I made this a few weeks ago but have only had the chance to post it now. I took the recipe from Cresci, by Massari and Zoia. In the book it's for a panettone but I thought I'd try to make it in the form of a colomba because it was around Easter and I still had a few colomba cases left to use :)
This is a very unusual panettone recipe in the all the flour goes into the first dough. The traditional method is to split the flour between the two stages. I'm not quite sure what the benefits of this are (allowing for more autolysis) but there are a few recipes in the book where this happens. I'm pretty certain that these "non-traditional" formulae are associated with Achille Zoia. I've been working on his panettone paradiso (another flour-all-in-one recipe) on-and-off now for over a month and I kid you not, I've only made it work once, despite about 15 attempts!! Fool that I am, the one time it worked I didn't take any photos, but the crumb was the softest and moistest of any panettone I've ever had, so I'm determined to persever. But back to the colomba...
The recipe calls for hazelnut paste and gianduia amara. I bought the hazelnut paste online (very expensive) because I don't have the equipment to make a truly smooth paste at home. The gianduia I made myself, using the following recipe (in grams). I took amara here to mean the use of dark chocolate rather than milk. I used Amedei toscano black - a really delicious, and Italian, chocolate.
hazelnut paste 50
dark chocolate 70% 20
cacao butter 6
icing sugar 50
melt the chocolate and cacao butter together and then blend in the icing sugar and paste. It's important to stir constantly and drop the temp as quickly as possible to 26C to prevent it from separating. I took this recipe from Valrhona's cooking with chocolate book.
I made the first impasto at about 10pm so that I could go to bed and rise the next day with it ready.
hazelnut paste 32
very strong flour 316
Italian sweet starter 63
I left the flour, sugar and water to autolyse for half an hour and then added the other ingredients, working it until the dough was stringy.
The next morning it had tripled in volume (12 hours precisely) so I reworked it with the following:
gianduia (melted) 47
hazelnut paste 32
vanilla quarter of a pod
milk chocolate 62
dark chocolate 47
take 991 of the impasto and add chocolate pieces. For the milk choc I used Valrhona's Jivara, and a mix of Amedei toscano black and Valrhona's Manjari for the dark.
My last attempt at forming a colomba hadn't been a success, so taking inspiration from thefreshloaf, I decided to fold and stretch it repeatedly until I had a nice tight ball. I let this rest for an hour and then repeated the process, before putting it into the shape. I was much happier with the shaping this time, the dough had a better, tighter skin on it.
I had just enough dough left over to make a "panettoncino" of about 85g.
About 6 hours later (held at c. 30C) it was ready to go in the oven. I glazed it, covered it was sugar granules and almonds, and then dusted it was icing sugar.
My glaze this time was a little thicker than I've made it before - too thick I think, even though I followed my usual recipe. I should have added a tiny bit more egg white. It was just a tad too thick to be easily spreadable. In the oven then for 50 minutes at 170C. I didn't bother with steam because I was worried about the icing sugar. I'm not sure it made any difference.
Oven spring was enormous. The top photo doesn't really do it justice. I doesn't show just how much over the edge of the form it is. I slightly crushed it with my hand when I was turning it upside down (idiot!!!) but apart from a crack on the surface, it popped right back out when it was hanging during cooling.
The colomba itself was a present, so the only crumb shot I have is from the panettoncino. I think there was just a little too much impasto in the pirottino... BakeryBits.co.uk markets them as 100g cases, but I think even 80g is too much if you are using them for a panettone. I think perhaps 70g might have been better.
Well, my conclusions...
I tasted both the baby panettone and the colomba and I was very... disappointed!!! There was zero(!!) taste of hazelnut from it. Zero!!! The hazelnut paste I used was professional quality (it certainly had a professional price) but it didn't even leave a trace of flavour in the finished product. The photo in Cresci implies a deep brown crumb, but my crumb looks more beige. I didn't know what industrial strength paste Zoia must be using to achieve any flavour or colour on this one. The crumb itself, although very shreddy, as it should be, was also quite dry. The driest of all the panettone I've made so far. All I can say is thank God I used good quality chocoalte, because otherwise the entire thing would have been very uninteresting.
It's a great shame, because I'd been looking at the recipe for ages, thinking it would be great. Where is the hazelnut flavour?!?!? Another thing I've noticed is the how much growth in the colomba is lost to sideways motion. The circular shape of the panettone form is very strong, so all the growth is directed upwards. The colomba seems structurally weaker, you can see how the sides have bulged out and become distored.
I need a break from panettone making for the moment... the repeated disasters with the panettone paradiso have knocked my confidence terribly. Hopefully a break will allow me to... what? I'm not giving up on it though. I refuse to be beaten by a bit of flour, butter and egg!
I'm never sure when it's going to happen. Last year it was at the end of April. This year it's the 8th! As usual, I visit the Wiki Easter page in an attempt to, for once and for all, understand about full moons, spring equinoxes, Julian and Gregorian calendars and... well, that's usually where I give up.
Just hit me with it when it comes along! I usually start shifting gear when people actually start buying the chocolate eggs, -bunnies, and other Easter paraphernalia that have been patiently sitting on the supermarket shelves ever since the X-mas deco was chucked out.
With Easter shifting so violently all over the April calendar, and all the related holidays shifting with it, it is my most likely season for a good old "showing up at work on a national holiday"-experience.
Most of all I'm a bit confused about Easter itself. I have some distinct associations ingrained in my gray matter and gene pool.
This one is in the genes I'm afraid. A bonfire is a Northern European's traditional way of chasing away the winter demons and welcoming back the light. The sight of a big pile of wood waiting to turn bonfire in the middle of a field somewhere when visiting my family for Easter up North, where the tradition still lives on, never fails to get me all revved up with anticipation. As a kid the bonfires seemed a multitude of impressions bigger and more awesome. The smells and intense heat have remained equally intoxicating. This year there is a small village in the East trying to beat their own Guinness World Record. They have a live web cam, so you can see the biggest ever bonfire go up in flames if you want to, and who wouldn't! Nothing like a good friendly fire.
Chicken on a Stick
Another strong association with Easter is the Palm Sunday Parade. It involved a bread roll shaped like a rooster on top of a decorated cross. It's eye was a currant that came off quite easy. I was the kind of kid looking up all the time to make sure my rooster wasn't going blind up there on his stick.
Much later I realized the full meaning of this (literal) crossover tradition. Eggs, oranges and roosters; all pagan "finally-it-is-spring-again"-symbols mingled in with Christian symbols like (palm)leaves and the cross Christ died on. The rooster became associated with the bread Jesus broke at Last Supper and even with the rooster crowing after Peter denied knowing Jesus three times on Good Friday. Eggs doubled as symbols of spring as well as a symbol of new life (Easter Sunday).
Blissfully unaware of all of this, I was most of all concerned with my currant-eyed rooster and oranges surviving the parade. My mother once told me her story. When she was a kid, right after world war II, oranges were the stuff dreams were made off. And then; lo and behold; the first Easter came around that she proudly paraded around her chicken on a stick with two shiny oranges pinned on both ends.
My mother was of course as proud as a peacock. As soon as she came home, she took the oranges off carefully and put them in a box, carefully wrapped, guarding it with her life, to admire and eat later.
When she finally gave into her desire to eat her precious jewels, she found them dried out and wasted in her beautiful box. I consider it one of my more important lessons in life.
All Together Now
And then you realize that Jewish Pesach and Christian Easter share a whole lot of history as well, and were at one time the same thing. Christian Easter allegedly gets its name from the Saxon Goddess Eastre, the spring goddess. The Netherlands is a linguistic border in the Northern regions of Europe. All around us, geographically speaking, there is talk of "Ostern" or "Easter", but the Dutch have stuck with French & Latin influences and celebrate "Pasen", like the Flemish their "Paas", the French their "Paques" and the Italian their "Pasqua".
So what are we celebrating? The return of the light, the resurrection of Christ AND the end of slavery and thus freedom regained. That's a whole lot of celebrating! Let's turn to the Italians to provide us with the necessary festive bread. The message of this bread is simple: Peace! All of the above celebrations will benefit from that beautiful word, even if the tulip named after it at the tulip exhibition certainly isn't going to win any big prizes soon, except for maybe in the category awkward yet true...
For the peeps who rather watch things than read, here we go!
550 gr / 22.9 oz bread flour
8½ gr / 0.2 oz salt
1 x 120 gr / 4.2 oz soft butter
2 x 40 gr / 1.4 oz soft butter
120 gr / 4.2 oz whole milk
150 gr / 5.2 oz sugar
75 gr / 2.6 oz candied lemon peel
75 gr / 2.6 oz candied orange peel
50 gr / 1.7 oz of small pearl sugar
Home made orange/lemon peel
The day before; Wash and peel the skins of two oranges (or lemons). Cut into thin strips. Cover them with water, bring to a quick boil, simmer for 5 minutes and then drain. Put fresh cold water in the pan, and repeat this twice.
Then dissolve 450 gr / 15.9 oz sugar in 435 gr / 15.3 oz of water. Add 1 TBS of lemon juice. Simmer the orange peels in the sugar syrup for about 1 - 1½ hrs until translucent. Drain and dry the peels over night on a cooling rack. The next day put 100 gr / 3.5 oz of sugar in a plastic bag, add the peels and toss around to cover them well. Cut into little cubes and put aside until needed in the dough. If you want to shape your Pasquale in the traditional way, you might want to browse around for sturdy card board that can be cut into the shape of a (rudimentary) dove. The amount of risen dough yielded from this recipe gives you two medium sized loafs when baked in standard bread pans.
Mix 12 gr / 0.4 oz of instant yeast with 100 gr / 5.3 oz of flour and add just enough water to make the dough come together; 2-4 TBS. Cover and let rest at room temp until the stiff dough has turned puffy; about 45 minutes. Alternatively; try submerging your ball of dough in warm (30° C / 86° F) water.
Your starter is ready to go when it floats to the surface! (I finally tried this method, and it really works...)
Combine flour, salt, sugar and candied lemon peel, mix together. Then add the eggs, a little at a time until incorporated. Add 120 gr / 4.2 oz soft butter in pieces and mix. When the dough gets dry, add the milk and the starter dough. Mix very well on low-medium speed until you have a firm and elastic dough. Depending on what sort of flour you are using, you might have to add a few extra TBS of flour, or hold back a little of the milk to get the right consistency.
Transfer the mixed dough to an oiled bowl. Cover the dough and let it rest until increased in volume by ⅓.
When the dough has risen by a third, turn it out into the mixer bowl again. Add 40 gr / 1.4 oz of soft butter and the orange peel in portions. Mix until well distributed. Transfer the dough to an oiled container once again, and this time leave it to rise until doubled in volume.
Transfer the dough to the mixer one last time to incorporate the last 40 gr / 1.4 oz of soft butter. Mix it in and transfer the dough to your mold or bread pan(s). In Italy the traditional Colomba Pasquale mold is easily found. Outside of Italy that might be a bit of a problem. If you are dead set on shaping it the traditional way, you might have to get your card board and scissors out to put one together yourself. Don't worry about making it neat; the more "rustic" your "bricolage"-mold looks, the more rustic your Colomba will look as well.
Cover and let the dough proof one final time.
Making the topping
200 gr / 7.0 oz sugar
80 gr / 2.8 oz ground almonds
3 egg whites
¼ TSP of almond extract
pearl sugar (optional, but very pretty)
When the dough has almost fully proofed (poke it with a wet finger; if the dough springs back immediately, you are not there yet. If the dent fills back slowly, you are on the money and ready to go on) continue making the topping. First, preheat your oven to 200°C/ 390°F.
In a fat free mixer bowl, whip up a meringue using three egg whites. Fold in the sugar and the ground almonds and spread out evenly over the dough when using the traditional mold or bread pans. Sprinkle royally with flaked almonds and pearl sugar.
(Alternatively; if you are using a dove mold, you will first have to bake the bread in the mold and then add the topping to it after taking it out of the mold. You can put it back in the oven to make the meringue set and brown the almonds on top).
Put the Colomba on a rack in the middle of a preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes on 200°C/ 390°F. Then lower the temp to 170°C/335°F and bake for 35-45 minutes more until nice and golden on top. Make sure to rotate the loaf halfway the bake to ensure even browning. Keep an eye on the top; if it goes too fast, you can cover it with foil to prevent burning.
When your Colomba is done, let it cool completely before taking it out of the mold.
The first day it tastes great, the second day, it tastes better, so making this Pasquale ahead of the Easter festivities is no problem at all!
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It's tradition in Italian culture to eat this cake over Easter. Very close to the Christmas Panettone, the Colomba is slightly richer.
Last year I was visiting family in Milan and my grandmother ordered one from the local bakery. I had only ever eaten commericial ones you buy at the grocery store previously.
I will probably never forget how delicious and moist it was, my brother and I had to control ourselves from eating the whole thing. This led me to the quest of finding an autenthic recipe and carry out the challenging task. After scrolling the internet and pickig out a few pointers, I came across Susan's site The Wild Yeast in which I obtain a credible recipe from the book Cresci.
After a week buillding a very stiff starter that needs to be very active, your looking at 2 days of work thereafter. Well my labour payed off because it might not be as spectacular as the one I ate in Milan, it certainly beat any of the store bought ones. The picture doesn't do it complete justice, it was beautiful, moist and delicate in taste. I refer to it as was, cause this bird never made it to Easter mmmmm.