From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Our plans for the Easter holiday are falling into place. We'll be having friends for a traditional dinner on Saturday night and on Sunday, if the good Lord's willin' and the creek don't rise, we'll be enjoying a potluck brunch on the shores of Loon Lake. After sifting through a maze of possibilities, I decided to make an Italian Easter cake, called Colomba Pasquale, as my contribution to the communal feast. I did a test run of the recipe today and I'm really pleased with the results. The cake is made with a sweet dough, similar to the one that is used for panettone, and it is usually baked in a dove-shaped mold. I've reached an age where the chances of any new pots, pans or molds coming into my kitchen are mighty slim, so the idea of a dove-shaped cake, no matter how lovely the symbolism, was immediately sacrificed on the altar of practicality. I was tempted to try a freeform version of the dove, but the dough used to make the cake is so soft I was afraid it would sprawl and look like an amoeba by the time it finished baking. I decided to use a large springform pan instead and it worked really well. I put a collar on the pan, so the dough was free to rise and my finished cake was a bit over 3 inches high. The dough used to make the Easter cake is easy enough to prepare, but because it begins with a sponge and rises several times, it is time consuming and shouldn't be attempted when you are short of time. The dough is sticky, but if you use too much flour to remedy that, your finished cake will be dry. While it is counterintuitive, wet hands will make working the dough easier. You could also use an electric mixer that has a dough hook and be done with it. The best part of the colomba is the almond topping which adds texture, flavor and eye appeal to the bread. The finished cake is really pretty and I know you will enjoy it. Here is how it is made.
Colomba Pasquale - Italian Easter Cake...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of the Italian Connection and Emanuele's Kitchen
3/4 cup milk
2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk (set aside the white)
1 stick (4-oz.) butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Grated rind of 1 small orange
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup almonds
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 egg white
1/3 cup whole almonds
Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling
1) To make the sponge: Heat milk to 105 degrees F. and pour into a medium size bowl. Mix in 1 teaspoon sugar and yeast and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir to combine. Add 1 cup flour and mix thoroughly with a fork. Cover with plastic wrap and place in warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 30-45 minutes.
2) To make dough: Melt butter in a saucepan and let cool. In a large bowl, beat 3 whole eggs and 1 yolk with a fork. Mix in sugar, salt, vanilla, and lemon and orange rinds. Stir in butter. Stir in risen sponge. Mix energetically until well combined. Gradually mix in the 3 cups of flour.
Turn dough out onto a well-floured board and knead until smooth, adding additional flour only if needed to keep dough from sticking. Knead in raisins. Place dough in a large buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
When dough has risen, fold it over itself in the bowl several times, then shape as desired, either as one large round cake, 2 smaller round cakes, or 2 colombe-dove shapes. I made one large cake in an 10” springform pan. Butter bottom of the pan, then line inside ring with parchment paper so that it is above rim of the pan by several inches, and secure with a metal paper clip. Place dough in pan, and flatten so that it is even and touches side of the pan. Cover with a cloth and leave to rise until doubled, 60-90 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
3) To make almond glaze: In a food processor, grind almonds and sugar by pulsing, until they are finely chopped. Add cornstarch and egg white and blend well. Carefully spoon glaze over cake dough,- do not push down on dough, which will deflate it and ruin your efforts! Scatter whole almonds over surface of glaze and sprinkle with confectioners sugar.
4) To bake: Place cake pan on bottom rack of oven, and bake for 20 minutes, then lower temperature to 325 degrees F. and bake for another 20-40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. If top starts to darken too much, cover it with aluminum foil to prevent it from burning. Cool on a rack. If made a day ahead, cover well in plastic wrap to keep fresh. Yield: 12 to 16 servings.
Cook's Note: While the traditional shape of this cake is a colomba – the dove that is the symbol of peace - the dove shape is a bit awkward without a special pan, so I make one large round cake which gives spectacular results.
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Two Years Ago Today: Peanut Butter Fudge
Three Years Ago Today: Zeppole for the Feast of St. Joseph
Four Years Ago Today: Cinnamon Rolls and the Junction City Daffodil Festival