Ah – spring! And about time too! Winter is super foggy in my corner of Milan. From November onwards there are days and weeks when the rice fields are completely blanketed by a dense fog. Lovely and mysterious though it seems, I soon tire of it and long for days of sunshine when I can actually see beyond the garden hedge to the glorious views that lie yonder. Happily, spring comes early to Italy…and stays…
One of the things that I miss about winter though, is Pannetone, the glorious Christmas bread of Milan. For those who came in late, you might want to scroll down through my previous posts and read A Touch of Milanese Luxury. So it was with utter delight that I discovered that there is an Easter bread, very similar to pannetone that is available at this time of year.
Colomba is a traditional dove shaped Ester bread. The word `colomba’ means `dove’. Why is it dove shaped? Well there’s a complicated legend about it. According to Denverpost.com, “Colomba’s history can be traced to Milan and the victory of Legnano, in 1176, when cities of the Lombard League defeated Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, who was intent on capturing Italy for the Holy Roman Empire. It is said that two doves, symbolizing the Holy Ghost, appeared on the altar of the chariot carrying the battle standards and that the colomba commemorates that event and victory – an example of the role of food in history and food as history.”
A more prosaic version has it that in the 1930s, the enterprising bakers at Motta, who were already famous for the Christmas Pannetone cooked up the idea of an Easter bread using the same ingredients and machines – talk about extending the business cycle!
Like Pannetone, Colomba is light and airy and made of luxurious ingredients – eggs, flour, sugar and candied citrus fruit. It’s topped with crunchy sugar bits and whole, unpeeled almonds.
I found the Colomba less `airy’ and more sweet than Pannetone – perhaps it’s an attempt to make up for all the abstinent eating at Lent! It is typically served with a glass of prosecco or dessert wine as a delicious after-dinner treat at Easter. Since I’m home alone at the moment, I’ll just be a good girl and drink a glass of water with it. Salute! Buon Pasqua!