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Easter treats don’t do it for me. Marshmallow peeps are too cute. The same goes for Cadbury Creme Eggswhich, to make matters worse, are impossible to eat without getting a sticky layer of “cream” on everything within reach. Shut hot rolls, You’re welcome. I’ll save my stomach space for quiche and lamb.
But this year I had my first colomba, an Italian yeast cake that pops up around Easter, and now there will be dessert on my Easter table forever. A classic colomba, a mixture of bread and cake, smells intoxicatingly of floral orange when unpacked and sometimes has sticky bits of candied orange throughout. The bright yellow, egg yolk-rich bread dissolves almost like cotton candy and dissolves almost as quickly on your tongue.
If this sounds a lot like panettone, it’s because colombe are made with the same meticulous technique. The feather-light batter is familiar to panettone fans, but there are a few differences. Colombe are traditionally topped with pearl sugar and roasted almonds, in contrast to the unadorned dome of a panettone. Panettoni are usually topped with candied oranges and raisins, but raisin haters will be happy – classic colombe are raisin-free. A loaf of panettone resembles an oversized muffin, while “colomba” means dove in Italian, and if you blink, the loaf resembles the shape of a bird in flight. But both are airy, not too sweet and perfect with a morning coffee or one Evening Averna.
You can find Colombe at your local Italian bakery or High-end department stores, but Olivieri 1882 is making a version that I’ll be thinking about from now until next Easter. This sixth generation bakery between Vincenza and Verona has been making all kinds of cakes and breads since 1882. You can see spots of vanilla pods in the batter of their classic colomba, which is flavored with orange paste and acacia honey. For non-traditionalists, Olivieri 1882 also offers Colombe with apricots and salted caramel, chocolate pieces and a stunning bread with white chocolate and candied berries. It’s certainly more expensive than a colomba you get at a neighborhood bakery, but at over a pound and a half, it’s a generous treat for special occasions.
I recommend saving a piece of your colomba for the absolute best french toast or to make bread pudding. But if you share the bread with your family, it will likely be gone by Easter Monday – something no one has ever said about peeps.