One of the most beautiful breads of Italy is this Easter Dove.
The Easter Dove (Italian Easter Bread)
Breads & Cereals
1 package yeast, active dry or compressed
1/4 cup warm water (lukewarm for compressed yeast)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup (1/4 pound) soft butter
10 tablespoons (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 ounces (4 to 5 tablespoons) Mandelin Premium Almond Paste, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
About 36 Mandelin Blanched Whole Almonds
Beaten egg white and granulated sugar for decoration
Stir yeast into warm water and set aside to soften. Heat milk to scalding; cool.
In a large mixer bowl, cream butter, sugar, lemon peel, vanilla, and salt until mixture is fluffy. Beat in egg and egg yolks, one at a time. Mix in milk and yeast; then at a slow speed gradually beat in the 4 1/2 cups flour. Turn soft dough onto well-floured board; knead vigorously until smooth and quite elastic, 10 to 15 minutes.
Put dough in a large buttered bowl; turn over once to grease top. Cover bowl and set in a warm place for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until dough is double in volume.
To shape the dove, knead dough on lightly floured board to remove bubbles. Cut in half and shape each half into a smooth ball.
In the center of a greased baking sheet, flatten one dough ball and roll out across narrow dimension of pan to make an oval about 11 inches long and 6 inches wide. On a floured board, roll the other ball of dough out to make a softly outlined triangle about 14 inches tall and 6 inches across wide end. Lay triangle across oval. Twist narrow end to make head; pinch tip to form beak. Twist wide end to make tail; pull tail into fan shape and cut gashes to simulate feathers.
Stick almond paste chunks into wings and stud with almonds. Let rise in a warm place about 25 minutes, or until slightly puffed looking. Brush gently with beaten egg white and sprinkle wings generously with sugar. Bake in a 325° oven for about 50 minutes, until bird is richly browned; for lighter color you can cover bird with foil the last 15 minutes.
Serve warm or cool, cut wings from body and offer slices of both sections. (To make ahead, cool bread completely on a wire rack, then wrap airtight and freeze. Thaw before reheating.) To reheat bread, wrap in foil, and place in a 250° oven for 40 minutes. Makes 1 large loaf.
Sunset Italian Cookbook, 1974
Everyone loves the sweet almond paste "wings" of this bread, so feel free to make the wings larger than 11x6 inches. You can also fill the "body" with almond paste by forming a 1x6-inch log and stuffing the body when you twist the lower part of the triangle to form the body.