta al mio blog.. che meraviglia questa colomba! L'anno scorso avevo provato, decisamente con meno successo di te. :) Ora vado anch'io in visita sul tuo blog. :)

Margie said...

I'd love to include your Easter Dove in a recipe round-up for the Daring Kitchen website. Please contact me by email if you're interested and I'll send you the details. THANKS.


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