Love Panettone? Don’t Skip Colomba - it's Easter's Twin!
It should come as no surprise that Italy’s Easter celebrations are lavish. Italians love getting the family together for all the holidays, especially religious ones, and have a special food (or foods) to serve for each one. An Italian Easter has many of the same symbols that you might recognize: Eggs are everywhere, tucked into savory torta pasqualina or sweet pane di Pasqua. Lamb is the centerpiece at dinner. Chocolate comes in the form of oversized hollow eggs, which can contain small trinkets or elaborate gifts (some people have an engagement ring placed inside!). But there’s one symbol you might not recognize: the dove.
La Colomba di Pasqua, literally the “Easter Dove,” is, in this case, a sweet bread shaped like its namesake bird that is beloved across the country as an Easter treat. Except for the shape, it’s nearly identical to the traditional Christmas panettone, a sweet, egg-enriched bread that is filled with dried fruit and nuts, usually candied orange peel. Colomba tends to be less towering than panettone, but is made in the same way, with a natural yeast process that can take several days to reach perfection. And just like panettone, it makes a delicious addition to a holiday breakfast spread, sweet pick-me-up in the middle of the day, or of course... dessert.
While this particular recipe’s origins can be traced back to a panettone maker in Milan in the 1930s who wanted to expand his business beyond the Christmas season, the colorful history of the colomba can be traced back millennia. There are a few stories that explain the dove’s significance as a symbol of peace and love for Italians: In one, the cruel king Alboin demanded a tribute from the northern city of Pavia in the form of gold, jewels, and the young women of the town. They brought him a dove-shaped cake, and he was so delighted with it that he set his captives free. In another story, two doves miraculously appeared on a medieval battlefield, bringing an immediate end to the fighting.
No matter its origin, the colomba di Pasqua is a deliciously Italian way to celebrate the arrival of spring. Outfit your Easter festivities this year with a colomba from a Sicilian bakery that puts a local twist on tradition with ingredients like locally grown hazelnuts and raisins. The rich bread will last for weeks stored in an airtight container without getting stale or dry, so you can enjoy the holiday season a little longer.