Colomba Pasquale (Easter Dove Bread)

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Yield: 1 loaf

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While Italy offers many traditional Easter breads, the best-known by far is Colomba Pasquale, Easter dove bread, a native of Lombardy in the north, but available everywhere when Easter rolls around. Even in America one can find these panettone-like breads in their paper "dove" pans around the Easter holidays.

Studded with citrus peel or the dried fruits of your choice; gilded with a shiny coat of sugar-nut syrup, then sprinkled with almonds and pearl sugar, this is wonderful fresh, and makes delicious toast. (Be careful of sugar melting into your upright toaster, however; either be prepared for a bit of burnt sugar smell, or toast the dove bread in a toaster oven.)

The dough for this bread is quite sticky, and it's easiest mixed and kneaded in a machine of some sort. With its fairly high sugar and fat content, the dough is slow to come together, and equally slow to rise. Have patience, and plan on extra time for rising if your house is cool. This is a perfect place to use SAF Gold instant yeast, which is designed specifically for high-sugar yeast breads. You'll save at least an hour during each rise by using SAF Gold.

While Colomba is usually made with candied orange peel, we've Americanized it with dried fruit. Use your favorite combination; we've chosen golden raisins, cranberries, and diced apricots.

Colomba Pasquale (Easter Dove Bread)

star rating (11) rate this recipe »
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time: Overnight,
Yield: 1 loaf
Published: 03/23/2011


Biga (overnight starter)


  • 2 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon SAF Gold instant yeast, or instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, white reserved for topping; room temperature preferred
  • 1/8 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract +1/8 teaspoon orange oil
  • grated peel of 1 large orange
  • 1 cup dried fruit of your choice, chopped if large


  • 1 large egg white, reserved from dough
  • 3 tablespoons almond flour or 3 tablespoons blanched almonds, finely ground
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 5 to 6 teaspoons coarse white sugar or pearl sugar


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1) The night before you want to make the bread, mix together the biga (overnight starter) ingredients. Cover the bowl, and leave it at room temperature for up to 15 hours or so.

2) Next day, combine the bubbly starter with all of the remaining dough ingredients except the grated orange rind and the fruit. Mix to combine. Switch to the dough hook, and knead for about 12 minutes at medium speed, stopping the mixer every 3 minutes to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. By the end of the kneading time, the dough should have become elastic and satiny. It should be starting to leave the bottom and sides of the bowl, though it won't form a smooth ball.

3) Knead in the grated orange rind and dried fruit.

4) Cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for 2 hours (3 hours if you're not using SAF Gold yeast). It should have become quite puffy.

5) Divide the dough in two pieces, with one slightly larger than the other. Shape one into a 10" log, with one tapered end; and the other into a 7" log.

6) Place the longest log lengthwise on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet; use the edge of your hand to form a crease in the center. Lay the shorter log crosswise across it, right at the crease. Shape the shorter log into "wings" by pulling it into a crescent shape. (We know, this doesn't really look too awfully much like a dove; think of it as a symbolic representation!)

7) Cover the shaped loaf with a cover or lightly greased plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise until it's puffy; this will take about 1 to 2 hours, depending on what type of yeast you've used. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F.

8) Make the topping by mixing the egg white, ground almonds, and sugar. Gently paint this glaze all over the loaf; be generous. Sprinkle with the sliced almonds, then the pearl or coarse sugar.

9) Bake the loaf for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 350°F and bake for an additional 20 minutes, tenting it for the final 10 minutes of baking. The finished loaf will be golden brown, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will register 190°F.

10) Remove the bread from the oven, and carefully slide it onto a rack to cool.

11) Serve in thin slices. Some enjoy fresh Colomba with a glass of wine; some prefer it toasted, then drizzled with heavy cream or honey, and served with coffee. It's delicious just plain, too; serve it Easter morning, or later in the day, as a sweet accompaniment to the Easter ham.

Yield: 1 large loaf.

Nutrition information

Serving Size: 1 slice, 53g Servings Per Batch: 16 servings Amount Per Serving: Calories: 169 Calories from Fat: 45 Total Fat: 5g Saturated Fat: 2g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 42mg Sodium: 192mg Total Carbohydrate: 27g Dietary Fiber: 1g Sugars: 8g Protein: 4g

* The nutrition information provided for this recipe is determined by the ESHA Genesis R&D software program. Substituting any ingredients may change the posted nutrition information.


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  • star rating 04/11/2015
  • LT from Middletown NY
  • I want to marry who ever made this recipe! OMG! I am addicted!!!!
  • star rating 04/02/2015
  • Monica from New Windsor, NY
  • Wonderful!!! Made this bread today using 3/4 C. dried cranberries and 1/4 C. candied orange peel. The dough needed a few tbsp. more water to get to the correct consistency, but that didn't concern me much, as it was a pretty dry day. I used the SAF Gold yeast and found the rise times to be about half the listed times. First rise took only an hour for the dough to double. I did not make the dove shape, but made a three strand braid instead. Second rise was about 45 min. total, with the last 15 min. waiting for the oven to pre-heat. It had a huge oven spring, and took about 10 min. longer than the stated oven time to get to 190 deg., but my husband and I just shared a slice, and it is absolutely delicious - soft, moist interior, and crunchy, sugary crust. An absolute winner. Thanks for the great recipe!
  • star rating 03/28/2015
  • brushjl from pristina, kosovo
  • this was incredible. i wasn't sure i had it right with a large dose of yeast and ver little rising in the initial phases, but the result was fantastic. i give credit to kosovo's zupin potok up zemljoradnika zadruga for the fantastic dried fruit which made the final product extra special
  • star rating 04/20/2014
  • Suley from Indianapolis, IN
  • This bread was amazing. I made this an hot cross buns for easter. While both good, this was definitely the superior bread. It's light, tasty, with a pleasant, sweet crust. It does take some preparation making sure to start the biga the night before, and assembling the ingredients/shaping the dough, but it's worth it for a special occasion.
  • star rating 04/17/2012
  • Bill_Lundy from KAF Community
  • A new hit in our house. I needed about 50 more grams of flour than the recipe called for, in order to give the body I felt was correct. This gave the bread enough strength that when I cut the "wing tips" and "tail feathers" they stayed as well as could have been expected. I dare you to top this one with something better next Easter!
  • star rating 04/08/2012
  • dailypainter from KAF Community
  • This bread came out like a dream and tasted even better. I used golden raisins, candied orange peel and citron and followed the recipe to a tee. This recipe is definitely a keeper.
  • star rating 04/03/2012
  • ael5292 from KAF Community
  • AMAZING! My first-ever loaf came out of the oven an hour ago; mom and i already demolished half the loaf! We just cut off big chunks and buttered them: still slightly warm from the oven, and absolutely HEAVENLY! I made mine into a free-form batard, rather than the suggested "dove" shape. I had to add about 5-10 minutes extra to the baking time, but it came out gorgeous! I used apricots, dates, and golden raisins. Instead of sliced almonds, I used slivered almonds on the top because it was all I had. Still wonderful!
  • star rating 03/26/2012
  • jocalla from KAF Community
  • Fantastic! I used the paper dove molds that were 9"x7" and this made one HUGE loaf. The oven spring was so impressive. I might try this again using two dove molds and one batch of dough for both. The dough was thick and pasty so I wasn't sure what the outcome would be, but it was great. The first rise was about 2.5 hrs even tho' I used the Gold brand yeast and used the proofing function in my oven, it was plenty warm and toasty but needed more time. The second rise was faster, as is usual, under an hour. I had to bake this about 15 mins. longer than directions said and tented it at the end. The inside was soft and fluffy and moist; and I loved the outside with the coating of sugar, egg white and almond flour--gave a nice, sweet, crispy crust. I am SO making this again soon, b/4 Easter, and will have some to give as gifts. Right now I'm going to have another slice with my glass of white wine, an after dinner treat.
  • star rating 04/29/2011
  • lovebirdmom from KAF Community
  • i wanted to make this the saturday before Easter. however i forgot to start my biga friday night. realizing this saturday morning i decided to go ahead. i made up th biga and put it in the oven with the light on which makes an extra warm environment. by 5 p.m. the biga was quite bubbly and ripe. as i had gold yeast i had the completed bread by 11 p.m. it was gorgeous and got rave reviews the next morning at my daughters brunch. i used dried sour cherries, cranberries and blueberries for my fruit. they were excellent with the orange flavor of the dough and the marzipan like glaze. this is going to be a new Easter tradition. i will be starting the biga the night before though from now on.
  • star rating 04/25/2011
  • sachertort6968 from KAF Community
  • I made this recipe in my Zoji bread maker for Easter Morning. It was delicious toasted with butter. We will make this again.
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