Italian Dove Sweet Bread

  • Serves: Makes 1 large dove-shaped loaf, about 12 servings
  • Baking Temp (degrees F): 325
  • Views: 13687
  • Comments: 11

Symbolizing both peace and the Holy Spirit, the Dove, has become the shape of the famous traditional Easter Bread, Colomba di Pasqua (Colomba Pasquale) or Easter Dove in English, a classic dessert at any Easter meal in Italy. It lies somewhere between Brioche and Panettone. It is cakelike and tender, slightly sweet, and almond scented, often accompanied by an espresso or a cappuccino. Traditionally, the bread is flavored just with candied citrus peel, but you can add other dried fruit if you like; we studded ours with dried cranberries and golden raisins. And, it makes a beautiful centerpiece for the Easter table. The dove shape is traditional and we show you how to form it by hand, though the dough can be baked in a bread pan shaped like a bread loaf. You can also bake it in paper Colomba Easter Dove Bake & Serve Pans.


The amount of liquid (water or milk, for example) used in the recipe will vary depending on the time of year and where and when the flour was milled. I have made bread recipes many times, and during the winter, when it is dry, the flour tends to need more liquid in the recipe. During the summer months, when it is humid, you'll find that you will need less water. It's because the flour either dries out slightly during the winter or will absorb water from the humidity in the air during the summer.

Bread Dough Decorations:
1 large egg, separated
1/2 cup almond paste
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour; spoon into measuring cup and level to rim
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Whole almonds

Dried Fruit Mixture:
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons Brandy or water
1 tablespoon Amaretto or water

Bread Dough:
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; use Gold Medal AP Flour or other. Do not use King Arthur; spoon into measuring cup and level to rim. More, if needed.
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons instant active dry yeast; one 1/4-ounce package contains or 2 1/4 teaspoons instant active dry yeast
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange

3 large eggs
3/4 cup 2% or whole milk, warmed (about 120 to 130 degrees F); more, if needed
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened but not melted or greasy

Make the Almond Paste Balls:
1. In a medium bowl, add the egg yolk (reserve the white), almond paste (crumble it into the bowl), flour and vanilla and almond extracts.

2. Mix together with a spoon or fork. Then, use your hands to knead the mixture until smooth.

3. Roll the mixture into about 25 to 30 marble-sized Almond Paste Balls.

NOTE: Make sure you wash your hands and work surface with soapy hot water since you are handling raw egg yolks.

4. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until needed.

Prepare the Dried Fruit Mixture:
1. Soak the dried fruit using our "fast soak method":
Place the dried cranberries and golden raisins in a plastic resealable bag. Add the rum, brandy, and water, and squeeze as much air as
possible out of the bag before closing. (This maximizes the surface area contact between the fruit and the liquor, and makes sure no fruit
is left dry.)

2. Heat the fruit (with the liquid) in the microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from microwave and set the sealed bag stand for one hour.

3. Then, drain the Dried Fruit Mixture, reserving the liquid for the recipe. The liquid is used as flavoring. Use no more than 1 - 2 tablespoons for the recipe.

Prepare the equipment:
1. Grease a deep mixing bowl and set aside. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat mat.

Mix the Italian Dove Bread Dough:
1. In the bowl of the heavy-duty stand mixer, add the flour, sugar, salt.

2. Then, the yeast, lemon and orange zests.

3. Clamp the mixer bowl onto the stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and mix the ingredients together at low speed.

4. Combine the reserved 1 - 2 tablespoons fruit-soaking liquid with the milk. Add in the vanilla and stir.

5. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, milk mixture, and honey.

4. Set the mixer speed to medium-low speed and mix until a thick batter forms, taking about 1 minute.
Adjust the consistency of the dough with teaspoons of milk or fruit-soaking liquid or pinches of flour.

5. Switch to the dough hook attachment. At low speed, add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing after each before adding the next.

6. Increase the speed to medium, and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 - 10 minutes.
The dough should be sticky, but not wet; add sprinkles of flour if necessary to achieve the proper consistency. Mix after each small addition.

7. Add the soaked and drained Dried Fruit Mixture, and knead at medium speed until evenly incorporated, about 2 minutes more.


Allow the dough to rise:
1. Scrape the dough into a greased bowl. Turn it in the bowl so it is greased all over.

2. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours or use Sarah's Microwave Bread Proofer.

Shape the bread dough:
1. Remove the Almond Paste Balls from the refrigerator. Set aside.

2. Once the dough has risen, do not punch it down, but rather turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in half.

NOTE: To divide bread dough, cut straight down using a Bench Scraper or a sharp knife. Do not pull or tear at the bread dough.

3. Roll one portion of the dough into a log about 12-inches long and place it on an angle on the prepared baking sheet.

Using the side of your hand, gently flatten the center of the log.

4. Form the other portion of the dough into a triangle, about 15-inches long and 6-inches wide at the base.
NOTE: Do not use a rolling pin to form the dough; just stretch it gently with your fingertips to the correct shape and dimensions. Do NOT
pull at the dough to stretch it. Let the dough rest about 5 - 10 minutes if it does not shape easily or snaps back into its original shape.

5. Place the triangle over the previously shaped log on the prepared baking sheet.
Make sure the wide end, extends 4 inches inches below and the pointed end 7 inches above.

6. Bend about 3-inches of the pointed end to the side to represent the heat and beak.

7. Using kitchen shears, cut the edge of the wings (the log) and the bottom of the tail (the wide end of the triangle) to create feathers.
Make sure you cut straight down.

8. Afterwards, gently spread the "feathers" apart to give them more definition.

Add the Almond Paste Balls and Whole Almond decorations:
1. In a small bowl, beat the reserved egg white until foamy. Use a pastry brush to paint the egg white over the surface of the dove.

2. Decorate the dove with the Almond Paste Balls, LIGHTLY pressing them into the wings, tail and chest of the bird, as well as using 1 ball for the eye.
Also, I pinched off little bits from the almond paste balls and rolled some smaller balls to make graduated sizes on the tail.
NOTE: If the almond paste balls crack when pressing them, they are too cold. Roll them between the palms of your hands to warm.

3. Repeat with the whole almonds, gently pressing them into the surface of the Almond Paste Dough Balls.
NOTE: I saved the smallest almond I could find to use for the eye, so it would look proportional to the head of the dove.

4. Make final adjustments in the shape of the dove. Loosely cover the dough with greased side-down plastic wrap and allow to rise again until puffy about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

NOTE: This is a picture of the risen dove, it doesn't appear that much bigger, but it puffed UP, more then out. It was definitely thicker.

5. 30 minutes before baking, position the oven shelf in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Bake until golden and cooked through, about 40 minutes.
NOTE: The bread was getting quite dark at the end. I measured it in the thickest part of the body(I poke it in the wing seam, on a diagonal, to the center of the body), and it was 195, so I took it out. It was PERFECTLY done on the inside.

6. Cool in its baking pan for about 20 to 30 minutes before removing to a wire cake rack to finish cooling. Use a metal spatula to loosen the bread first from the pan and help
support the bread to the cake rack. If baked on parchment paper, simply slide the bread attached to it from the pan to the cake rack to cool.

Italian Dove Bread is best the day it is made, but can be kept nicely at room temperature for a day or two; wrap in plastic.
Wrapped airtight, the bread can be frozen for a month. Thaw, still wrapped, at room temperature.


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