This traditional Italian Easter bread is soft and delicate with bits of candied orange peel in every bite. The bread is brushed with a sweet glaze, then topped with sliced almonds and pearl sugar for a crunchy coating on top. Traditionally, this bread with be flavored with an orange scented extract called fiori di Sicilia. If you are having trouble finding it in your local market, the combination of vanilla and orange extracts used in this recipe make for a delicious substitute.
- For the Starter:
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 cup milk (warmed to about 110 degrees F)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- For the Dough:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 2 eggs
- 1 egg yolk (white reserved for topping)
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons freshly-grated orange zest
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon orange extract
- 1 cup unsalted butter (softened)
- 1 cup candied orange peel
- For the Glaze and Toppings:
- 1 egg white (reserved from dough)
- 3 tablespoons almond flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
- 2 tablespoons pearl sugar
Gather the ingredients.
The night before you want to bake the Easter dove bread, prepare the starter. In the large bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk and let it sit for 5 minutes. Whisk in the 1/2 cup of flour and 1 tablespoon of sugar.
Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest overnight (or for at least 6 hours) at room temperature.
The next day, prepare the dough. Remove the plastic wrap from the bowl. The starter should be bubbly. To the bowl with the starter, add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of yeast and 2 cups of flour in the bowl of a stand mixer attached with the dough hook. Mix it on medium speed for about 5 minutes.
Add the 1/3 cup of sugar, eggs, egg yolk, remaining 1/2 cup flour, salt, orange zest, vanilla extract and orange extract. Knead for about 15 minutes on medium speed, adding up to an additional 1/2 cup flour if necessary if the dough is not coming together.
Once the dough is soft and elastic, add the butter slowly while kneading. Continue kneading for 10 more minutes or until the dough is satiny and soft.
Add the candied orange peel and mix to combine.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel, and let the dough rise for 3 hours or until at least doubled in size.
Divide the dough in two pieces, one slightly larger than the other.
Shape the larger one into a 10-inch log, with one end slightly smaller than the other end. This will be the “head” of the dove. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use the edge of your hand to form a crease in the center.
Shape the smaller piece of dough into a 7-inch log. Place it across the larger log, inside the crease. Gently bend this log into a crescent shape. (This will be the “wings” of the dove.) . Cover the loaf lightly with a towel or plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 45 to 60 minutes or until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Meanwhile, prepare the glaze. Beat the egg white until foamy and whisk in the almond flour, granulated sugar, and almond extract until you have a white paste-like glaze.
When the loaf is ready to bake, carefully brush the glaze on the bread, being careful not to deflate it.
Sprinkle with the sliced almonds and the pearl sugar.
Bake the loaf for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 350 F and bake for an additional 20 minutes, tenting it with foil for the final 10 minutes of baking. The finished loaf will be golden brown, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will register 190 F.
Remove the bread from the oven and carefully slide it onto a rack to cool.
Cut into thin slices to serve. This bread is excellent when served with a bit of mascarpone cheese and a drizzle of honey. Enjoy with an espresso or glass of Italian wine.