Mar 29, 2013


24 hours later, the Colomba, an Italian Easter tradition, is ready. My first one ever. I thought it would be like a Panettone but in the shape of a "colomba", or a dove. But it is not. If Panettone is the best cake ever, I need to invent another word for "best ever". I don't even know where to start.

I started yesterday, about 3 pm. I took the Colomba out of the oven today at 2 pm. The dough raised 5 times, including 12-hour layover in the oven. More times and more time than Panettone. This is the slow version of the cake. There are Colombas that can be done in one day and even a couple of hours. They take more yeast and so they taste more like yeast. And all the flavors of butter, eggs, oranges, lemons, ginger, vanilla and almonds don't get a chance to grow and blend together.

I followed the recipe to the dot when it came to...everything, including flavoring. I only slightly cut the candied ginger and orange amounts, considering kids. I've never added candied ginger but I've had it in my pantry since Christmas, when I bought it and didn't use it. And now, I'm in love. It combined beautifully with orange, lemon and vanilla flavors bringing flavoring to another level.

And a couple of words about the texture: buttery, rich, moist. Heaven!

I almost forgot, Colomba is covered with some kind of glaze that after baking turned into an absolutely amazing crust. Panettone doesn't get that.

The recipe is not difficult, it's just long. Reading, measuring, mixing...reading, measuring, mixing...waiting. But when it comes to special family occasions/traditions, like Easter, I don't mind doing long recipes. If not now, then when? Especially since my sister and I, we're doing only sweets for Easter, my mom is doing the rest. 

Recipe adapted from GialloZafferano

time: about 24 hours


12 g (1/2 oz) fresh yeast
550 g (4 cups) flour
1 teaspoon (5 g) + 180 g (5/6 cup) sugar
180 ml (3/4 cup) warm whole milk, (temp. about 30C/86F)
250 g (1 cup) soft butter (warmer than room temperature, almost melted)
5 g (1/2 teaspoon) salt
1 vanilla bean, opened and seeds scraped off
zest from 1 lemon
zest from 1 orange
50 ml (3 Tablespoons) honey
6 egg yolks
50 g (1/4 cup) candied orange
50 g (1/4 cup) candied ginger

for icing

80 g (1/2 cup) powder sugar
2 egg whites
80 g (1/2 cup) almond meal
50 g (1/2 cup) almonds, peeled, coarsely chopped, for finishing
50 g (1/2 cup) almonds, whole, not peeled, for finishing


Crumble yeast into a medium bowl, adding 50 ml (3 Tablespoons) warm milk, 1 teaspoon sugar and 100 g (2/3 cup) flour. Blend it all with your hands, in the bowl. Knead it for a minute, form a ball. Cover the dough with a plastic wrap and leave in a warm place (oven with a light on) for at least 30 minutes.


With your hands, in the same bowl, knead the dough from Faze First, adding 80 ml (1/3 cup) warm milk and 100 g (2/3 cup)  flour, for about 1 minute. Cover the dough with a plastic wrap and leave in a warm place (oven with a light on) for  30 minutes.


To the dough from Second Faze, add 150 g (1 cup) flour, 80 g (1/3 cup) sugar, 50 ml (3 Tablespoons) warm milk. Using a standing mixer with a needle attachment, knead for 15 minutes on "stir". Now, in small doses , add 80 g (5 Tablespoons) soft butter. Adding butter and mixing took me 15 minutes. After all the butter is combined and the dough is smooth and elastic, form a bowl. Cover the dough with a plastic wrap and leave in a warm place (oven with light on) for 2 hours.


After two hours, add 5 g salt (1/2 teaspoon), 100 g (1/2 cup) sugar, vanilla seeds, zests from lemon and orange, 50 g (3 Tablespoons) honey, and 6 yolks, alternating with adding remaining flour /200 g (1 1/3 cups) flour/. At the end, in small doses, add remaining /170 g (1 3/8 sticks)/ soft butter (18 minutes of mixing). After all the butter is combined, add candied fruits. Blend it all in. Form a ball and place it in a large bowl brushed with butter (extra butter). Cover with a cotton cloth and leave it in a warm place (oven) for about 12 hours.


Prepare a baking form, line the side and the bottom with parchment paper (butter the form first, the paper will stick better). I leave my parchment paper on the sides taller (about 4cm/ cm/2 inches) than the baking form, in case the dough will need more room. I used for the first time my ceramic 11x8x3inch/28x20x8cm dish to bake a cake in.
Transfer dough on rolling board, work it for a minute with between your hands and a plastic scraper. Transfer it onto the form. Keep it in a warm place till it doubles (or so) in size, for about 3 hours.

to prepare the glaze

In a medium bowl, using a fork, beat the egg whites, just a bit, and slowly start adding powder sugar and almond meal. The liquid should be thick enough to stay on the dough. If not, add more powder sugar. 

Preheat oven to 200C/400F (static function).

Cover the dough with the glaze, drop almonds and almond pieces on top. Place in the 200C oven for 10 minutes and then lower the temperature to 180C/350F and bake for another 40-50 minutes. Check if the toothpick from the middle of the cake comes out clean. Take the Colomba out, let it cool a bit. Happy Easter!

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