Colomba is undoubtedly one of the most appreciated cakes in the Easter period! Sweet, soft, and with a rich citrus flavor.The preparation of Colomba is practically the same as that of Panettone with sourdough starter. The only difference is that it is made with orange candied fruit. Even the flavors are slightly different because we find in Colomba a fresh note of Orange and Lemon, together with the usual Bourbon vanilla.As for the Panettone, I propose the classic filling with candied fruit (in my opinion, the best choice), but you can replace the fruit with chocolate chips for baking if you wish.I recommend using a Sourdough that is well-balanced and not overly acidic. For this reason, I suggest you refresh it every day for at least 5-7 days before making the Colomba to properly balance your Sourdough.
Mix the soft butter, clarified liquid butter, salt, vanilla, candied orange, and lemon paste (or the flavor mix you made) without whipping.
Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours. Remember to take out the emulsion at least 2 hours before using it in the second Colomba dough.
For the Icing
Finely blend the almonds, hazelnuts, apricot kernels, and sugar into a fine powder.
Then mix this powder with the cornmeal and semolina flour.
Add the lukewarm and melted clarified butter and finally the egg whites, slightly beaten (but not whipped).
Mix everything together until you get a "creamy" and relatively fluid mass.
Cover the icing with food wrap and store it in the fridge until time to use it.
For the First Dough
First of all, prepare a syrup by dissolving sugar and egg yolks in the water at 30°C (86°F), using an immersion blender.
Pour the syrup into the mixer bowl and add the sourdough after the second or third refreshment.
Knead for about 2minutes, so you can dissolve the Sourdough before adding the flour.
Add the flour and the malt. Let the dough form a glutinous mesh which must be elastic and extensible. This step is crucial for the success of the Colomba recipe.
Check the proper formation of the gluten mesh, take a piece of dough, and spread it with your hands until it forms a very thin layer of dough. If the film does not tear easily, it means that the gluten is well-formed!
When the dough is well combined, add the heavy cream and let it absorb properly.
Next, add the Soft Room Temperature butter several times, letting it incorporate thoroughly into the dough.
The first dough is ready. Transfer it into a large container, sprinkle the surface with some small pieces of soft butter, and let it rise at 22-24°C (71°F - 75°F) for 15h until it has tripled its volume. Fermentation time depends on room temperature; therefore, before proceeding with the next dough, make sure the dough has tripled its initial volume. To better visualize the development of the dough, I suggest creating a "graduated scale" on the container, marking the starting volume and the desired volume at the end of fermentation (initial volume +2x initial volume)
For the Second Dough
Pour the first dough and the flour into the mixer. Let the dough combine very well until it forms a nicely elastic gluten mesh.
Add the chilled egg yolks and knead until completely absorbed.
Then add the sugar, honey, and glucose syrup. Knead the dough very well until it comes away from the mixer bowl.
When the dough is smooth and dry, measure the temperature with a thermometer and check that it is below 26°C - 28°C (79°F - 82°F). If not, cover the dough with a plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge (until it returns to around 20°C, 68°F).
Add the heavy cream in small portions and let it absorb well before you add more.
Add the aromatic emulsion prepared the day before, adding it several times and allowing it to be well absorbed before each next addition.
Once the dough is well combined, add the candied orange dices and knead very gently for a few minutes.
Let the dough rise for about 1 hour to relax the gluten and complete the hydration of the proteins.
Pour the dough onto the work surface well greased with butter and break it into the desired pieces. For a Colomba of 1kg, cut 1kg of dough and rest on the table for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, form loaves, first folding the dough over on itself and then tightening the base to stretch the gluten. Let the loaves rest for another 15 minutes.
Once ready, divide each loaf into 2 portions: A bigger portion ( 2/3 of the dough) and a smaller portion ( 1/3 of the dough).
Shape the "body" of the Colomba with the bigger part. For this, stretch the dough with your hands and fold it over itself as if you were making folds. In the end, roll it up slightly on the work surface to get a string and place it in the mold in the sense of length (head-tail of the Colomba).
Form the "wings" of the Colomba, using the remaining portion of dough. Form a string as above and place it in the mold, overlapping the central body and forming a cross.
Let the Colombe proof at 26-28°C (79-82°F) for 5-6 hours until the dough rises to 1cm below the rim of the mold.
Glaze the surface of the Colomba with the almond glaze prepared the day before.
Sprinkle the surface with abundant pearl sugar and a few whole, unpeeled almonds. Finally, dust lightly with icing sugar.
Bake the Colomba in a static oven at 150°C (302°F) for about 50-55 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, slightly open the oven door, using a foil ball, to release the excess steam.
To test the cooking, check that the temperature at the core of the Colomba is about 92°C (197°F).
Once baked, pierce them with the appropriate skewers and turn the Colombe upside down for at least 2 hours.
After this is over, pick up the Colomba, remove the skewers and let them cool completely for 6-8 hours before packing them in food grade bags.