You know its close to Christmas when . . .
You know its getting closer to Christmas when the Italians stop counting calories….
Another favourite Italian Christmas tradition is the Pand’oro, not to be confused with the candied fruit laden Panettone. This wonderful creation is a sweet, buttery and super-moist leavened sweetbread; star-shaped with eight points and also resembling a Christmas tree. It is always displayed sprinkled with confectioner’s (also known as powdered) sugar just before serving, which looks like snow has fallen on the top.
But do we really need another dessert at the Christmas table, you may ask? Absolutely! You can never have too much sugar at this time of the year. Besides, I think bouncing off the walls keeps the kids safe and occupied when the new toys and games are exhausted. And the origin of this delightful festive table addition? Read on…
Pand’oro first appeared in the middle ages at a time when only the rich and the nobility were able to enjoy sweet breads made with eggs, butter and sugar or honey. Hence the name which literally means “royal bread” or “golden bread” Sweetbreads such as this were reserved solely for feasts and special occasions for the wealthy. In a publication known as “Suor Celest Balilei, Letters to Her Father” (published by La Rosa of Turin), desserts in Italy during the 17th century included the royal bread, which was made of sugar, eggs, butter and flour. This description is also famous from the 1st century Ancient Rome, but substituting the butter with oil! This dessert figured prominently in Venetian aristocracy, particularly as Venice was the principal point for spice trade in the late 18th century. However, it was in Verona where the pand’oro was perfected in a process which took almost a century! The process was perfected in Verona thanks to Domenico Melegatti, who patented the commercial production of this delight!
There are some who credit the French brioche as the mother of Pand’oro with its birth in the 18th century at a time when commoners unfortunately were only able to afford “black” bread, which was bread made of rye or barley, if any bread at all. Remember when Marie Antoinette was told of the poor who were starving without bread? Her famous retort was ”let them eat cake!”. Fortunately the Pand’oro, unlike Marie, kept it’s head, and shape, and continues to enjoy its place at the table! Long live the Pand’oro!!
When not served on its own with a glass of bubbly it can also be found sliced horizontally and filled with a rich mixture of mascarpone cream, see our easy to follow recipe below!
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