There’s a terrific cooking school in New York, the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), which along with its professional culinary program, offers hundreds of recreational cooking classes. I’ve enjoyed every class I’ve taken, but my favorite ones are Italian (surprise!). And my favorite Italian cooking instructor is Daniel Rosati who in addition to teaching at ICE and other U.S. cooking venues, is the owner of La Villa Cucina which offers culinary travel programs in Italy. A pro on many levels, including artisanal breads and pastry arts, Daniel is an expert on all things Italian and I always learn something new in his class.
Last week, our program was Italian Easter Feast and we prepared several of Daniel’s original recipes including my new personal favorite – Colomba di Pasqua. A sweet yeast bread made with candied orange rind and unblanched slivered, toasted and whole almonds, it translates to Easter Dove as it’s formed in the shape of a dove….sort of. Imagination helps.
In class, Daniel free formed the dough and got a bit creative with the tail and eyes using more almonds and orange peel. Or you can bake it in a paper mold (Amazon was sold out when I checked but Golda’s Kitchen in Canada ships worldwide).
It was fun and rather relaxing in a Ihavetowaitforthedoughtoriseandcantgoanywhere kind of way. And little did I know the versatility and longevity of this luscious baby – aside from simply slicing it and eating it (warm, please), it’s even better the next day (warm again, please) and as French toast, in bread pudding or as the filling holder for a decadent sandwich.
Daniel’s recipe isn’t difficult, it just takes time because the dough needs to rise. And I’m categorizing this in a new recipe category of “Wow” because you can’t help but say it when you take it out of the oven. It looks spectacular!
- 2 oz. fresh yeast (OR 3 pckges of dry yeast = ¾ oz)
- ¾ c. water
- 1 c. milk, scalded
- ½ c. sugar
- 6 c. all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 tsp. almond extract
- 4 oz. butter at room temperature, cut into pieces
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ¾. c. chopped toasted almonds
- ¾ c. diced candied orange rind
- 1 c. sugar
- ½ c. whole unblanched almonds
- 3 large egg whites
- 1 tsp. almond extract
- 1⅓ sliced almonds
- Powdered sugar
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the yeast, water, milk and sugar and blend well with a whisk.
- Add 2 cups of flour and whisk until pasty.
- Attach dough hook. Add remaining ingredients to bowl and mix just until well blended.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, place in a warm area of the room and allow the dough to rise until doubled in volume. (Daniel's trick is to put the bowl in another bowl of warm water to decrease the rising time-this works great!)
- Remove the dough from the bowl and knead on a lightly floured board. Divide the dough into 2 almost equal pieces. Roll each dough piece into a smooth ball.
- Shape the larger piece of dough into a 12" log with tapered ends. Shape the smaller piece into an 8" log with tapered ends. Place the larger log on prepared pan lengthwise and the shorter log widthwise. Shape into a stylized dove. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size.
- Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350° F.
- To make the Glaze - finely grind sugar and whole almonds in processor. Add egg whites and almond extract and blend for 10 seconds. Slowly spoon glaze over top of bread-you may not need to use it all. Sprinkle sliced almonds.
- Bake bread until brown on top and slender wooden skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool completely on rack. Dust with powdered sugar.