The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Chicken on a Stick; Colomba Pasquale (video)

freerk's picture

Chicken on a Stick; Colomba Pasquale (video)

When was that again?

I'm always a bit confused about Easter.

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. 

Friendly Fire

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...

Colomba Pasquale

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

4 eggs

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.


The starter

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...)

The dough

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.

First rise

Transfer the mixed dough to an oiled bowl. Cover the dough and let it rest until increased in volume by ⅓.

Second rise

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.

Third rise

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

almond flakes

pearl sugar (optional, but very pretty)

confectioners sugar

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!

Make sure to like us on Facebook, we need your support to make that 6 part documentary on real bread! And if you want to see more bread making videos, make sure to visit the BreadLab hannel on YouTube.







Salilah's picture

In the UK you can get the Colomba Pasquale container from Bakery Bits

I'm hoping to have a go, but with a sourdough version <grin>

PS thanks for a very interesting post!!


freerk's picture

Hey Salilah!

Great! I saw this link before and judged it too expensive. Now I see it's actually 10 molds for that price! Now we are talking :-) As you can see, I decided to do some home bricolage and made a simple but effective mold myself with a cardboard box and some foil. Definitely going to order myself some of the pretty looking ones! Thank you for the link and your kind words :-)


isand66's picture

Love your video...very well done and dramatic!

freerk's picture

Thank you!

Janetcook's picture


I always learn something when you post one of your newest videos and this last one has been no exception. Interesting the common link that runs through all of the traditions....

The bread you baked looks very intriguing and one I have never heard of before.  I will have to try the 'starter ball in the water trick' some day.  I have read about it numerous times but always thought it was just a pinch off of the starter that was then placed into the water.  What keeps the starter from becoming a watery mess?  I would think it would absorb too much water and just turn into liquid....

As always I really enjoyed the video of this loaf and the music that accompanied it.  Well done!

Thanks for the post and the expanded history of Easter which I understand a bit better now too.  On this side of the Atlantic in our home it was about jelly beans, dying Easter eggs and then the egg hunt... Church was thrown in there too somewhere but after a belly full of chocolates and jelly beans....not much of the religious significance taught to us penetrated my sugar coated brain.  :-)

Take Care,


freerk's picture

Hey Janet!

How are you doing!

The recipe I used is quite an old one, and running into the "dump it in water" method again I decided to give it a try. It works, and rather fast actually, faster than if you would leave the starter out on room temp. The water is 30°C, so that effectively makes it the proofing temp. It doesn't become a watery mess because it is so fast. (it took me about 13 minutes or so, using instant yeast) I can imagine, in the "old times" it must have been a perfect time saver, but nowadays, with central heating etc. there's not much of a point any more.

This method was originally used with beer yeast, and that's the only thing I would like to try once. It forms smaller air bubbles (alledgedly) and takes longer and has a more yeasty taste that (again alledgedly) works well in this type of Pannetone like breads.

Give this bread a try, it is really great. And a great looker!

I love to see how cultural traditions spread and mingle over the generations. The good old U.S. egg hunt came our way, for instance (by means of television shows etc. without a doubt) but the jelly beans never made it across the ocean. Well, not with an Easter-label attached to it any way. It intrigues me why some traditions spread and stick, and others don't.

I was equally oblivious to all the grown up stuff and much more interested in the chocolate, of course. As a matter of fact,  I still am, when confronted with chocolate and grown up stuff at the same time  :-)




Janetcook's picture


Chocolate does have that sort of magnetic attraction thing least in this house.

Thanks for the info. on the starter.  Knowing that it happened so quickly makes a difference.  I was imagining it having to sit for an hour or two....

Give jelly beans time and they will make it to your shores.  In fact, they are probably already on their way and you just don't know it yet.  *>)


Take Care,


EvaB's picture

and joy of joys, I actually got to watch it all the way through without it stopping to load 10 seconds and then 10 more, which makes you sound like yeep, bleep, bletch and you simply can't figure out what on earth is going on. I got my new internet connection and wow! Its so much better! YAY!! I can go back and watch all the other videos as well. I gave up on trying to see them before because even strickly on U-tube they did the same, it just wouldn't download the whole thing and play it through!

Will have to give this a try, it looks interesting, don't know if I can find a way to make the mold but will give it a try and make the bread even if its not Easter.

freerk's picture

Eva! So glad to hear you found a good provider. Have fun watching :-)


dabrownman's picture

is so fun to watch.  The bread is great.  What I want to know is - was it better to date Pasquale, as the coolest man alive,  or eat his bread ?  I think it depends on your gender mostly- or possibly not :-)

freerk's picture

There you go; now you know that all  guys called "pasquale" (or Pascal) are basically called..... 'Easter".

thnx for the compliment!