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Italian Easter Dove Bread

Pleasant Tasks

The sky has been gray and stormy for the beginning of Holy Week in the Pacific Northwest. It is the perfect atmosphere for introspection. It is also great weather for appreciating the humble warmth of comfort foods. Cooking the collected beans from my exercise in eating our words turned out to be as delicious as it was nutritious.

Now I have the pleasant task of making something celebratory and wonderful with my raisins. Yes, there were a few handfuls of fruit to work with in that bowl too, enough to share a loaf or two of this special Easter Bread with friends.

I discovered the idea for this bread long ago. A picture of an almond studded loaf of sweet bread in the shape of a bird is taped in my old recipe book. I have wanted to try making it for many years but there was a problem: I did not carefully match the recipe to the picture. There are several recipes for Easter Bread taped on that page and the next but none of the directions match the dove shaped loaf in the picture.

Recipes in Abundance

Thanks to the Internet I am now able to find many recipes for Columba Pasquale, or Easter Dove Bread. I've learned that the recipe is Italian in origin and is made from a sweet, egg-rich bread dough that is laced with lemon and orange zest and sometimes includes dried fruit. I am not Italian but I love shaped cakes and breads and I wanted to make something special with the raisins I collected so I adapted this traditional Italian Easter bread to my own interests and design.

Though I found lots of recipes and even pictures as I searched for Easter Dove breads, I am glad to have that picture I taped in my old recipe book. Most of the recipes I have found for Columba Pasquale call for a dove-shaped mold to bake the bread in. I don't have one and, besides, I really liked the rustic look of the hand shaped loaf in the picture. I have had it in my head for years and a loaf like that one was what I hoped for.

The dough I tried turned out to be easy to work with. Without directions I tried to match the pictured loaf with some success. The almonds and sugar sprinkles along with the egg wash make a pretty loaf with just the right amount of sweetness, and the texture and flavor of the bread is wonderful. I will be making this bread again and again.

Easter Dove Bread (Colomba Pasquale)
adapted from a recipe at Suite101.com

½ - ¾ cup raisins
2 Tablespoons orange juice or whiskey

1 Tablespoon yeast
4½ cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
zest of one tangerine or orange
zest of one lemon
½ cup milk
½ cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 large eggs

1 egg white, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon water
Marcona or other almonds, whole, halved or sliced
decorative sugar crystals, vanilla sugar or white sugar

Place the raisins in a small microwave safe bowl. Pour the orange juice or whiskey over the raisins and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Set aside.

In a small bowl combine the sugar, orange zest and lemon zest. Rub the sugar and zest together with your fingertips to release the oil and flavor.

Place the yeast and the next nine ingredients listed in a bread machine. The ingredients are listed here in the order suggested by the manufacturer of my old bread machine but recommendations vary so follow the order suggested for your machine. Set your machine to the 'manual' setting so that you can take the dough out, when ready, and shape it by hand.

When the dough begins to form, or when specified by your machine, add the raisin mixture.

(The dough can also be prepared in the traditional way:

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Heat the milk and butter over low heat until warm, 115 to 120 degrees. Add the vanilla. Add mixture to the dry ingredients, along with the egg, and stir until a dough forms. Add the raisin mixture and work it into the dough. Turn the dough onto a well floured surface and knead for approximately 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn once. Cover with a towel and let it rise in a warm place until double, approximately 1 - 1 1/2 hours. Continue as follows.)

When the dough is ready, transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough setting aside about a third of the dough and dividing that third into two equal pieces. Cover all pieces and allow them to rest for 10 minutes.

Form the larger section of the dough in to a log approximately 12 inches long by 4.5 inches wide. Place the log on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Leaving about 1/3 of the log as it is, begin twisting the rest turning the dough three or four times. Turn the top twisted quarter of the dough to the side to form the head of the dove. The twisted portion is the body and the untwisted portion is the tail. Gently spread the tail portion into a fan, pressing it into shape with your fingers.

Form the two smaller divided portions of dough into soft teardrop shapes and place them to either side of the twisted body portion of the dove, nestling them gently against the body section, to either side to form wings, spreading into shape.

Stud the wings and tail with marcona or other almonds.

Cover with a tea towel and let rise until nearly double (approximately 1 hour).

( Note: Two smaller loaves can be formed, if desired. To do this simply divide the dough in half before continuing to divide and form each half of the dough as described above beginning with a log of dough that is approximately 7 or 8 inches long by 3 or 4 inches wide. Check carefully while the bread is in the oven as baking times will vary.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

When loaves have risen, stir together the egg white and water. Gently brush the loaf with the egg white mixture. and sprinkle with decorative or other sugar as desired.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes (approximately 25 minutes for smaller loaves), or until golden.

Remove loaf from oven to cool on a wire rack.

Serve and enjoy!


theUngourmet said...

I've never seen this before. I love it! I bought yeast the other day for a recipe and still have some left. I'm braving yeast lately. I should try making your bread!

grace said...

this is a new one to me, but it's beautiful! unlike my family of animal murderers (aka hunters), this is the only way you'll get me to eat dove.
disclaimer: they don't kill the lovely white doves, only the irksome brown ones that populate our farm. :)

Michelle said...

Oh my goodness! I have never seen anything like the Dove Bread before but very cool!

Cathy said...

What a gorgeous bread, and it's perfect for Easter.

I hope you and your family have a lovely Easter, Lisa.

nycstylelittlecannoli said...

that looks amazing! making our easter pizza's this weekend...can't wait! they are so good and so bad for you at the same time!!


Ivy said...

How creative! It looks super good.

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Have a wonderful Easter Lisa!!!! The bread is perfect for the occasion.

nancy said...

hi, i have made the easter dove bread for many years, it is always a tradition, i lost my recipe so found your site, it is a great dough, and mine called for almond paste, and walnuts, but this is perfect, we will really enjoy it tomorrow,

Gayle said...

My mother used to make Easter bread every year - with the hand shaped dove and all. I've been looking for a recipe for years now. Thanks so much!

Kelly said...

Just stumbled upon your blog and love this post. I've never heard of this before and it's very gorgeous. Nice post.

Sef said...

I like this cake because it looks so good and spell check website. nice!

Alma Vorrei said...

This bread was amazing. I made this a hot cross buns for Easter. While both good, this was definitely the superior bread. It's light, tasty, with a pleasant, sweet crust. I just found your recipe for this year. Thanks!

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Maheen said...

I am always searching online for articles that can help me. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also. Keep working, great job bread maker