Italian Christmas sweets: Panettone, pandoro and Torrone
The holidays in Italy wouldn’t be complete without panettoni and pandori: they are as iconic as a tree, wreath, or mistletoe in other cultures. Traditionally, Italians give the festively wrapped cakes as gifts, as they symbolize luck and prosperity through the New Year. Learn about these delicious Italian sweets during your holiday in Rome.!
WHAT IS PANETTONE?
Literally “big bread,”panettone is a sweet, eggy cake that is traditionally dotted with candied and dried fruit (though we love the festive varieties, such as hazelnut or chocolate), then rises into a domed shape as it bakes.
Panettone was first created in Milano. The odd thing about this specialty 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). Happily, even the traditional packaging for panettone is festive; the large, colorful box is wrapped in ribbon like a gift; it’s traditional in the days before Christmas to bring a panettone as a present to the host of a gathering.
WHAT IS PANDORO?
Similar to panettone,pandoro is made from a rich, eggy dough, not unlike a French brioche, explaining its name of “golden bread.” 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. In fact, the earliest versions of pandoro were made during the era of the Venetian Republic, when trade had made the region extremely wealthy; some are said to have been served covered in gold leaf!
These days, we tend to dust pandoro with a small amount of vanilla-flavored powdered sugar instead – the “snow” on the top of the mountains!
In Italy, torrone is a traditional Christmas dessert—a sweet, toasted-almond candy—with many famous regional variations. The term “torrone” probably comes from the latin verb “torrere,” or to toast, referring to the toasted almonds. Today, there are many different types of torronne available—some soft, some hard and some with chocolate—not just in Italy, but worldwide. Torrone from Sicily, Abruzzo, and the cities of Siena, Alba, Cremona and others are especially renowned. Torrone is made using the same ingredients and methods as it was in the past. Egg whites and honey.