Colomba Pasquale

This recipe was adapted to fit American kitchens and schedules. The traditional Italian version requires two days and six to eight kneadings. Wonderful imported colombe are increasingly available in American supermarkets and, of course, in Italian markets.

1 teaspoon dry yeast

1/4 cup whole milk

1 tablespoon plus 2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 large eggs

1 egg yolk (reserve white for topping)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

1 tablespoon fresh orange zest

1/2 cup raisins, toasted slivered almonds, or chocolate chips (or a mixture of two, or all.)

For the topping:

1 egg white, lightly beaten

Sugar

1/4 cup slivered almonds and/or 1/2 cup crushed amaretti cookies

Dissolve the yeast in the milk, warmed to just above room temperature (about 110 degrees F.).

Add 1 tablespoon of flour and 1 tablespoon of sugar and mix thoroughly. Set this yeast starter aside to let proof for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together the softened butter, eggs and yolk, along with the remaining flour, sugar, salt; add the yeast starter, vanilla or almond extract, and orange zest.

Mix together thoroughly and knead in the mixing bowl for15 minutes or until the dough is elastic. It will be very tacky to the touch.

Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until about doubled in volume; 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Remove dough from the bowl and knead for three to four minutes, (it will be very sticky) incorporating the raisins, almonds, and/or chocolate chips. Place in a buttered and floured 7- or 8-inch spring form cake pan.

Cover with a damp cloth and set in a warm place to rise for 4 hours, or until about tripled in size.

Brush top with egg white and sprinkle with sugar and slivered almonds, or crushed amaretti cookies.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Makes 1 loaf.

- From a recipe by Corey O' Hara, a food historian who divides his time between Venice, Italy, and Cambridge, Mass.

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