Life as an Italian expat living in Northern Europe ain’t always easy. Especially when you miss food from back home, like during festivities.
“Il pacco da giù” is a typical expression we Italians living abroad use to call the package (pacco) of food we receive from our family (or send to ourselves). “Da giù” literally translates “from down under”. Of course we don’t mean from Australia but from Italy, which is well down South when you live in Northern Europe. “Le gioie”, instead, means like “the pleasures”, here referred to the pleasure of having yummy Italian food and goodies.
My Easter “pacco da giù” arrived last week, perfectly on time to enjoy a piece of COLOMBA, a typical soft cake we Italians eat at Easter. It can be plain or have some filling – the one I ordered had candy pears and chocolate chips in it. The name colomba means “dove” and it takes this name because of its shape reminding the symbolic Easter bird of the Catholic religion (see the photo below).
The reason why my pacco da giù delivered me a colomba was because it is impossible to find in Tulipland. I was not planning to bake it myself because the procedure is very long (usually about 30 hours) if you follow the traditional recipe.
Yet, the plan changed when my little sis sent me a picture of a nice colomba she baked in less than 1 hour! I couldn’t resist the temptation to try it out myself. So for the first time in 5 years, I had not one but even two colombe for Easter. Of course, I didn’t eat them all by myself as I was glad to share and give away most of them.
I didn’t have the colomba baking tin, which is available online [P.S.: later on, I finally got the paper baking tin with the dove shape and, since then, always baked the colomba with it – see picture below], so I opted for a regular round shape. The round shape is, by the way, also very common because this cake is also called focaccia – although I am sure the “purists” might have something to say about the fact that the colomba and the focaccia are very different things…
Anyway, below you can find my version of colomba di Pasqua that turned out pretty easy to do and very delicious in my humble opinion as well as for the lucky ones who helped me eat it.
Colomba (or focaccia) di Pasqua
Ingredients (for for a dove-shape 750 gr or a baking tin of 20cm diameter)
300 gr flour “00” type
90 gr sunflower oil
170 gr almond milk (or regular milk)
150 gr browns sugar
1 lemon zest
1 orange zest
15 gr baking powder
50 gr 70% dark chocolate (or chocolate chips)
For the topping
1 egg white
25 gr sugar
If you can find it (I couldn’t, here in Tulipland): pearl sugar (update one year later…I found it!)
Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks.
Whisk the yolk with the sugar, the lemon zest and orange zest. Then, add the oil, milk, flour and baking powder, while keep whisking.
Whisk the egg whites until spongy and then Incorporate them in the batter using a spatula. Add the chopped chocolate.
Spread the batter on a 20cm baking pan (remember to spray with non-stick cooking product and cover the bottom with greaseproof paper).
Prepare the topping by mixing the egg white and sugar. Spread the mix on the batter and add almonds and pearl sugar.
Cook in preheated oven 180°C for 40 minutes and cover the cake with aluminum foil if needed (the top of the cake will brown very soon because of the egg whites, so better if you prevent the cake to look like burnt). Check with a wooden stick – if it comes out of the cake clean, it’s ready. Let it cool down completely before serving.