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a beautifully almond covered crackly glazed top with white sugar logs (known as candita) on top

How to Make Italian Easter Bread From Scratch (Colomba Pasquale)

This homemade sweet artisanal Italian Easter Dove bread is a recipe that needs a little extra time and effort to make. This Italian dessert bread is special because it takes hours to make and develop its beautiful weblike gluten structure. For this authentic Colomba yeast bread recipe, I’ve made it 100% without the use of a stand mixer. And yes, it was a lot of work, but if you have a long weekend, I suggest diving in and rolling up your sleeves. When you’ve sliced off your first piece and tasted all your hard work, you won’t be sorry you made this sweet Italian Easter bread. 

I’ve included very detailed step-by-step color-coded instructions as well as photos of each of the different steps for how to make this Italian Easter bread easier to replicate at home. For this first Colomba I made, I actually used a simple coil whisk and my hands to mix and knead everything since I was just back in Italy and had not yet purchased my European KitchenAid mixer. All I can say is that it was bordering on insane, but I managed it which means you can too. But if you have a stand mixer you may want 

What’s an Italian Easter Colomba or Colomba Pasquale?

Colomba is a sweet egg-rich Italian yeast bread with a long fermentation time that’s baked in a paper mold (like panettone) in the shape of a dove to represent Easter. The taste is hard to describe but it’s somewhat like a cross between an even fluffier sweet Challah and cake with a very distinctive aroma and flavor (and this is even an inadequate description). It’s totally delicious.

This “dove” bread is only produced and sold in the period leading up to and through the Easter holiday. You won’t find a Colomba in August. Which makes it special.  It’s by far one of the best-tasting dessert breads I’ve ever eaten. And the best one I’ve ever had comes from a “pasticceria” (Italian pastry shop) near where we live, called Olivieri 1882.  This year we chose the “Colomba Albicocca e Caramello Salato” (Apricot & Salted Caramel). They have several non-traditional flavors like sour cherry, wild berries and white chocolate, triple chocolate, etc. which are also delicious.

Italian Colomba Research & Development — Understanding Artisanal Colomba

I researched Olivieri’s ingredients plus numerous original versions from famous Italian pastry chefs and built a recipe based on all of this information. It helped a lot to have an actual Colomba to reference for both taste and texture. For any breadmakers out there, this is a challenging bread to make, but it’s worth the time and effort.

I’ll never forget this first Colomba because I couldn’t stop eating it. I had to seal it back up, put it back into its box, and push it away. These artisanal versions of Colomba, Panettone, or Pandora, are becoming increasingly popular in America. But too often these Italian desserts get a bad reputation because so many of the versions we’ve traditionally had access to in the States are mass-produced and full of preservatives and unnatural ingredients. They’re often made many months before they’re even expected to be consumed. 

Artisanal Colomba uses a natural mother starter versus traditional active or active dry yeast for the leavening which makes it highly digestible. It relies on the highest quality natural ingredients for its incredible flavor (without the use of preservatives or additives). And its slow fermentation and rising time (usually 48 hours) help develop one of the most beautiful weblike dough structures I’ve ever seen or worked with. You can still find excellent Colomba and Panettone outside of Italy and if you’re interested, I suggest seeking out a good one.

Colomba Comparison in PhotosOlivieri’s Artisanal Colomba Versus Biting at the Bits Colomba 

Olivieri 1882 (a local pastry shop that’s been in the same family since 1882). It’s won multiple awards for its Colomba di Pasqua including “Best Italian Colomba di Pasqua, 2019” by Gambero Rosso (Italy’s version of the Michelin Guide or Zagats). Plus, numerous other awards including a shout-out by the NYTimes for their “Luxurious feather-light domes” and “They are as good as it gets with Panettone” mention.

And they ship express to America. I’ve ordered multiple Colombe and Panettone as gifts and it’s been a great experience every time. I’m not affiliated with anyone from Olivieri 1882. We just love everything they make. Whether you make your own or not, I recommend buying one from Olivieri to try it, if it’s within your budget.

How to Make Colomba Pasquale (Sweet Italian Easter Dove Bread) Step-By-Step Instructions and Photos

It’s important to show step-by-step photos of how to make Colomba di Pasqua because it helps simplify each stage in the process. Hopefully having this as a resource will help alleviate questions about how or what something should look (or feel like) at any given point in the process. Good luck making your own best-ever Easter Colomba to share with your family and friends and definitely use your stand mixer if you have one (I know I will be next time).

Developing Colomba di Pasqua dough from start to finish without using an electric mixer

STEP 1: making the biga starter

STEP 2: first kneading

STEP 3: second kneading


STEP 4: third kneading for final dough


Optional Add-ins to Customize Your Homemade Easter Colomba

Colomba and Panettone both contain dried fruits or zest of citrus fruits, nuts, and even chocolate and espresso sometimes. Original classic versions usually include candied citrus peel known as “candita” in Italy (or candied citron) which I’m not too crazy about in large amounts unless it’s made the old-fashioned artisanal way in which case it tastes amazing.  The addition of dried fruits helps to keep these bread moist and also impart flavor.

I used organic dried apricots and homemade blood orange sugar because I wanted to replicate Olivieri’s Apricot and salted caramel colomba which has a slightly fresh orange-caramel flavor. You can get creative with your Colomba fillings by using any of these add-ins or making up your own.

  • candied citron (lemon, lime, or orange)
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup milk or dark chocolate chips
  • dried cherries
  • raisins 
  • pears
  • apples

This Italian Easter Colomba Recipe Makes Enough to Share

You can choose to halve this recipe especially if it’s your first time making Colomba. Whatever you decide, you’ll just need to order the paper Colomba molds to accommodate your dough. If you choose to make the whole recipe as is, you may choose to make one of the following combinations outlined below. It’s possible that you’ll have around 375g dough in 300g mold if you choose to make the mini Colomba, but it all works out just fine.

  • Two 750g (or size C3 paper Colomba molds)
  • One 750g (27 ounces)Colomba + two 300g mold (10.5 ounces) baby Colomba’s (FYI, the 300g mold Colombas are much easier to handle, so If you go with the standard size (750g), have a helper in the kitchen to help you hang it upside down to cool and be sure to reinforce it with double metal skewers before inverting to hang.
  • Four 300g (10.5 ounces) baby Colomba

Troubleshooting Homemade Italian Colomba Bread – Mistakes I Made & How You Can Avoid Them

Although I had great success with making and baking this homemade Colomba dough, I had some avoidable mishaps once I removed the Colomba from the oven and hung them upside down to cool. Easter Colomba bread (like Panettone and Pandora) is hung upside down directly after baking so that it doesn’t cave in or sink under its own weight as it cools. Colomba’s should be tall, light, and airy when baked properly and since this is really a yeast bread filled with candied apricots and not an actual cake, the dough is denser and heavier. So, it must be hung upside down to maintain a nicely domed top. Hopefully, with these tips, you’ll be able to avoid making these rookie mistakes.

THE FIRST COLOMBA ISSUE was that one of the mini Colombas that was hanging upside down to cool, dropped to the floor. It was properly secured by two wooden skewers piercing through the bottom half of the bread. However, the poles which I’d haphazardly taped to two chairs were not secure. they rolled and the Colomba fell. To avoid this issue, be sure to plan ahead and build and secure your Colomba “hanging station” securely. 

THE SECOND COLOMBA ISSUE was with the regular (larger-sized) Colomba. It rose perfectly, but when I removed it from the oven I was holding it upside down while scrambling to make room to hang it (on the poorly constructed Colomba “hanging station” which already had the two smaller Colombas hanging upside down). And because I hadn’t left adequate space to hang the large Colomba, the top dome crushed under its own weight in my hands while I was holding it.

In fact, there was no more room for the large one to fit on the poles I’d constructed.  But I went ahead and forced it anyway because I had nowhere else to put it. That’s when one of the skewers snapped and broke off and the Colomba started to fall. Luckily, I caught it but not before the top of it tore open. I had to act fast.  I immediately took the big Colomba to the countertop and set it down. Where it slowly sank a little more before I decided to use two wire spider strainers turned upside down to rest the Colomba on. When I flipped it back over to rest it on the spider strainers, I again crushed it with my hands.

To avoid this issue:

      • (1) Be sure to plan ahead and build and secure your Colomba “hanging station” on a countertop or table so that if a Colomba falls, it doesn’t have too far to drop. Also, make sure there is enough room for all of the Colombas to fit in the given space between the poles. Place two crates equal distances apart on the table. The crates are just tall enough to hang the Colombas from. Tape one pole in place and leave one end of the 2nd pole untaped so that you can adjust if needed to make a wider opening to help fit the largest Colomba. Once the Colomba is in place, move the pole back to position and tape it down to secure it in place.
      • (2) Use metal skewers that are stronger and won’t snap (or add a total of 4 wooden skewers to make a double “X” shape and help better support the weight).
      • (3) Ask someone to help you so you have an extra set of hands to help position the Colomba as you’re turning it over and securing it to the “hanging station”.

Something I’ll do differently next time is portion out the dough rounds before they spend the night slowly rising.  You’ll see in the above photo (of the rectangular dough that’s just been gently scooped out of the container and placed onto a nonstick rolling mat) that it’s full of little air bubbles. Next time I make this, I will divide the dough into the exact portions needed for each mold, just after the last stage of kneading (and before letting it rise overnight).  I’ll let each portion rise on its own in smaller, buttered containers and when it’s time to place the dough into the molds to bake, I will gently create an oval shape and tuck each portion of dough under itself a little and then place the oval directly into the paper mold. I think this will help maintain the dough structure and as much air and bubbles as possible. 

Something I noticed is the sound of this dough. It was full of tiny air bubbles. So much so, that it was making noise as soon as I unwrapped it in the morning. It’s unlike any dough I’ve ever worked with before. But when cutting the dough, then portioning it and trying to form the “logs” I ended up deflating so many of these air pockets which was disappointing.  At one point after I felt like I’d handled the dough too much, I wondered if it was going to rise properly.  I think you’ll see by the photos of my Colomba Vs. Olivieri’s Colomba that even though I was a bit too rough on the dough and knocked out a ton of bubbles, it still turned out ok.

Colomba Pasquale (Italian Easter Colomba) Tips & FAQ’s

  • What is Colomba Pasquale or Colomba di Pasqua?  Colomba is a rich, sweet, light, and fluffy bread that’s topped with a mixture of nuts, sugar, and egg white and baked.  It’s an “Easter Dove” and is enjoyed throughout Italy at Easter. According to this article, it originated in Milan and may date back to the 6th century. It’s likely that it was most like dreamed up by a clever pastry chef in more recent history to sell more bread dough leftover from making the Christmas Panettone season just prior to Easter.  Its most traditional flavor is candied orange zest but can be filled with candied citrus or other modern fillings.  It’s hung upside down just after baking to ensure that the domed top stays high and the crumb stays light and airy.
  • Can you make Colomba at home? Yes, you can make Colomba at home, although traditionally everyone usually buys it each year from their favorite pasticceria (pastry shop) because it’s a very labor intensive yeast bread.
  • Can you make Colomba Bread or Colomba Pasquale without a stand mixer? Yes, you can, but it’s a lot of work because it’s a very sticky dough, but the results are worth it. Although, it’s definitely easier to make in a stand mixer and this is what I suggest.
  • Is Colomba the same thing as Panettone? Colomba and Panettone are almost identical, but traditionally the Colomba had only orange zest or candied orange peel in it, whereas Panettone had dried fruits or nuts and citrus.
  • Where does Colomba come from? Colomba comes from Italy where it was developed to be served for the Easter celebration. Bakers most likely needed a way to use up ingredients left over from making the traditional Christmas Panettone and since the bread is so delicious, the Easter Dove shape was born and it became a tradition.
  • How do I serve Colomba? Italians enjoy eating Colomba with coffee in the morning, with a side of fresh fruit or whipped cream for dessert or an afternoon snack. But it’s just as enjoyable eaten by itself.  The best Italian pastry shops recommend slicing the Colomba and heating it ever so slightly in the oven at a low temperature in order to release the natural fragrance and flavors of the ingredients in the bread.

Let’s get started!

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a beautifully almond covered crackly glazed top with white sugar logs (known as candita) on top

Colomba Pasquale (Sweet Italian Easter Dove Bread)

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  • Author: Kelly
  • Total Time: 25 hours 45 minutes
  • Yield: Two 750g Colombas or various smaller Colomba 1x


This homemade sweet artisanal Italian Easter Dove bread is a recipe that needs a little extra time and effort to make. This Italian dessert bread is special because it takes hours to make and develop its beautiful weblike gluten structure. For this authentic Colomba yeast bread recipe, I’ve made it 100% without the use of a stand mixer. And yes, it was a lot of work, but if you have a long weekend, I suggest diving in and rolling up your sleeves. When you’ve sliced off your first piece and tasted all your hard work, you won’t be sorry you made this sweet Italian Easter bread. 



STEP1: (Day 1) biga starter ingredients  [MIX & REST 45]

  • 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon cool water (50g)
  • 1/4 teaspoon honey (or cane sugar) (2g)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast (6g)
  • 7 tablespoons bread flour (farina Manitoba type O) (75g)

STEP 2: (Day 1) first kneading [MIX & REST 1 HOUR]

  • 2/3 cup bread flour (farina Manitoba type O) (96g)
  • 4 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons cool water (45g)
  • 2 teaspoons cane sugar (9g)

STEP 3: (Day 1) second kneading  [MIX & REST 3.5 HOURS]

  • 6 tablespoons butter, unsalted at room temperature (85g)
  • 5 tablespoons cane sugar (75g)
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons warm milk (30g)
  • 1 tablespoon Acacia honey (or other quality honey) (20g)
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour (325g)

STEP 4: (Day 1) third kneading for final dough [MIX & REST OVERNIGHT FOR 8-12 HOURS]

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast (6g)
  • 2 cups bread flour (farina Manitoba type O) (260g)
  • 1 tablespoon low-fat milk powder (9g)
  • 3/4 tablespoon diastatic malt powder (5g)
  • 1 cup butter, cubed into small pieces, room temperature) (226g)
  • 6 to 10 tablespoons cane sugar (75-125g)*for sweeter bread, add the full amount of sugar
  • 5 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup cool water (100g)
  • 3 tablespoons warm milk (35g)
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (12g)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla bean powder (or one Tahitian vanilla bean split and seeded) (4g)
  • 1 teaspoon homemade Tarocco orange sugar (or 1 teaspoon of regular sugar + 1/4 teaspoon orange zest) (4g)
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt, or fine sea salt (*do not use iodized table salt) (10g)

Candied Apricots Ingredients

  • 8 1/2 ounces dried apricots (free of preservatives if possible) (242g)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (55g)
  • 3 ounces water (85g)

STEP 5: (Day 2) portioning + adding the dough to the paper molds + last rise [REST: 3 to 3.5 HOURS]

  • 1 large Silpat or non-stick baking mat (*see recipe notes if you don’t own a non-stick baking mat)
  • 2 (750g size C3) paper dove-shaped Colomba molds (or one 750g mold + two 300g molds) (or substitute paper molds with 2 buttered and floured nine-inch-diameter springform pans)

STEP 6: (Day 2) glazing, decorating, baking + cooling

Ingredients for the glaze:

  • 3 large egg whites (if you want a slightly thinner glaze, experiment using 4 egg whites instead of 3 OR cutting the cornstarch in half)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch (15g)
  • 1 cup cane sugar (200g)
  • 1 cup blanched raw almonds (skins removed) (160g)
  • 1/2 ounce raw pine nuts (20g)
  • 1 ounce raw, peeled hazelnuts (35g)
  • pinch of salt

Ingredients for decorating the tops of the glazed Colomba

  • a handful of raw blanched whole almonds (for decorating the tops of each Colomba)
  • Paneangeli “granella di zucchero” (Italian granular sugar “logs”), or raw turbinado sugar for sprinkling
  • 1214” long wooden or metal skewers (for piercing the Colomba to hang upside down to cool)


STEP 1: (Day 1) Making the biga starter  [MIX & REST 45]

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, stir to combine, and shape into a ball (the dough will be very firm).  Stir in yeast. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let the starter rise for about 45 minutes, or until it puffs up. Initially, the biga starter will be very firm but will soften and become lighter and almost spongy after the designated rising time.  *if using active dry yeast instead of instant yeast, add the yeast to the water with the honey, stir to dissolve, and let stand about 10 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, mix in flour and proceed with Step 2.

STEP 2: (Day 1) The first kneading [MIX & REST 1 HOUR]

  1. In a larger medium-sized bowl, add all Step 2-ingredients and then add the biga starter which has risen for 45 minutes. Beat until blended, with a strong coil whisk scraping down the sides of the bowl with a dough scraper often to incorporate all of the ingredients together.  (At a certain point, it will become difficult to use the coil whisk because the dough becomes very strong.  This is when I switch from using the coil whisk to using a dough scraper to slap, string up and pull the dough in order to beat and knead it for about 10 min by hand mimicking the action of an electric mixer. The dough will become soft and stringy.  Cover the bowl with plastic and let rise at room temperature until puffy and bubbly on top, about 1 hour. The dough will look thick, a little shiny, and slightly puffed and when you press a finger lightly on top, it will leave a slight indention.  At this point, you’ll know it’s ready for step three. *if using an electric mixture, mix all ingredients on medium-low for about 5 minutes. Scrape dough off hook, shape it into a ball, cover, and let rise. 

STEP 3: (Day 1) The second kneading  [MIX & REST 3.5 HOURS]

  1. Blend and mix together the first 5 ingredients listed in step 3 until smooth and then add them to the dough and mix with a fork until well blended. Add flour and continue mixing until it’s a shaggy ball.  Scrape the dough out onto a nonstick baking mat and finish incorporating any small amount of flour.  Shape into a ball and knead the compact and firm dough for about 10 to 12 minutes.  Cover the bowl with plastic and let rise at room temperature until lighter in texture, slightly puffed, and less glossy (about 3 1/2 hours). The dough will have doubled in size.  *if using an electric mixer, beat at low speed for about 8 minutes until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl and hook often, and proceed with the remaining instructions directly above.

STEP 4: (Day 1) The third kneading for final dough + candying the apricots [MIX & REST OVERNIGHT FOR 8-12 HOURS]

  1. To make the candied apricots, place all ingredients into a pot, bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook the apricots for about 15 to 20 minutes (stirring frequently to prevent scorching) until the liquid has evaporated and the apricots are plump and sticky. Remove from heat, allow to cool to room temperature while you finsh the dough. *You may make the apricots the day before you bake the Colomba and refrigerate overnight.
  2. When the dough has properly risen you’ll be able to press two fingers lightly into the top and the indention will remain. Set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients for the final dough.
  3. Measure flour, yeast, malt powder, milk powder, and Tarocco orange sugar (or regular sugar + orange zest) into a bowl and combine with a whisk to incorporate the ingredients.
  4. In a separate bowl, add about 1/3 of the flour mixture, water, 2 egg yolks, and half of the butter, and whisk to incorporate until the mixture is smooth (about 3 minutes). Add in just a little more flour and mix until you have a shaggy soft dough.
  5. Add remaining 3 egg yolks, milk, vanilla extract, vanilla bean powder, and salt, and whisk for about 3 minutes more until the mixture is smooth and lighter in color.
  6. Add the sugar and beat until smooth about one minute more.
  7. Place the risen dough into this mixture and start pressing the dough and squeezing it into the mixture with your hands until you have a sticky but cohesive mass. Add in the remaining flour and butter and squish and mix and knead for about 10-12 minutes. Slap, pull, and string the dough up and down to help develop the gluten being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl frequently with a dough scraper. *It’s really messy, but you can do it.
  8. Once the dough is kneaded, add the candied apricots and mix them in while squeezing the dough with your hands until well incorporated. Form the dough into a round and place it into a very large buttered container (with at least 4-quart to 6qt capacity).  Cover with plastic. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled and it’s soft and supple for 8 to 12 hours.

STEP 5: (Day 2) portioning + adding the dough to the paper molds + last rise [REST: 3 to 3.5 HOURS]

  1. Gently pour the dough out onto a Silpat or other nonstick baking mat. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Divide 1 piece in half and then shape each half into a 10-inch-long log. Arrange 1 log crosswise in each paper baking mold, curving ends under to fit. Roll each remaining dough piece into 11-inch-long. Place 1 log across the dough in each mold. (If using 2 springform pans, divide dough in half; place half of the dough in each prepared pan). Cover molds (or pans) with plastic. Let stand at room temperature or in the oven with the light only turned on until the dough has risen to just below the tops of each mold or about 3 to 3/1/2 hours.

STEP 6: (Day 2) Glazing, decorating, baking + cooling the Colomba

  1. While the Colombas are rising, position the rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 375°F/190°C.
  2. Finely grind sugar and nuts in the processor. Add the cornstarch and a pinch of salt and pulse a few times until well incorporated.
  3. Add the egg whites and blend for about 15 to 20 seconds until the mixture is thick but runny. Peel the plastic off of the risen doughs and evenly distribute the nut glaze over top of each using a large spoon. Place whole almonds on top and sprinkle each Colomba with the “granella di zucchero” (sugar logs).  
  4. Place Colombas onto a baking sheet and bake until golden brown on top and a cake tester or slender wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, or about 45 minutes. Insert 2 to 4 skewers per Colomba into (and through) the bottom of each so that the Colomba can be turned upside down and suspended from 2 poles to completely cool. Allow Colombas to cool completely. These can be baked ahead and wrapped individually in plastic wrap and placed into a large freezer bag and left at room temperature for up to 2 days or freeze individual slices wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in freezer bags until needed. Enjoy with your favorite tea, coffee, or glass of prosecco.


  • Buy eggs with the deepest orange or yellow-colored yolks if you can find them. This is what gives traditional Colomba its naturally intensely yellow dough. If you can’t find these types of eggs, you may add a little turmeric to the dough to help create a more natural yellow dough. Just be sure not to add so much that it affects the flavor of the bread.
  • The amount of sugar you add can be adjusted according to your taste. I originally used 6 tablespoons (75g) of sugar, but it wasn’t as sweet as Olivieri’s and next time I’ll add at least 2 more tablespoons of sugar. But honestly, it’s perfectly sweet using only 6 tablespoons.
  • How to store Colomba. These can be baked ahead and wrapped individually in plastic wrap or beeswax paper and placed into a large freezer bag and left at room temperature for up to 2 days or freeze individual slices wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in freezer bags until needed.
  • Find all of the rest of the tips (plus what I’ll do differently next time) in the main post. There are a lot of helpful tips to help you avoid some of my mistakes and missteps that are very useful if this is the first time you’re making a Colomba.
  • If you don’t own a non-stick dough mat or Silpat, you may instead add 1/2 cup flour on a large surface to keep the dough from sticking to the surface when you shape the dough into “doves”.)
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Rest Time: 24 hours
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Category: Breads
  • Method: Oven Bake
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • Serving Size: 1 slice
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