Colomba Italian Easter Dove Bread, a delicious sweet yeast bread, bake it with your favourite fillings, chocolate chips, candied fruit, raisins or even plain. The Perfect Sweet Bread for Easter Breakfast, Brunch or even Dessert.
Italian Easter Bread
You know it’s almost Easter in Italy when every grocery store you go to is filled with every type of Colomba – Italian Easter Dove Bread.
What is Colomba and what does it mean
La Colomba is a delicious sweet bread made with yeast. In English Colomba means Dove. While Pandora or Panettone is the traditional Cake/Bread for an Italian Christmas, then Colomba is the traditional bread for Easter.
How to make Colomba
To make the Classic Colomba you have to start with a starter dough. This is a yeast dough that is not as complicated as it looks, you just need patience and time.
First Step is to make a Starter dough
- In a medium bowl add the lukewarm water, honey and yeast, let sit 3-5 minutes then stir to combine.
- Add the flour and mix to form a dough ball, cover and let rise 1-2 hours or until tripled in volume.
- In the bowl of the mixer add the flour, starter dough, sugar and salt, with the dough hook attachment start to knead.
- Add the milk and egg and knead until completely combined.
- Then add the butter a little at a time, continue kneading until completely combined.
- Move the dough to a lightly floured flat surface and knead a few times to form a smooth ball.
- Place in a bowl, cover and let rise until tripled in bulk.
- Place the risen dough in the mixer and add the egg, knead to combine.
- Add the flour in two additions, kneading continually continue to knead for 10 minutes.
- Add the butter a little at a time and knead until combined.
- Add the zest and candied fruit, and knead for nine minutes.
- Add the chocolate chips and knead for one more minute.
- The dough will be stretchy.
- Move the dough to a lightly floured flat surface.
- Knead a few times to form a smooth ball and form into 3 pieces that are the shape of a dove.
- Place the dove in the special pan and let rise 3-4 hours or until doubled.
- Brush the risen bread with a sugar glaze, top with almonds and pearl sugar.
- Bake in pre-heated oven for approximately 35-40 minutes.
What is Pearl Sugar?
It is a very coarse, hard, and off white in colour type of sugar. It does not melt at temperatures that are used for baking, this is why it makes the perfect topping for pastries and specialty breads. If you can’t find pearl / nib sugar then I have a recipe for Homemade Pearl Sugar on my Ciambella Romagnola Italian Cake.
Last Easter I made a delicious Easter Bread that was always baked and shared at Easter time when I was a kid by my sister’s late mother-in-law. It is on the dry side which makes it the perfect dunking bread!
And now since I am having so much fun baking with yeast, I just had to try La Colomba this Easter. Which I am remaking again this Easter.
What can you use as a filling for Italian Easter Bread?
Usually these Italian sweet breads are filled with candied fruit or raisins, and since a few members of my family don’t like candied fruit and the other couple don’t like raisins, chocolate chips won.
In Italy you can purchase these delicious sweet breads with chopped chocolate or chips and also covered with melted chocolate! Which I have to say is one of my favourites!
How to store the Easter Bread
The baked cooled bread should be stored in an airtight plastic bag and kept at room temperature, it will keep for up to 3-4 days. It can also be frozen in a freezer safe bag or container. It will keep for two months in the freezer.
I know I have said it before and I will continue to say it, do not be afraid to bake with yeast.
I never used to make Sweet Doughs with yeast because I was convinced it was difficult and would taste yeasty. But believe me it isn’t and it doesn’t.
I started with a simple Brioche and now I have tackled this amazing Colomba Italian Easter Dove Bread.
Whether you have tried this delicious sweet bread before or not then I think you should try making it yourself. Surprise everyone at Easter with An Italian Easter Bread. You can make a traditional Dove shape pan or even use a loaf pan.
Remember all you need is time and patience. It just might become your new Easter tradition. Enjoy!
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Colomba Italian Easter Dove Bread
- 2 tablespoons lukewarm water (temp 105F/40C) (30 grams)
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (3 1/2 grams)
- 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon all purpose flour (50 grams)
- 1 1/4 cups + 3 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour (200 grams)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup milk (lukewarm) (55 grams)
- 1 large egg (room temperature)
- 1/4 cup butter (softened) (50 grams)
- 1 cup all purpose flour (125 grams)
- 1/3 cup + 1/2 tablespoon butter (softened/salted) (75 grams)
- 1 large egg (room temperature)
- zest half lemon & half an orange
- 3-4 tablespoons candied orange (40-50 grams)
- 3-4 tablespoons mini chocolate chips (30-45 grams)
- 1 egg white
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 15-20 whole almonds (more or less)
- 2-3 tablespoons Pearl or Nib sugar
- In a medium bowl add the lukewarm water, honey and yeast, let sit 3-5 minutes then stir to combine. Add the flour and mix to form a dough ball, cover and let rise in a warm draft free area for 1-2 hours or until tripled in volume.
- In the bowl of the mixer add the starter dough, flour, sugar and salt, with the dough hook attachment start to knead. Add the milk and egg and knead until completely combined. Then add the butter a little at a time, continue kneading until completely combined. Move the dough to a lightly floured flat surface and knead a few times to form a smooth ball. Place the dough in a bowl, cover and let rise in a warm draft free area for 4 hours or until tripled in bulk.
- Place the risen dough in the mixer and add the egg and knead to combine. Add the flour in two additions, kneading continually, continue kneading for 10 minutes. Add the butter a little at a time and knead until combined. Add the zest and candied fruit, knead nine minutes then add the chocolate chips and knead for another minute, the dough will be stretchy.
- Move the dough to a lightly floured flat surface. Knead a few times to form a smooth ball. Depending on whether you have a colomba pan or not you could make a large colomba or a small one with a small loaf or a large loaf. If you make a colomba then form the dough into three pieces*, one long log and 3 small oval shaped balls-see photos). Place in pan and let rise 3-4 hours or until doubled.
- Pre-heat oven to 350F (180C). Place a pan with 1 1/2 cups of water in it on the bottom of the oven.
- Bake for 20 minutes (if the bread is browning too much then cover it with foil and continue baking) then lower oven to 325F (165C) for approximately 10-15 minutes (more if you make a larger one dove or loaf) or until toothpick (I used a wooden kabob stick) comes out clean or a couple of crumbs are attached. Let cool before serving. Enjoy!
- In a small bowl beat together until thick, egg white and powdered/icing sugar, coat top of final risen dough, sprinkle with whole almonds and pearl / nib sugar.
*I made a smaller dove and the rope piece weight 300 grams and the oval weighed 150 grams. I used a tall loaf/can pan 7x3 inches (18x9cm).
Updated from March 3, 2018.