Colomba di pasqua (italian easter dove bread)

Yield: 1 loaf

Measure Ingredient



La colomba, a yeast dove of peace, is Italy's celebrated Easter loaf.

Golden with egg yolks and butter, this aristocratic bread comes in all sizes from small pigeons to great family-size doves with two-feet wing spans. Often its tail and wings are embossed with almond paste. In Italy the winsome bread birds make fashionable presents, sheathed in gay paper and festooned with glossy ribbon. With cappuccino, sampling the bread is rewarding in any season. In a small bowl proof 1 envelope active dry yeast in ¼ cup lukewarm milk with 1 teaspoon sugar for 10 minutes. In a large bowl combine 1 stick or ½ cup butter, softened and cut into bits, ¾ cup sugar, 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind, 2½ teaspoons vanilla, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir ½ cup scalded milk into the butter mixture and let the mixture cool until it is lukewarm. Stir in the yeast mixture and 6 egg yolks, lightly beaten. Gradually beat in 3 cups flour, or enough to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in about 1 ¼ cups more flour for 10 minutes, or until it is smooth and satiny. Form the dough into a ball, put it into a buttered bowl, turning it to coat it with the butter, and let it rise, covered, in a warm place for 1 ½ hours, or until it is double in bulk. Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Roll out half the dough into an oval about 5 by 11 inches and lay it across the width of a buttered 13- by 15-inch baking sheet. Roll out the remaining dough into a triangle 5 inches wide at the base and 12 inches long.

Arrange the triangle over the oval, forming a cross. Hold the triangle at the center and twist it once, forming the body of the dove. Pinch in the dough about 3 inches below the tip of the triangle to form the dove's neck and head and elongate the tip to form the beak. With the blunt edge of a knife, score the tail and wings to simulate feathers. Make an almond paste topping: In a bowl cream together ⅓ cup almond paste, 1 egg white, and 2 tablespoons sugar.

Spread the topping over the scored portion of the dove and let the dough rise, covered, in a warm place for 30 minutes, or until it is double in bulk. Brush the surface of the dove with 1 egg white, lightly beaten, and sprinkle the wings with ¼ cup sliced blanched almonds and 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake the bread in a preheated moderately slow oven (325-F.) for 40 to 45 minutes, or until it is browned. Transfer the bread to a rack and serve it warm.

Submitted By SALLIE KREBS On 12-26-94

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