I have suggested in previous posts (and explained clearly in my book ‘Roman Daze – La Dolce Vita for all Seasons‘), that Italians can often be neatly divided into two groups, in a variety of ways:
- Those who take their annual holidays in the mountains v those who take their annual holidays at the beach (and neither the two shall meet! :))
- Those who hail from the North of Italy and those who are from the South of Italy
- Those who support the Roman football team ‘Roma‘, and those who support Lazio, the Regional Roman team
- Communists and Fascists (who are friendlier to each other than those in the above two categories are)
Now I want to introduce two new categories. Those who prefer Panettone as a Christmas dessert v those who prefer Pandoro. Both are delicious, sweet cakes and are eaten only at Christmas time. They both come in highly decorative, large boxes (sometimes Panettone can come wrapped in brightly colored cellophane instead of a box). They only come in one size (large) and will feed between 10 – 20 people, depending on the serving size.
Now some explanation about the difference. Panettone is originally from Milan and is a high, airy dome of yellow fluffy goodness studded with candied orange peel, candied lemon peel and sultanas. It takes many hours to make as the dough must rise and fall three times before it can be baked. It is never attempted by home chefs and going out to buy the Panettone (or Pandoro) is a sacred Christmas ritual.
Each household would buy up to 5 or 6 Panettone (or Pandoro) as each Christmas visit is accompanied with a Panettone (or Pandoro) for the host. In this way Panettone and Pandoro are often swapped around frequently between households until Christmas day when one is finally opened and consumed as the dessert of the Christmas meal. This can be anytime from Christmas eve to Christmas night.
Alternatives are: as soon as they appear in the shops going and buying one and eating it immediately with a cup of tea, eating it regularly for breakfast leading up to and including Christmas day, eating it regularly for afternoon tea leading up to and away from Christmas day, eating it smothered in butter (for breakfast – Panettone only), smothered in ice-cream/liquor for dessert (Pandoro only). But these are just my suggestions 🙂
I must admit to being a bit disappointed when i first unwrapped a Panettone and cut into it. Delivered of its smart, brightly colored box with ribbon handle it looked like a large brown rock and not very appetising. Looking inside it looked a little plain to me and not worth all the hype and excitement surrounding it. I was used to cream, brandy butter, and desserts that were alight with flames as part of my Christmas dessert, and this looked like it was going to be a bit of a let down in comparison. But like much Italian food, the key is in the simplicity, and the quality of the ingredients, along with the seasonal approach to food which creates a longing and anticipation.
What looked like a door stop of a piece collapsed in my mouth into quite small mouthfuls as the dough was liberated from its airiness. The tender, fluffy morsels were interspersed with just the right amount of sweet sultanas and slightly bitter peel. Towards the bottom (my favourite bit), the dough became denser and more chewy. A Panettone (like a Pandoro) is not served with a fork or spoon but is usually pulled apart with your fingers or held in your hand with a serviette and bit into. Usually accompanied by a glass of prosecco.
But what about the Pandoro? Is there any room left for argument? Plenty. Pandoro comes from Verona originally and literally means ‘Golden Bread’. It is bread dough enhanced with lashings of eggs, butter and sugar. It rises high and is in the shape of an 8-pointed star, dark golden on the outside and light gold on the inside. It comes in a cellophane bag with a small packet of icing sugar. Protocol requires that you keep the Pandoro inside the cellophane bag and sprinkle the icing sugar over it. You then hold the bag tightly at one end and shake it therefore dusting the entire Pandoro evenly with the icing sugar. You need to do this just before serving it as the moist outside will quickly absorb the sugar. It looks like a Christmas wonder, all tall and dusted in white. This is eaten in the same way and at the same time as a Panettone. Now can you see the dilemma? Luckily for me I love Panettone and my husband loves Pandoro so we always have to have one of each!