Colomba, shaped like a dove for Easter (hence the name)
It’s Easter so I’m dreaming of colomba, one of many delicious cake-like breads the Italians make for particular occasions. The colomba is actually one of my favourites, followed closely by veneziana. But then again, panettone is also pretty fabulous when you dunk it in a mixture of marscapone and zabaione. And my daughter Rachel is a devotee of pandoro, because it doesn’t have any little bits of dried fruit marring its perfect, golden breadness.
Technically speaking, panettone is only for Christmas, otherwise non si fa.
You see? There are just so many of them, it would be hard to choose. But the clever Italians have figured out how to make it so you don’t have to. I first learned of their fiendish (but intelligent) bread-addiction management scheme the first year we lived in Milan. Just before Christmas the local bakery started selling individual-sized pandori that were filled with either chocolate of vanilla crema. You heated them in the oven to bring out their full flavour. They are one of the most divine desserts on the planet. And just as we’d concluded we couldn’t go more than a week without one… poof – they were gone. When I asked the bakery when they’d be making more, imagine my horror (coming from the land where everything is available 365 days a year) when I was told ‘next Christmas’.
Pandoro, free of any adulterating dried fruits
Veneziana, my personal favourite, with orange rind and almonds.
And so we lurched from festival to festival throughout the year, falling in love with one kind of cake-bread and then, just when we were completely hooked, having the bakeries stop selling them because the season was over. Thank God there’s always another festival – and with it another bread – to look forward to. And I have to say, it does make you appreciate it more when you can only have it once a year.