This fantastic recipe is based on the traditional Italian Easter cake colomba de Pasqua. My Sicilian version is packed with citrus flavours, nuts and cinnamon, bringing rays of sunshine to this sweet bread. Pasticceria Cuccia in Catania makes a similar version to this and is my inspiration. If you get a chance to go, please do as it’s quite brilliant – although the charming manager was quite evasive when I started asking for recipes. Delicious with a strong coffee and a good limoncello.
strong white flour 400g, plus extra for dusting
fine sea salt 7g
caster sugar 40g
dried easy-blend yeast 10g
full-fat milk 120ml, lukewarm
free-range eggs 4 medium, at room temperature, lightly whisked
unsalted butter 100g, at room temperature, cut into small pieces, plus extra for greasing
unwaxed lemons zest of 2
orange zest of 1
lemon juice of ½
flaked almonds 100g
mixed candied peel 100g, diced
dried cranberries 100g
For the topping
free-range egg whites 2, medium
caster sugar 25g, plus extra for sprinkling
ground almonds 20g
ground pistachios 15g
ground cinnamon 5g
flaked almonds 50g
Put the flour in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the salt and sugar to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the milk, eggs and butter and mix on a slow speed for 3 minutes, then on a medium speed for 4 minutes, kneading to make a soft, elastic dough. (Alternatively, you can mix and knead the dough by hand.) Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover and leave to rise for 1 hour.
Grease a 23cm springform cake tin. Mix together the lemon and orange zests, lemon juice, almonds, candied peel and cranberries.
Add the fruit and nut mixture to the risen dough and use your hands to incorporate it evenly. Tip the dough on to a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball. Place in the prepared tin and put into a large, roomy plastic bag. Leave to rise for 3 hours or until the dough has reached the top of the tin.
Preheat the oven to 200C fan/gas mark 7. Bake the sweet bread on the middle shelf of the oven for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, for the topping, put the egg whites, sugar, ground almonds, pistachios and cinnamon in a bowl and mix to make a paste. Take the bread out of the oven and spread the almond paste on top (some will run to the sides). Sprinkle with the flaked almonds and a little extra sugar. Lower the oven temperature to 180C fan/gas mark 6 and bake for a further 20 minutes, covering loosely with foil towards the end of cooking if the bread appears to be browning too much. Leave the sweet bread to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then release the sides and transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool completely.
From Sicilia: A Love Letter to the Food of Sicily by Ben Tish