This recipe is from Tuscany.
The colomba is to Italian Easter what the panettone is to Christmas. The name, which means dove, comes from its shape, representing the Holy Spirit, who in the New Testament of the Bible appears in the form of a dove. Like the panettone, the colomba is ubiquitous in the shops in the period leading up to the festival, and it’s notoriously difficult to make. The original recipe requires making three doughs and leaving each to rise for a couple of hours before using it to make the next one.
In the classic La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene by Pellegrino Artusi—with which regular readers of the blog will be familiar—Artusi includes a recipe for a quick panettone which he calls Panettone Marietta, after his cook who taught him the recipe. He declares that this relatively easy recipe is ‘a cake which deserves recommendation because it is much better than the Panettone di Milano which you can find on sale everywhere, and requires a lot less going nuts.’ You can just enjoy eating the nuts on the top instead.
I am sure Artusi would have included a Colomba Marietta if he’d known what one was, but unfortunately it appears that the cake was only invented in the 1940s by the Motta baking company in order to extend the panettone season (of which they were the major producer) until Easter. So in the spirit of Artusi I decided to make the Panettone Marietta but to bake it in a colomba mould, which you also find everywhere in Italy at this time of year. It consists of oven proof paper in the shape of a dove and you cook and serve the cake in it.
There are two things I’ve noticed with this recipe are essential to get a good rise. The first thing is to really beat the eggs with the butter until they have a good mousse. The second thing is to really mix the batter for 25 minutes with the paddle. (Artusi says 30 but he was doing it by hand). I’ve tried without doing either thing and the cake doesn’t rise half as much.
Nothing really beats a handmade colomba that has been allowed to rise for 6 hours, but this comes a close second and has the advantage, of being relatively moist and in Artusi’s words of requiring ‘a lot less going nuts.’
La Colomba Marietta
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Total time: 2 hours 5 minutes
200g (2 1/4 sticks) butter
2 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
600g (4 2/3 cups) plain flour
400ml (1 1/2 cups) milk
160g (4/5 cups) sugar
a large pinch of salt
40g (1 1/2 ounces) chopped candied peel
1 lemon zest
160g (1 cup) sultanas
16g (1 heaped tablespoon) cream of tartar
10g (2 teaspoons) instant yeast
5g (1 teaspoon) bicarbonate of soda
cane sugar for sprinkling
100g (3 1/2 ounces) blanched almonds
- Heat the oven to 160°C (320°F).
- In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat together the butter and the eggs.
- Change to the paddle attachment. Then add the flour and, little by little, the milk.
- Add the sugar, salt, candied peel, and lemon zest and then continue to mix on low speed for 25 minutes.
- Dust the sultanas lightly in flour, and then add them to the mixture along with the cream of tartar, the yeast and bicarbonate of soda.
- Pour the mixture into the mould and make sure it is evenly distributed.
- Sprinkle the cane sugar over the top and then decorate with the almonds.
- Bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.