Holidays bring out the best in people from all over the world when it comes to baking traditions.
Also in Italy! Did you for example know that chocolate eggs were invented in Torino in the 1800’s as a substitute of the traditional exchanging of chicken eggs? Chicken eggs represented the end of fasting. But not only (chocolate) eggs are present in the Italian Home at Easter. Also vegetables, lamb and cakes in the form of a colomba are indispensable at this time of the year.
Si! La Colomba di Pasqua is one of the key symbols of the Italian Easter. In the early 1900s the Milanese company “Motta” decided to make a dessert cake with a similar composition to panettone (the dessert cake of the Italian Christmas), but with an aspect directly connected to Easter. This dessert cake is baked in the shape of a pigeon, the symbol of peace, as “colomba” literally means “pigeon”.
Tradition has it that Colomba’s are made in several steps. They must be soft and aromatic on the outside and moist on the inside. The most important ingredients are butter, sugar, almonds and dried fruits (like orange or mango) enriched with the flavor of amaretto. The dough has to rise for one entire night before baking it in the pigeon-shaped paper molds.
I looked with a lot of amusement at the colorful pre-packaged “pigeon” breads available in the Italian supermarkets these days, but to be honest, I fail to see the bird shape, as to my eye they more resemble a cross. I tasted some Colomba at work (and during the Italian lesson, loved it) and I must say that they taste more than OK for industrial bread. But as everyone readily knows, I’m fonder of home-baked stuff so I definitely want to try to make one myself when I get home!
But first, I’ve got to find those pigeon-shaped paper molds. Help!