Last year we dug into the history of one of the most characteristic Italian Christmas traditional food: “il Panettone.”
Though, this luxurious decadent bread is not the only way Italians like to end up their festive meals.
There is another contestant on the table: “Pandoro” (Golden bread)
It is pretty standard in every family that at the end of the meal, the fierce debate will start upon the choice of the cake.
Provided you still have room in your tummy, you will have to pick which delicious loaf will be sealing off the heaviest meal of the year: a slice of Panettone or a slice of Pandoro?
What is the story behind Pandoro?
Like all traditional food, it is tough to trace its real origins.
Some say it was an evolution from an Austrian Christmas cake.
Others trace it even back to Roman times where Pliny the Elder described in a book written in the 1st century the preparation of a sweet bread made of butter and eggs for Xmas Eve.
Some others believe it might be an evolution of a sweet bread made with eggs, sugar, and butter, dusted or even covered in Gold by Venetian bakers and offered at very luxurious banquets.
However, the most common story might be an evolution of a traditional Christmas cake made in Verona in the early 19th century called Nadalin. Nadalin in Venetian dialect is the equivalent of Natalino in Italian or Christmasy. This soon-to-be-famous cake was baked to celebrate the first Christmas under the Scaligeri family that ruled Verona from 1262 to 1387.
Originally it was only made with butter, flour, sugar, and yeast and shaped like an 8 points star. No eggs were used, but still, it was so spongy and soft that it immediately became a success among Verona’s people.
Hence, on the 14th of October 1894, the Industrial Property Certificate from the Ministry of Agriculture, Industry, and Commerce of the Kingdom of Italy granted for 3 years to Mr. Melegatti in Verona the trademark for the name, the recipe, and the shape of a Christmas cake called Pandoro. Compared to its ancestor, the Nadalin, the recipe added eggs to the dough, making it taller. Its mold was designed by the famous artist Angelo dall’Oca Bianca.
Until 1950 where Italy turned more industrial, the Pandoro was mainly eaten in Verona. However, the demand for the golden cake began to rise once millions of people left the countryside to seek jobs in the city, so first Melegatti and then other rivals companies such as Bauli or Paluani became the industrialization process. At the end of the ’60, Pandoro was available to everyone in most supermarkets all over the National territory.
Just as for his rival Panettone, the making of Pandoro requires a lot of work and dedication. It must rise for more than 10 hours, and the dough needs 6 or seven rounds. The golden loaf has no raisins or candied fruits inside, but the rich buttery texture will be so decadent to melt in your mouth at the first bite.
Traditionally Pandoro is left on the radiator while enjoying the Christmas meal. The butter will be softening the dough while the rich vanilla aroma will spread around the house.
There is a bag of vanilla powdered sugar to sprinkle on the cake before slicing it in the box. You can dust it gently directly on the sliced goodie or pour it into the bag and shake it vigorously to ensure no surface is left unserved.
Even though Pandoro is appreciated for its simple recipe, there are now versions with custard cream, chocolate chips, chocolate cream, or other gourmet creams such as Lemoncello or Pistacchio.
The most common way to serve it is just by slicing it vertically and having some custard or mascarpone cream on the side.
However, it is often sliced horizontally for a more scenic presentation, and its slices are piled up to compose a Christmas Tree. For an extra treat, before dusting it with sugar, pour some custard or chocolate cream on the top and let it dribble.
In the unlikely event of any leftover, Pandoro is often eaten even after the holidays for breakfast with a little bit of jam or dipped into caffe latte.
Otherwise, the slices are often used to make versions of Tiramisù, Zuccotto with Chocolate, or even rolls up with cream or jam. So undoubtedly, it gets never wasted.
So, which team will you be on this Christmas? Pandoro or Panettone?