Colomba di Pasqua

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The Colomba is sweet bread similar to panettone but it is shaped like a dove and made during Easter all over Italy, most of it commercially these days. This bread, along with many others, was prepared on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and eaten during Easter week.  

1/4-cup warm water (110º to 115ºF)
1-tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2-cup warm milk or whey from making cheese
2/3-cup sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter , melted
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1-teaspoon fiori di Sicilia
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
4 1/2 to 5 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4-teaspoon salt
1 large egg white, slightly beaten
1-tablespoon turbinado (raw sugar) or coarse brown sugar

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, put the warm water and yeast and stir to dissolve. Let the mixture ferment for 10 minutes. Add the milk or whey, sugar, butter, lemon zest, fiori di Sicilia, whole eggs, and egg yolks and beat on low speed to blend well. Then beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Add 4 cups of the flour and the salt and beat on medium speed. Gradually add the remaining flour a little at a time, until soft dough is formed. You may not need all the flour.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Place the dough in an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch the dough down and knead for several minutes until smooth. Place it in a greased colomba pan.

Cover the dove with a sheet of buttered waxed paper and a towel. Let the bread rise in a warm place until almost doubled, about 20 minutes. Do not let it over-rise or the shape will be lost in baking.

Preheat the oven to 375F

Gently brush the dove all over with the egg white and sprinkle the wing tips and tail section with the brown sugar. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown. Carefully transfer the bread to a rack to cool.

Colomba paper pans are available at Fantes.

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