Colomba Pasquale (Easter Dove Bread)
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.