madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


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Traditional Italian Easter dove bread

Colomba, the heavenly Easter sweet bread from Italy

Colomba, the heavenly Easter sweet bread from Italy

COLOMBA PASQUALE FATTA IN CASA.

You may not be the most beautiful dove but you have a sweet, buttery heart. You may not be not the softest but I have made you with stone-ground artisan flour, organic sugar and eggs, homemade candied orange peel and only 1/4 teaspoon yeast. I’ve made you with love and all the necessary time.

Actually, I did not have the time for you. Tomorrow we open our B&B. In the last few days I have laundered 30 blankets, cleaned, waxed and polished every object and piece of furniture and stocked the refrigerator and larder. I am tired and sleepless but I wanted to make something good for my family for Easter.

On second thought, there is always time for something good.

Recipe

Poolish (pre-ferment):

  • 60 gr flour (scant 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoon yogurt with live cultures (e.g. a probiotic)
  • enough water to make a very thick batter (1 and 1/2 to 2 tablespoon)
  • 1 gr ( 1/4 teaspoon) dry yeast

1st dough:

  • 260 gr ( 1 and 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoon) good-quality strong flour
  • 75 gr (1/4 cup) light brown sugar
  • 100 gr (4/5 stick) butter
  • 100 ml (2/5 cup) water at room temperature
  • 1 egg

2nd dough:

  • 60 gr flour (scant 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoon soft butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup regular sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

Decoration

  • 1/2 cup whole almonds
  • icing sugar
  • 4 tablespoon chopped candied orange peel

Colomba, the Easter dove shaped bread, was invented in 1930 by Angelo Motta to extend the success of industrially produced pandoro and panettone. All of them are descendents of the brioche-like sweet breads made for the Italian Renaissance courts some 500 years ago.

In our home, we stay away from mass-produced holidays breads. As I mentioned in my breadmaker Pandoro recipe, commercial Christmas breads that have a shelf life of a year, can’t possibly be healthy for you.

Making such a large brioche is work and time intensive. I simplified the method using the dough cycle of my bread-maker as follows:

Day 1, early afternoon

In a glass or ceramic bowl mix the poolish ingredients, cover with a tea towel and let it rest until evening. As I am using only a minimal amount of yeast you will see a very small increase of volume, don’t worry. This allows for flexibility in the preparation. The dough raises so slowly that if you do anything one hour later nothing gets spoiled. In addition the dough has the time to develop flavor with hardly any acidity.

Early evening

Assemble all ingredients for 1st Dough in the bread-maker and add the poolish. Start the shortest dough cycle (mine takes 2.2 hours). After 10 min or so open the lid quickly to check if the dough has formed, close and leave it there until the next day. You might need to add more water as not all flours absorb the same amount of moisture. You need to have a soft dough.

Day 2, morning

Open the bread-maker lid and add all ingredients for 2nd Dough to the previous one. Start the dough cycle once again. When finished leave it in the breadmaker with the lid closed.

Day 2, afternoon

Transfer the dough onto a floured worktop. The dough is very soft at this stage. Use a plastic flat spatula to handle it. Lightly knead in the candied orange peel.

Transfer the dough  into a generously buttered dove-shaped mold. The first time I made this recipe, I did not have the dove mold, so I cut it into 3 cylinders, a longer one for the body and two for the wings. I then shaped it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper as shown in the picture.

if you don't have a dove mold, use parchment paper and 4 ramekins to keep it in shape

if you don’t have a dove mold, use parchment paper and ramekins to keep it in shape.

If you find a mold you will need one that can hold a 750 gr cake (7- 8 cups, 11 x 8 inches).

Cover carefully with a light tea towel and let it raise for another hour or so in a draft-free area of your kitchen.

For the glaze: mix sugar, cornstarch and enough water to make a thick paste. Drizzle or pipe the glaze over the dove. Be gentle or it will deflate! Sprinkle the surface with whole almonds, a few additional slivers of candied peel and icing sugar or sugar pearls.

Bake in preheated oven at 170 °C (340 °F) for 40 min or until beautifully golden. Cool at room temperature and unmold several hours later or the next day.

HAPPY EASTER!

thsi is the Colomba in its proper dove shape mould

this is the Colomba in its proper dove shape mould


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my Umbrian crostata on “The American in Italia” magazine

crostata made with farro flour and brown sugar

I have developed this recipe for my first article on “The American in Italia” online magazine. It’s a lovely rustic crostata made with farro flour and unrefined brown sugar. For more crostata recipes please check my previous posts  here and here. Enjoy!


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chocolate and ricotta crostata with homemade candied orange

Umbria meets Sicily: a pastry tart with chocolate, orange and ricotta

CROSTATA AL CIOCCOLATO.  I can proudly say that this is a family recipe. My family is half Umbrian, half Sicilian. Both regions have great food but when it comes to sweets there is no contest.  Sicilians are blessed by the best sweets ever  invented, cassata, cannoli, panzerotti, martorana, granita, pignolata….oh my.

Enter any humble bakery in Sicily and you will feel like in sugar heaven.   Sicilians  rarely make sweets at home because they can buy the best stuff in the world. And by the way, most of their sweets take days to make, so why bother.

We Umbrian peasants really can’t compete but we have one good thing, our crostata. We like it so much we eat it all the time. In addition it’s really easy and quick to make.

I don’t know who had this brilliant idea, but sometime when I was a kid, one of my Sicilian aunties living in Umbria came up with the idea of using the cannoli filling for a crostata. It was an instant success and adopted for all picnics and garden parties. Home-style fusion food, I just love it.

Recipe

  • 1 recipe crostata dough
  • 250 gr / 8 ounces ricotta
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 100 gr. / 2 and 1/2  ounces 70% dark chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon minced candied orange or citron peel
  • orange blossom water (optional)

Chop chocolate in small cubes and stir into the ricotta, add all other ingredients  and if desired 1/4 teaspoon of orange blossom water. Make sure to use good quality, flavorful candied peel which will contribute a characteristic citrus taste to the mixture. In the winter I make candied orange peel, it’s fantastic.

Prepare the tart as explained in the main crostata recipe using the ricotta filling instead of jam. Bake the crostata at 180° C/ 350° F for  45 minutes, or until the lattice is golden. Cool the crostata in the pan on a rack and serve.

Because of the soft cheese filling, you need to make this tart the same day you serve it otherwise the crust will soften.

Serves 8

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