All About Pandoro and Panettone, Two Traditional Italian Christmas Breads Guaranteed to Delight Your Guests
Martha and our food editors share their picks and creative serving suggestions for these statement-making desserts.
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).