All About Pandoro and Panettone, Two Traditional Italian Christmas Breads Guaranteed to Delight Your Family
While we're all for homemade fruitcake, our preferred treat for the holidays is an Italian Christmas bread like pandoro, the tall, star-shaped sweet bread that's made from a rich, eggy dough. Its name translates as "golden bread," and legend has it that early versions were covered with gold leaf. Pandoro is always baked in an eight-pointed star-shaped pan said to echo the mountains around the city of Verona where the treat originated.
When you buy a pandoro, spread the cheer by serving it the extra fun way devised by Riley Wofford, our assistant food editor, that's shown here: Slice it horizontally, then re-stack and stagger the pieces so their points form an evergreen-tree shape. Top with sugared cranberries, dust with "snow" (sifted confectioners' sugar), and invite everyone to break off part of a bough.
Traditionally, Italians give festively-wrapped Christmas breads as gifts, as they symbolize luck and prosperity through the New Year. Besides pandoro the most well-known Italian Christmas bread is panettone, a specialty of Milan. It's name literally means "big bread," and panettone is just that; a sweet, eggy dome-shaped loaf that is traditionally dotted with candied and dried fruit. Making panettone is a labor intensive, lengthy process that Italians usually leave to the professional bakers.
Of course, Martha makes her own. She also loves the version at Via Quadronno in New York City ($38, pandetoni.com). Our food editors agree that is a perfect rendition but they also dig the less traditional From Roy's buttery double-chocolate panettone, peppered with milk and semisweet chunks ($60, thisisfromroy.com). If you're looking for a pandoro, their pick is Gustiamo's light, fluffy, made-in-Padua pandoro ($70, gustiamo.com).