Colomba di Pasqua is a traditional Italian Easter yeast bread. It is shaped like a dove (colomba in Italian), the symbol of peace and resurrection. The birth of the colomba dates back to the year 572, when King Alboin, after three years of siege, captured the town of Pavia in northern Italy on Easter Eve. Evading the guards, an old baker was able to reach the king and offer a dove-shaped leavened bread. “Alboin,” he said, “I offer this symbol, as a tribute to peace, on Easter day.” The sweet scent and the convincing message persuaded the king to give a promise of peace. That’s the legend.The dove we know today has a more recent origin and, I should say, a more prosaic version of the history. In the early 1930s the Milanese company Motta specialized in panettone, a cake produced only for Christmas. Unhappy to have their machinery unused for many months, Motta decided to package a similar product to be sold during the Easter holidays.
The shape of the sweet dove was a choice dictated not only by symbolism, but also to welcome the arrival of the spring. The new cake was (and still is) a huge success. It is typically soft, fragrant outside and moist inside, naturally leavened for a whole night, then filled with a mixture of flour, sugar, eggs and candied orange. After a long rest, the dough is portioned in different sizes for an additional four hours of leavening, then covered with almonds, sugar and amaretto. Since its birth, the colomba was enriched by many variations and a variety of different icings and fillings.
After baking, it must rest at least seven hours before it is finally packaged.
So many colombe…
From Loison to Fraccaro to all those of the Regina Colomba event, held in Milan a few days before Easter. I would like to mention the very young pastry chefs of Alma, the celebrated International School of Italian Cuisine in Colorno, near Parma, where I discovered and tasted their very soft creation: the colomba with chocolate and black cherry flakes. Pleasantly soft and spongy and intensely fragrant.
A sweet message of peace.