Sunday, 1 April 2012

Easter Baking: A Colomba Pasquale

"Evidently you need a dove shaped mold in order to achieve the desired shape; unfortunately I don't posses such a thing, so had to use a normal cake tin, transforming the paschal dove into a more prosaically rotund cake..."

Who'd have thought it, as of this weekend Gastrolad is one year old! Not only am I celebrating the fact that I've managed to keep it going for a whole year, according to my counter March was a record month for page views - so thanks Mum and Dad, your ongoing support is much appreciated.

Surprisingly therefore, I've now got to the point where I can recycle particular themed content, and with Easter coming up you could forgive me for lazily re-using the two Easter posts I published last year (which, in case you were wondering, were excellent recipes for hot cross buns and an alternative Easter Sunday lunch of roast lamb stuffed with saffron rice). However, this is no time for complacency and I have vowed to push remorselessly on, breaking new ground and leaving no stone unturned in my (possibly futile) quest to become the interweb's number one food-blogger.

In any case, with the myriad of food traditions that accompany Easter, there are so many interesting recipes available to the home cook, that not to try one of them would be lazy in the extreme. Consulting Alan Davidson's Oxford Companion to Food, which is the reference book if you are at all interested in the subject, I found a huge number of Easter type breads and pastries to try out. Whether a Paasiasleipa from Finland, a kulich from Russia, Bremer Osterklaben from Germany, a Greek tsoureki, or an Italian colomba pasquale, there are more than you can shake a stick at. Never mind our own traditional favourites, hot cross buns and simnel cake.

But, which to go for? I discounted hot cross buns as I made those last year, and my Mum's simnel cake can't be beaten so there is no point in me attempting that. Therefore it had to be abroad, and I decided on the Italian colomba pasquale. This is a panettone type dough which, to symbolise the holy spirit, is baked in the shape of a dove (colomba means dove in Italian). Evidently you need a dove shaped mold in order to achieve the desired shape; unfortunately I don't posses such a thing, so had to use a normal cake tin, transforming the paschal dove into a more prosaically rotund cake (perfect for the atheists amongst you). Don't let that put you off though, as it's a really tasty recipe.

Although the recipe uses yeast, I'd say the end results are more akin to a cake than a bread. Apparently the Italians eat it for dessert and the method is similar to that you would use when making a cake - there's no kneading of the dough for example. So don't worry too much if your colomba is slightly less bread like than you might have expected.

This recipe is one I found in a magazine article, but in homage to our most popular Easter tradition, the chocolate egg, I decided to add some orange flavoured dark chocolate to the mix. Perhaps not all that authentic, but a very worthy addition.

Colomba Pasquale

7g dried yeast
100g butter, cubed and at room temperature
100g golden caster sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Grated zest of an orange
3 eggs
375g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
200g candied peel
100g orange flavoured dark chocolate (I used the Lindt one), finely chopped
170ml milk

For the glaze

1 egg, beaten
50g demerara sugar
50g flaked almonds

  1. Mix the yeast with 50ml of tepid water and set aside
  2. Beat the sugar and butter in a bowl until it is pale, soft and fluffy. Then stir in the salt, vanilla extract and orange zest.
  3. Now mixing constantly, add the eggs, one at a time. When doing this the mixture can separate, but you can add a spoonful of flour with every egg, which should stabilise it and avoid that problem.
  4. Now add 125g of the flour (or a little less if you've added some flour with the eggs), baking powder, the candied peel and chocolate, and give everything a good mix.
  5. Add the milk into the yeast and water mixture and give it a stir. Then pour half the liquid into the dough and combine. Now stir in another 125g of the flour, then when that has been mixed in, add the rest of the liquid, followed by the rest of the flour.
  6. Then using a wooden spoon or an electric mixer, give the dough a good seeing to - for at least five minutes. Then pour it into a clean bowl, cover with a damp tea-towel and leave in a warm place to rise for 90 minutes.
  7. Now pour the dough into your baking tin, dove shaped or not, and leave for another half an hour to rise in a warm place.
  8. Put the tin into an oven pre-heated to 180 C and bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown on top.
  9. Now take out of the oven and using a pastry brush, glaze with the beaten egg, then sprinkle over the demerara sugar and flaked almonds, and place back in the oven for another ten minutes.
  10. Finally take it out of the oven and use a skewer to check it is cooked through. Then leave to cool before tucking in. 

Happy Easter to my loyal reader(s)...


  1. Oh I love this! My parents have a house in Italy and every Easter when we visited we'd get these enormous chocolate eggs wrapped in reams of cellophane and a big colomba pasquale to keep us going for the week. I've always wanted to make one but wondered how I'd get around the dove shaped mould. Making it as a round is the perfect solution, and your one looks delicious.

    Congratulations on a year of blogging and here's to many more!

    1. Thanks, it is pretty tasty - I'm eating some as I type actually...

      Having never actually eaten one before, I'd quite like to know how mine matches up those you get in Italy! Not too bad hopefully, even if it is in a blasphemous round rather than holy dove!

  2. Looks good. I do like Simnel Cake, with plenty of marzipan.

    1. Well you'd better hope someone's made you a simnel cake and not a colomba pasquale!

    2. I would not say no to either, or both.