In Italy, no Christmas meal is complete without either panettone or pandoro. It is a real dilemma in many Italian families, often split between panettone lovers and pandoro lovers. The first group finds pandoro too simple and buttery; the second group usually dislikes raisins and candied fruits, which abound in traditional panettone. Often there is only one peaceful solution: you buy both!
The odd thing about this specialty (given that Italians love to cook and bake) is that it is hardly ever made at home and almost always purchased, perhaps because of its time-intensive baking process (the finicky dough alone takes 30 hours to rise).
What are the differences?
Panettone (literally "big bread") is a Christmastime cake from Milan. The sweet, yeasty cake has a distinctive domed shape. It is made during a long process that involves curing the dough, which is acidic, similar to sourdough . The proofing process alone takes several days, giving the cake its distinctive fluffy characteristics. It contains candied orange, citron, lemon zest, and raisins. Many other variations are available such as plain or with chocolate.
Pandoro is a Christmas cake that originated in Verona. True to its name (pan d'oro means "golden bread"), the cake has a bright yellow color. The cake is baked in an eight-pointed star-shaped pan that gives it its signature form. It's modeled after the mountains near Verona, where the cake was first made. These days, the pandoro is usually dusted with a small amount of vanilla-flavored powdered sugar instead – the "snow" on the top of the mountains!
If you serve panettone or pandoro at your Christmas celebration, you'll be in good company: Italian bakers sell an astonishing 117 million cakes a year!
Ways to Pair Panettone and Pandoro
If you want to add your personal touch to these Christmas cakes, here are some pairing suggestions:
Gelato: Warm up a few slices in the oven and serve with a scoop of fresh gelato like fior di latte, but pistachio and chocolate would also play well!
Mascarope Cream: Mix fresh mascarpone cheese with eggs and sugar, and serve alongside a few slices of your favorite panettone or pandoro. Pro tip: add fresh berries for a beautiful presentation!
Nutella: Spread it on top (a lot of it). Trust us!
Vino: Moscato d'Asti, sweet and sparkling, is a bubbly wine great for holiday toasting and compliments the cakes.
Caffe': Enjoy these cakes with an espresso in the afternoon or with a caffellatte or cappuccino in the morning for breakfast!
Which is your favorite?