The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Colomba Pasquale from Iginio Massari

d_a_kelly's picture

Colomba Pasquale from Iginio Massari

Hi Everybody,

this is my first post on TheFreshLoaf, though I've been starting in amazement at everyone's baking for quite some time. This is my attempt at Iginio Massari's Colomba Pasquale recipe from his book "Non Solo Zucchero vol.II". I'm not sure if this book is available in English yet. I bought my copy in a shop in Milan. This version seems to be quite a bit richer than that found in Cresci, and presented me with a number of difficulties :) Please be kind!

First impasto tripled in volume

1st impasto

sourdough starter (50% hydration) 59

water 69

sugar 72

yolk 50

flour (very strong) 189

butter 79


All measurements are in grams. It took almost exactly 12 hours to triple in volume, held at c.28 degrees C. I then went to the second impasto. This was considerably more difficult, and I didn't get it quite right. The flour I'm using is the strongest I have been able to find in a UK supermarket and it's not a "00". I think it's somewhere in the region of w320 in terms of strength. The second impasto calls for a flour of w360 (something like the manitoba you can find in Italy). I couldn't find anything this strong in the shops. I added a guestimate of vital wheat gluten to try to balance the recipe, which wasn't entirely successful as you can see from the sloppy shaping in the paper case. The dough was still a little too sticky: very usefully "non solo zucchero" has photos in the back of the book showing all of the processes, and I could see that the colomba consistency was quite different from what I had achieved. 

2nd impasto

aroma veneziana 1.2

vanilla: a quarter of a pod

flour (very strong) 51

gluten powder 1.8

sugar 50

honey 22

yolk 35

salt 3.6

water 20

butter 112


I then took 795g of the impasto and added in 205g of candied orange. This version is very rich in fruit! I then split the dough into two balls of 500g and put them in my homemade proving box for an hour, at c.30 degrees C. and humidity of 70%.

Then, with very very well buttered hands, I shaped the two balls and put them in the form:


Back into the proving box for 6 hours and then it was ready to be glazed and go in the oven (170 for 50 minutes).

and then glazed and dusted


When it came out of the oven I suspended it upsidedown for about 12 hours. I was reasonably happy with the oven spring. Most recipes I've seen for colomba use less candied fruit, so I was expecting this not to grow quite so much. Not because the fruit would interfer with the yeast, but simply because there was less dough in the case (only 795g of impasto, rather than the 850g to 870g I've seen in other recipes).

I had a slice of it for breakfast this morning and I was quite happy. Soft and tasty crumb, packed with fruity, buttery flavour. I'd like to try this again using the recommended flours. I've found, from limited experiments, that strong 00 flours seem to produce a more plastic, slack dough, which I'm sure must contribute to the texture and feel of the crumb. However I'm not yet prepared to buy a 25kg bag of caputo rosso or similiar just to make the occasional colomba which only uses... what? 240g? 

Here's the crumb:

One thing I ought to add: in order to save a bit of money and waste, I used powdered egg yolks in this recipe rather than fresh yolk. The recipe here is written for use with fresh yolk. (If using powdered yolk, substitute 48% of the weigh of yolk with powder, and the remainder with water). I've not noticed any difference with quality. I've also used the powdered yolks to make creme anglaise and creme patisserie with success. The only downside is they don't have that extraordinary colour which I've seen in yolks in Italian eggs - something I'm told is a result of the diet and breed of chicken.


mwilson's picture

Very nice, well done. 

You're right this formula is richer than the one found in 'Cresci'. I think I have a new book on my shopping list..!

The strongest flour on the UK market would be Waitrose Canadian Strong in my opinion. Strong flours make the crumb more shreddy, fluffy and fibrous, just like the commercial ones.

Don't cut into it straight after cooling, it won't taste of anything... It is essential to let it mature for a few days to let the flavours develop.

Italian chickens are mostly corn fed, hence the very orange yolks.

All in all, a really great job!


d_a_kelly's picture

Thanks Michael!

I'll confess that it's your blog which inspired me to have a go and then post my effort. I'm glad you like it. 

The nearest thing I've found to Italian eggs in the UK are the burford browns sold in Waitrose. They have a truly fantastic colour (with good pigmentation power) but they are also very expensive. Too expensive for these little experiments anyway. I used them with some strong 00 which I brought back from Italy with me (kindly given to me by a baker) to make the "pandoro a sfoglia" recipe from Cresci. My God, the crumb was so tender and moist I can barely describe it. And the colour! I should have take photos at the time, but I was too busy eating. The waitrose extra strong canadian, while very very good, still seems to me to produce a slightly drier crumb. 

There are, at present, 3 volumes of "non solo zucchero", published by Reed Gourmet ( Volume 1 is mostly cakes and pastries, volume 2 has a section on yeast doughs, including a number of recipes not found in Cresci, and volume 3 (which I don't yet have) contains savoury baking. I have the Italian version of Cresci, which is littered with typos and mistakes, so I've found it useful to compare the recipes. 

And point well taken about waiting a few days. I quite agree, but my willpowder and curiosity overwhelmed me :)

mwilson's picture

I'm glad my blog has inspired you. Thank you.

Those are the eggs I use! Expensive, yes, but worth it I'd say. There's another brand I've used with even more orange-almost-red yolks. They come in a blue shell, but I can't remember what they're called...

Texture has a lot to do with the way the dough is mixed and the level of ingredients used, more so than the flour I would say. Simplifying; lower protein will provide tenderness and higher protein, fibrous shreddyness. Try using a combination of both next time to get the best of both worlds.

Thanks for the info on the books. The English version of Cresci isn't any better. There are clearly errors in there!

MarieH's picture

I love how The Fresh Loaf unites bread makers from around the world. Your bread is both beautiful and fascinating. Thank you for sharing your experience - I hope you post again.


Tallahassee, Florida USA

isand66's picture

Beautiful bread.  Thanks for sharing!



bakingbadly's picture

I don't have a mixer so I don't dare tackle such recipes. But seeing your loaf sure does make it tempting.

Job well done!


d_a_kelly's picture

I don't have a mixer either! I use one of those little handheld mixers with the doughhook attachment. I think it cost me a grand total of £20. I suspect that a proper planetary mixer will give better results, but it isn't an absolute necessity. On a positive note, you can actually feel the dough changing in texture if you use a hand device, unlike with a kitchenaid. I'd still love to have one though, and it's high on my list of things I don't really really need but really really want :)



dabrownman's picture

French slap and folds where 40 minutes might be the right amount of time!  I haven't done it yet myself  but Michael Wilson's challenge will not go unfulfilled :-)

dabrownman's picture

The crust and crumb are very nice with the orange candied fruits.  It has to taste great even right after cooling but, a couple of days later.... that's when I freeze it!.  That way is isn't all gone before you know it :-)

Nice baking.

d_a_kelly's picture

But if I freeze it then I've no excuse to try again and make another one! It'll just have to be eaten, even if it isn't aged to perfection :))


EvaB's picture

Haven't been on site since March so this is the first time I've seen the new format, but just wanted to say, the original makers of the bread didn't have mixers either, so you must be doing something right! Lovely bread and just wish I could make half as good plain bread!

But I too have done something right, my daughter had twin girls in April so have been busy with the babies and baking has fallen by the side, although I did spend quite some time doing pickles this summer.