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The best of the recipes, techniques, and methods practiced by our large extended Italian-American family - with emphasis on the legacy handed down to us by the original immigrants.

This is a cookbook-in-process project. If you try any of these recipes please let us know how they turn out, whether or not you had any difficulties, and any clarifying improvements you might recommend to make them foolproof. We will of course acknowledge genuine "test-kitchen" assistance.

Family Secrets #23

Christmas Pandoro Bread

By CeCe Dove, La Lama Mountain Ovens

Traditional holiday breads make a wonderful alternative or addition to the sweet tray. They are generally less sweet than cookies, and because they are often dramatic in appearance they make welcome last minute gifts as well. There is the added advantage that they freeze well, setting you free to enjoy the holiday in a more relaxed manner.

Recipes for celebration breads are as numerous as ornaments on the tree. Every Christian country has special breads for each religious holiday, with Christmas being primary. The Swedes have Lucia Buns, a delicate cardamom spiced roll, baked in honor of Santa Lucia Day (December 13th), the Germans have Stollen, a dense yeasted bread filled with candied fruits and dusted with piles of powdered sugar, the Scots have the Scotch Bun which is an enormously rich pudding encased in a buttery yeast dough, and the Italians have Panettone. After viewing the mountains of Panettone in every Italian deli and gourmet shop across America during the month of December one would surmise that this is the only sweet bread that is eaten in Italy for Christmas. It is undeniably excellent and most certainly Italian, but there are other pani festivi that deserve our attention.

Just as Panettone abound at this time of year, so do recipes for making it. Since you can easily come by this, we decided to feature a slightly lesser known regional bread called Pandoro. This is a Veronese specialty that shares with its cousin, Panettone as well as all celebration breads, the basic rich butter, egg, sugar, yeast combination. What differentiates each bread are the fruits, nuts, and flavorings as well as the beautiful shapes that are traditional to each.

Traditional Pandoro is a rather lengthy, complicated process which takes the better part of a day to complete. We have up-dated this process and have evolved a recipe that is simpler and faster, yet yields excellent results. Nonetheless the dough is rather difficult to work with because it is extremely soft and sticky; but with a little patience it should be no problem.

Pandoro is baked in a star shaped mold. If you cannot locate one in your cookware shop they are available through King Arthur's catalog (click on library and scroll to "recommended periodicals".

If you are unable to obtain citron you can substitute golden raisins. You may also substitute glaceéd fruits for the citron for a festive look but be sure to blanch them for 10 seconds in boiling water to remove the excess syrup. After blanching, pat dry on paper towels.


Ingredients for batter:

  • 4 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 cups pastry flour
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 7 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 large yolks, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 lb. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 5 1/4 tsp, instant dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 lemon, zest only, grated
  • 1/2 cup citron
Step One: Combine flours

In a large bowl blend pastry flour with all purpose flour. Remove 3/4 cup for kneading purposes.

Step Two: Make starter

Place in your mixer bowl 2 3/4 cup of the blended flour, 1/2 cup water, 3 eggs lightly beaten, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 oz. unsalted butter (1/2 stick), 5 1/4 tsp. instant dried yeast. With paddle attachment, mix until well blended. The starter should have the consistency of a heavy pancake batter. Wrap mixer bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place in warm, draft free area until it doubles in volume. This first rise should take between 1 and 1 1/2 hours, depending on temperature.

Step Three: Dry ingredients

While the starter is raising add the following dry ingredients to the bowl containing the balance of the blended flour. 1 cup sugar, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 cup citron and the grated zest of 1 lemon. Make sure the citron is coated with flour and mix the combined ingredients with a wooden spoon.

Step Four: Assemble the dough

Stir down the raised starter in the mixer bowl. Add the balance of the blended flour and ingredients from Step Three. Add the 4 remaining eggs and 2 yolks lightly beaten, 2 tsp. vanilla, and the remaining 2 1/2 sticks of softened unsalted butter. Place dough hook on the mixer and begin mixing at the lowest speed for 2 minutes, gradually increase the mixer speed to 1/2 speed for an additional 3 minutes. Prepare your kneading surface with a generous amount of the 3/4 cup flour you have reserved for kneading. Dust your hands well with flour, and with the aid of a spatula remove dough from the mixer bowl to the kneading surface. With the aid of a dough knife, gently knead while adding flour until the dough feels very silky and buttery and kneads to the point of just barely sticky. It is important not to add too much flour as the dough must remain very soft. Place the dough in an oiled large ceramic bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft free area until it doubles in volume. The second rise should take between 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on temperature.

Step Five: Panning and proofing

Punch down risen dough gently until deflated. Turn onto very lightly floured surface and divide into two equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll into a sausage shape and then into a tight ball. Using cupped hands on top of the dough ball, rotate the dough around in a circle continuously until the surface feels taut, always maintaining the ball shape. Do not have the surface too floured as you want some friction between the dough and the surface it will slide on, just as you want to exert some friction on the ball with your hands as you rotate it - this is what tightens the dough ball. Finally, turn the ball over in your hand and pinch the seams which have opened up on the flat bottom tight in the center. Reverse again and place in a well buttered pandoro pan and gently pat down until surface is flat. Place the two filled pans in a warm, draft free area and let rise until the dough reaches the top of the pan, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on temperature.

Step Six: Baking and de-panning

Place both pans on lower rack of preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for 30 minutes, reduce temperature to 300 degrees and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and place on cooling racks. Do not attempt to de-pan the loaves until completely cool. Remove from pans and sift confectioner’s sugar over if serving, or double wrap and freeze.

Here are a few tips to help you speed up the process and help you handle the extremely soft dough. When handling the dough make sure your hands and all the implements you use are well dusted with flour. Use your dough scraper as one "hand" when kneading. You may consider preheating your oven to "low" for 10 minutes and then shut oven off to make a good environment for the various raising stages. This can dramatically shorten the process time from start to finish. Another tip: make sure you do not open the oven to peek until the whole baking cycle is done. It is also critical to let the loaves cool to room temperature before de-panning the loaves.

Altitude Adjustment: None.

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Commercial and Quantity Reproduction Requires Written Permission
La Lama Mountain Ovens, 2055 Lama Mtn., HC81 Box 26, Questa, NM 87556, Tel: 575-586-2286

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