Warning: this post contains a lot of sugar!
One of the great things about Christmas is that you can eat sweets without feeling (too) guilty. It is time to cheer, to celebrate, to be happy, not exactly the time to count calories. And I love it, let me confess! Moreover, Christmas brings a lot of traditional dishes that you can find only at this time of the year. It would be a shame to miss them, wouldn’t it? There are many different regional sweets, but there’s one which can be found everywhere in Italy: it’s panettone.
Panettone is THE Italian Christmas dessert. No doubts about it.
Panettone, which literally means big bread, is basically a sweet bread loaf with a tall domed shape. Originally from Milan, it can now be found everywhere in Italy. The original recipe is just with raisins and candied fruits, but it can now be found in all kinds of versions: with chocolate, nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, cinnamon and apples, nutmeg, beer, white wine, chestnuts, figs. The list can go on forever.
However, panettone has a rival: pandoro!
Pandoro is another super sweet bread typical of Christmas in Italy. It comes from Verona, and unlike panettone, has no raisins nor candied fruits inside. It is just a buttery yeast bread, shaped like a fustum with an 8-pointed star section (description taken directly from Wikipedia, this was too difficult for me), which is usually served with icing sugar on top – making it insanely sugary and sweet.
So the question always is: panettone or pandoro?
Panettone and pandoro are like the Beatles vs. the Stones, tea vs. coffee, PC vs. Mac, Adidas vs. Nike. It’s a choice of life. Since it is very sweet and simple, pandoro is usually quite popular with kids. As I matter of fact, it was the only Christmas dessert I used to eat in my childhood, stubbornly refusing to try any other sweet. As I grew up and my taste with me, I became a fan of panettone, the old traditional version, and completely forgot about pandoro. It is just too sweet for me now.
But there’s also another kind of panettone!
It’s the panettone genovese, or pandolce, the most popular Christmas sweet in Genova and in Liguria, the region where I live. It is quite different from panettone and pandoro and it is by far my favorite Christmas bread: less sweet, denser, more rustic. It is also much easier to bake and I make it every year to give it as a present to friends and family. Here’s my recipe, if you want to try it.
250 grams of flour
100 grams of sugar
16 grams of baking powder
100 grams of butter
100 grams of chopped candied fruits
100 grams of pine nuts
100 grams of raisins
Melt the butter. Mix flour, sugar and baking powder in a food processor or kneader (I use the Kitchen Aid, for example). Add melted butter and start kneading. Then add the egg and keep on kneading. If the dough doesn’t hold together very well, you can add a little bit of water (be careful not to add too much water when doing so). When the dough is smooth, add candied fruits, pine nuts, and raisins and keep on mixing. Then shape the dough into a ball, put it on a large plate (to make sure it doesn’t stick to the plate, I use some parchment paper) and let it cool in the fridge for at least one hour. Preheat the oven to 180°. Transfer the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake until golden (45 minutes to 1 hour).