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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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