The joys of Easter
Rustic beauty and rich flavor of Italian desserts celebrate the holiday
Ricotta pie (Torta di ricotta): Sweet pies filled with fresh ricotta and even grains are also popular Italian Easter dessert choices. Candied citrus is often added to bring out the flavor of the cheese (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg white, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon turbinado (raw sugar) or coarse brown sugar
1. Combine warm water and yeast in large electric-mixer bowl. Stir to dissolve; allow to proof, 10 minutes.
2. Add the milk, sugar, butter, lemon zest, vanilla, whole eggs and yolks; beat on low speed to blend well. Increase speed to medium; beat, 3 minutes. Add 4 cups flour and the salt; beat on medium speed. Gradually add the remaining flour a little at a time, until a soft dough is formed. You may not need all the flour. (If using a stand mixer, start with the paddle attachment to mix the ingredients; switch to the dough hook once the dough forms. You can then knead the dough in the stand mixer.)
3. Turn dough out onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, 8-10 minutes. Place the dough in an oiled bowl. Cover; let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
4. Punch the dough down. Divide in half; form 2 balls. Place 1 ball width-wise on a greased baking sheet; gently flatten it into a cylinder 10 inches long and 5 inches thick. Curve the dough slightly in the center. This is the body of the dove.
5. Pat the other ball of dough into a cylinder roughly the size of the first. Place it crosswise over the middle of the first cylinder to form a cross. These are the wings. Twist the top third of the body to one side; pinch and shape to form the dove's head. Twist the bottom third to the other side; twist the tips of the wings slightly downward.
6. Cover the dove with a sheet of buttered waxed paper and a towel. Let the bread rise in a warm place until almost doubled, about 20 minutes. Do not let it over-rise or the shape will be lost in baking.
7. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Gently brush the dove all over with the egg white; sprinkle the wing tips and tail with the brown sugar. Bake until the bread is golden brown, about 50 minutes. Carefully transfer the bread to a rack to cool.
Per serving: 132 calories, 4 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 46 mg cholesterol, 20 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 71 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.
Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 8-10 minutes per batch
Makes: about 130 cookies
Note: This recipe comes from pastry chef Natalie Zarzour. Double zero flour (00 flour) is available at Italian import and other specialty stores. It produces a fine and delicate texture in pastry dough. It can be substituted with cake flour.