Pandoro (Verona Christmas Bread) – The Daring Gourmet

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The famous star-shaped sweet Christmas bread from Verona, Italy!  This traditional pandoro recipe takes some time to make but the effort is well worth it to enjoy this delicate vanilla-infused cake-like bread with its beautiful appearance, delicious flavor, and wonderful texture!

pandoro recipe traditional authentic Verona Christmas bread cake yeast lemon best Italian

What is Pandoro?

Pandoro, translated as “golden bread”, is an Italian vanilla-infused sweet bread that is baked in a special 8-pointed star-shaped pan giving it its famous appearance.  It’s traditionally dusted with confectioner’s sugar to resemble the snow-covered peaks of the Italian Alps near Verona, the town where pandoro originated, and is most popular during the Christmas holidays and New Year’s.

Pandoro is considered the descendent of the earlier Nadalin, a sweetened bread that is a flatter and irregular-shaped star made with simpler ingredients and much simpler to make.  Pandoro was created in the late 1800’s and is attributed to a local baker in Verona named Domenico Melegatti who was bestowed by royal decree a 3 year exclusive right to produce the cake.  His cake-like bread was made with generous amounts of egg yolks, butter, and honey/sugar, and became immediately popular among the rich and noble where it was coined “bread of gold.”  It’s said that some nobility even served it covered in gold leaf.  Melegatti trademarked his famous cake in 1894 and today the brand still sold today.

In addition to its unique shape, pandoro is known for its yellow color which is gets from the egg yolks.  The darker the egg yolks the richer the yellow.

pandoro recipe traditional authentic Verona Christmas bread cake yeast lemon best Italian

How Do You Serve Pandoro?

In its simplest and traditional form it is served with a generous dusting of powdered sugar.

But today you can find it served with a variety of creams or sauces such as mascarpone, zabaglione, vanilla custard, sweetened whipped cream, and even covered in chocolate.

It is commonly enjoyed with a warm beverage.

pandoro recipe traditional authentic Verona Christmas bread cake yeast lemon best Italian

Panettone vs. Pandoro – What is the Difference?

Two of the most popular Italian traditions during the Christmas season are panettone and pandoro.  Both are enriched sweet breads but their differences lie in both their appearance as well as ingredients.  Panettone is a kind of fruit cake made with raisins and candied citrus peel while pandoro contains neither and is a much simpler sweet bread.

Both breads have a very passionate – and divided – following.  You could say these breads are arch rivals and that rivalry runs deep.  You’ll have to decide for yourself where your loyalties lie.  I say why choose?  Make both!

Get our recipe for traditional Panettone.

panettone recipe traditional authentic best

The ingredients in pandoro are simple and as such it’s imperative to use the best quality ingredients you can find.

To make this the traditional way takes time.  But the time and effort is well worth it.  The flavor is delicate and the texture is fabulous.

pandoro recipe traditional authentic Verona Christmas bread cake yeast lemon best Italian

Pandoro Recipe

Let’s get started!

You’ll need the special 8-pointed star-shaped pan.  These are not the easiest to find but you can find them online such as here on Amazon.

where to buy pandoro mold

To make the starter dough:  Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the lukewarm water and let it sit for 10-15 minutes until nice and frothy.  Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and add the yeast mixture.    Using the dough hook, knead the ingredients until they come together.  The dough will be smooth but firm and stiff.

Form the dough into a ball, place it in a lightly greased bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place for about 2 hours or until nearly doubled in size.

Punch it down, form it into a ball, place it back in the bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge to sit overnight.   **Remove the dough from the fridge the next day 2 hours before you’re ready to proceed with making the pandoro.

The next day dissolve the yeast and sugar in the lukewarm milk and let it sit for 10-15 minutes until nice and frothy.

Place the flour, sugar, and yeast mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix it together with spoon or with the dough hook.

Using the dough hook, add the eggs one at a time, kneading between additions.

The mixture will come together into a rich yellow dough.

Add the starter dough to the stand mixer.

Knead the two doughs together for about 5 minutes.

Add the butter, lemon zest, vanilla, and honey and knead for about 10 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add 2 tablespoons of flour.

The dough should be very smooth and elastic but not overly sticky.  If it’s too sticky add a little more flour.

Form the dough into a ball, lightly spray the bowl, and place the dough back in, loosely covered with plastic wrap, to rise in a warm place for about 3 hours or until nearly tripled in size.  Punch the dough down.

Generously butter the pan, getting into all the cracks and crevices.

Next add some flour to the pan and shake it to thoroughly coat it with flour, shaking out the excess flour.  Again, be sure to get into all the cracks and crevices so that your pandoro doesn’t stick to the pan.

Place the dough into the prepared pandoro mold.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until the dough has risen to about an inch or so above the top of the mold.

Bake it on the middle rack of an oven preheated to 325 F for 30 minutes.

Reduce the temperature to 300 F and bake for another 30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 195 F and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.    Be careful not to over-bake or your pandoro will be very dry.

During the baking process if the pandoro begins to brown too quickly cover it with aluminum foil.

Let the pandoro cool in the mold on a wire rack for 15 minutes and then carefully remove the pandoro from the mold.

Cut a thin layer off the base so it will sit flat on a serving plate.

To serve pandoro, once it is cool you can either dust the whole bread with powdered sugar and cut it vertically into slices (traditional).

pandoro recipe traditional authentic Verona Christmas bread cake yeast lemon best Italian

Or for a more interesting look you can slice the pandoro in thick horizontal slices, then rotate the slices.  You can then either dust the pandoro with powdered sugar or you can layer each of the horizontal slices with custard, cream, or a filling of choice.

pandoro recipe traditional authentic Verona Christmas bread cake yeast lemon best Italian

© Sarah2 | Dreamstime

pandoro recipe traditional authentic Verona Christmas bread cake yeast lemon best Italian

For more traditional Christmas goodies be sure to try our:

pandoro recipe traditional authentic Verona Christmas bread cake yeast lemon best Italian

Pandoro (Verona Christmas Bread)

Kimberly Killebrew

The famous vanilla-infused, star-shaped sweet Christmas bread from Verona, Italy! 

Prep Time 20 minutes

Cook Time 1 hour

Overnight Chill Time 12 hours

Total Time 13 hours 20 minutes

Course Dessert, Tea

Cuisine Italian

Ingredients  

  • For the Starter Dough:
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon lukewarm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • For the Main Dough:
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm whole milk
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter , softened at room temp
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste (is thicker, has vanilla flecks, and a more intense flavor than vanilla extract but you can substitute 2 TEAspoons of extract if you wish)
  • zest of one lemon

Instructions 

  • To make the starter dough:  Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the lukewarm water and let it sit for 10-15 minutes until nice and frothy. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and add the yeast mixture.    Using the dough hook, knead the ingredients until they come together.  The dough will be smooth but firm and stiff.Form the dough into a ball, place it in a lightly greased bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place for about 2 hours or until nearly doubled in size.Punch it down, form it into a ball, place it back in the bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge to sit overnight.  **Remove the dough from the fridge the next day 2 hours before you’re ready to proceed with making the pandoro.
  • The next day dissolve the yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar in the lukewarm milk and let it sit for 10-15 minutes until nice and frothy.Place the flour, sugar, and yeast mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix it together with spoon or with the dough hook. Using the dough hook, add the eggs one at a time, kneading between additions. The mixture will come together into a rich yellow dough.Add the starter dough to the stand mixer. Knead the two doughs together for about 5 minutes. Add the butter, lemon zest, vanilla, and honey and knead for about 10minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. The dough should be very smooth and elastic but not overly sticky.  If it’s too sticky add a little more flour.Form the dough into a ball, lightly spray the bowl, and place the dough back in, loosely covered with plastic wrap, to rise in a warm place for about 3 hours or until nearly tripled in size.  Punch the dough down.
  • Generously butter a pandoro mold pan getting into all the cracks and crevices. You will need a 9-cup pandoro mold (about 2 liter capacity). Next add some flour to the pan and shake it to thoroughly coat it with flour, shaking out the excess flour.  Again, be sure to get into all the cracks and crevices so that your pandoro doesn’t stick to the pan.Place the dough into the prepared pandoro mold. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until the dough has risen to about an inch or so above the top of the mold.In the meantime preheat the oven to 325 F. Bake the pandoro on the middle rack for 30 minutes.Reduce the temperature to 300 F and bake for another 30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 195 F and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.    Be careful not to over-bake or your pandoro will be very dry.During the baking process if the pandoro begins to brown too quickly cover it with aluminum foil.Let the pandoro cool in the mold on a wire rack for 15 minutes and then carefully remove the pandoro from the mold.Cut a thin layer off the base so it will sit flat on a serving plate.
  • To serve the pandoro, once it is cool you can either dust the whole bread with powdered sugar and cut it vertically into slices (traditional).  Or for a more interesting look you can slice the pandoro in thick horizontal slices, then rotate the slices.  You can then either dust the pandoro with powdered sugar or you can layer each of the horizontal slices with custard, cream, or a filling of choice.

Originally published on The Daring Gourmet December 3, 2020

 

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