Colomba Italian Easter Dove Bread, is an Italian sweet yeast bread that is traditional for Easter. The rich egg and butter dough is shaped into a dove, and is perfect for breakfast, or as a dessert.
You’ll find a colomba all over Italy in any market or in bakeries, and it is enjoyed on Easter Sunday. There really isn’t a need to go through all the trouble to bake one for yourself, when there are so many options!
But if you don’t live somewhere that you can find a Colomba Pasquale (Easter dove bread), you could make your own! Maybe you are lucky enough to be able to buy one, but you always dreamed of making a colomba for Easter from scratch! This Italian Easter dove bread recipe is all you need to make one today!
Putting together the dough is a big endeavor, but it is really not that difficult. Like any yeast dough, it takes a bit of time and lots of patience. The yeast just needs to be able to work its magic.
The dove shape may same daunting, but I think it’s not that important to have it actually come out looking like a dove. The most important thing is that the sweet yeast bread is nice and fluffy!
What is the history of the Italian Easter dove bread?
The Italian Easter Dove Bread is a holiday with a long history dating back to 572 A.D. The most famous tale, however, comes from Lombardy in Italy, where the Lombardians defeated Holy Roman Emperor Barbarossa in battle.
Two doves (symbolizing the Holy Ghost) reportedly appeared over the battleground as a sign of divine protection.
Colomba Pasquale, which means Easter Dove, became very popular in Italy, until it came to be regarded as the unofficial national Easter bread.
What ingredients are in an Italian Easter Colomba?
Here is all you need to make this delicious yeast bread (that is almost like a cake!):
- milk, use unsweetened almond milk for dairy-free
- all-purpose flour
- all-purpose flour
- egg yolk
- Fiori di Sicilia (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract + 1/2 teaspoon orange extract)
- orange zest (or lemon zest)
- unsalted butter, use margarine for dairy-free
- dried fruit (I use 1/2 cup raisins and 1/2 cup candied orange peel)
Glaze and Toppings:
- egg whites
- almond flour
- pearl sugar (or coarse sugar)
- whole or sliced almonds
How to make an Italian dove bread (Colomba di Pasqua)? (full directions in recipe below)
The dough takes a little bit of work, but it’s mostly the patience to let it rise.
The first step is to make the starter. It’s easy to put together and needs to rest 6 hours (or even overnight). I forgot to take a photo of the starter.
If your bowl isn’t big enough, you may find this the next day. And it’s fine, just a little messy. The next day, the rest of the yeast, flour, when the butter and rest of flour and ingredients gets added in.
When we made it this particular time, we should have let it rise in a bigger bowl. Because it really rose!
Once it was ready, it was time to add in the candied citrus and let it rise again.
Mix it all in (we did it by hand on a clean counter).
Using disposable kitchen gloves really helps to deal with the super sticky dough. We tripled the recipe so we would have extra to give to our friends.
Layer on the second part of the dough and then it’s time to brush on the almond flour sugar glaze (it’s like a sticky paste). Let it rise again and then it’s ready to bake!
Sprinkle on the pretty pearl sugar.
Can I make an Easter colomba by hand?
Yes, you could make the dough by hand. But it is a really sticky dough and it does take a lot of kneading, which is easier to do with the dough hook attachment on a stand mixer. You may already be a yeast dough expert, and can handle all the kneading by hand (it’s a good arm workout!).
What is used as a filling in an Italian colomba Easter bread?
An Easter colomba typically is filled with candied citrus or even raisins, or both. Italy has chocolate versions, where they are filled with chocolate chips. There are even chocolate covered colomba’s. If you are chocolate lover, add some chocolate chips, it’s up to you!
Can I make this in loaf pans?
Yes, if you don’t have the dove paper molds, you could divide the dough into loaf pans. Or make your own dove design with aluminum foil.
Can you freeze an Italian Easter dove bread?
Yes, once it has cooled down completely, slice into slices or big chunks. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in zipped lock freezer bag. Stays fresh for up to 2 months.
Some other yeast based doughs to enjoy:
- Crescia al Formaggio-Italian Easter Cheese Bread
- Chocolate Babka
- Crusty No-Knead Italian Bread
recipe slightly adapted from Bob’s Red Mill
Just a quick request: if you enjoyed Easter Colomba as much as we did, would you kindly leave me a 5-star rating and a short (or long!)comment–the ratings are what helps get my recipes and hard work discovered, so I can keep leaving you more delish recipes!
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Colomba Italian Easter Dove Bread
- 1 Tablespoon yeast
- 1 cup lukewarm milk about 110F degrees
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ Tablespoon yeast
- 2 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract + 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
- zest of 1 orange
- 8 ounces unsalted butter softened
- 1 cup dried fruit I used homemade candied orange peel, but you could use raisins
- Glaze and Toppings:
- 2 egg whites
- ⅓ cup almond flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 4 Tablespoons pearl sugar substitute: coarse sugar
- 2 to 3 Tablespoons whole or sliced almonds
- Making the starter:
- Sprinkle the yeast on the warm milk and let it sit for 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour and sugar, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest overnight (or for at least 6 hours) at room temperature, or until it triples in volume.
- Making the dough (FIRST RISING OF THE DOUGH):
- On the next day: in the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attached, add in the starter, the rest of the yeast, and 2 cups of flour. Mix on medium-low speed for 5 minutes to combine.
- Add in sugar and eggs: add the sugar, eggs, last ½ cup of flour, salt, and Fiori di Sicilia (or extracts) into the bowl. On medium speed, mix for about 15 minutes. Add in more flour in very small amounts, if it’s needed, to combine the dough.
- Add in the butter: as soon as the dough is elastic, start to add the butter in slowly. Knead on medium speed for 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and satiny, and is not sticky to touch (the dough should be elastic and bounce back when you touch it).
- Mix in candied fruit: dump the dough out onto a clean counter, or work surface. Add in the candied fruit (or chocolate) and mix to combine. Using kitchen gloves helps to work this sticky dough.
- Let dough rise: Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and leave in a warm place until doubled in volume – for 3-4 hours.
- SECOND RISING OF THE DOUGH
- Punch down the dough: transfer the dough to a lightly floured clean counter or work area, and punch it down. Separate the dough into two equal portions, with one portion a little longer than the other. Form the divided dough sections into logs.
- Prep your paper mold or baking tin: spray a dove bread paper mold with baking spray and place the dough logs into the mold. Start with the first log that goes on bottom of mold to the edges of the wings.
- Second portion of dough: place the second dough log on top of the first log, laying it down from the head to the tail. Gently push the dough to fill into any gaps of the mold.
- Loosely cover the dough: Loosely cover with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes (it could take 2 hours), or until doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 375F degrees.
- Make the almond sugar glaze: in a clean mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy and whisk in the almond flour and sugar until you have a white paste-like glaze.
- Brush on the almond sugar glaze: as soon as the bread is ready to bake, use a brush to carefully add on the almond sugar glaze. Brush it on softly so you do not deflate the bread. Sprinkle on some pearl sugar and decorate with the almonds.
- Bake the colomba: bake on 375°F for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350°F and bake for an additional 20 to 30 minutes. If the top is browning too much, carefully tent with aluminum paper for the last 10 minutes of baking. Bake the bread until it is a nice golden brown, or unti an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center reads 190°F.
- Let the bread cool down: when it’s ready, carefully remove the bread from the oven and place on a rack to cool down. Slice into portions and enjoy!