Less famous than king panettone, “prince pandoro" – the other iconic Italian Christmas cake, from Verona to be precise – has countless fans who are equally fond of it. Its origins stretch back in time and are associated with the Christmas festivities of Veneto when the women of this region used to gather in groups on Christmas Eve to mix the “levá", a sweet which, as its name suggests, had to be left to rise all night and be covered with sugar and almonds. Others claim that the forerunner of the pandoro recipe was a Veronese sweet called 'Nadalin": what is certain however is that entrepreneur Domenico Melegatti was inspired by these traditions to create pandoro recipe as we know it today. After getting rid of the almonds and any other ingredient that got in the way of making the mixture light and airy, the pastry cook registered his idea with the Ministry of Agriculture and Trade in the Kingdom of Italy, without imagining the huge success it was going to have.
The basic ingredients remain unchanged: a lavish quantity of butter (at least 20%) and the typical pyramid-shaped mould with eight sections. For the design of this curious item Melegatti turned to artist Angelo dall'Oca Bianca, his fellow citizen: it was 1894 and pandoro has come a long way since then if we consider that it is now exported to 50 countries in the world. As for the Italians themselves, as Christmas approaches, they are split into two factions: pandoro or panettone.
You just have to cut off a slice to realize that its name refers to the golden colour of the cake mixture. What makes pandoro unique is its extremely soft consistency and the intense aroma of butter mingled with that of vanilla. To check that all phases of its preparation have been strictly adhered to, particularly its 24 hour rising time consisting of three distinct phases, take a look at its honeycomb texture which should be minute and even. The mandatory ingredients of an authentic pandoro are: flour, sugar, butter, yeast and vanilla. To enjoy it to the full, stand it close to a source of heat as for all cakes with a high percentage of fat. Sprinkle it with sieved confectioner’s sugar; if you have none in the house, just blend some ordinary castor sugar in a mixer. However, take care to add the sugar just before eating the pandoro, to prevent it from dissolving on the cake surface.
How should a pandoro be sliced? There are two schools of thought on this subject: a vertical or horizontal cut. You can choose to cut it into wedges or to make equidistant horizontal cuts so that each slice is star-shaped. If you have any leftover pandoro, toast it in the oven or in a non-stick frying pan and try it in a savoury version with mortadella or some cubes of foie gras.
Pandoro is not very filling so, if you don’t want to risk feeling hungry later, enjoy it with a cup of tea or a herbal tisane. If, on the other hand, you have no particular concern about calories, try serving a generous slice of pandoro with a bowl of hot zabaglione, custard or whipped cream aromatized with cinnamon, or simply with melted chocolate.