Italy’s 6 Sweet Christmas Cookies: Panettone and Beyond

It boasts a wide variety of Christmas sweets, including many holiday “bread” and many other “bread” from Italy.

They are not all bread. They’re certainly not all made the same. Let’s find out how to tell the differences!

Pandoro is This sweet Christmas bread that comes from Verona and is star-shaped. It’s dusted with powdered Sugar (some claim to make it look like the mountains nearby). Pan d’oro is Italian for “bread of gold” and white bread was expensive in the Middle Ages. This meant that the Veronese families would only have one chance to enjoy this delicious treat every year. You’ll often see a hole in pandoro that has been filled with chantilly cream, gelato, or other goodies.

Pandolce: Pandolce means “sweet bread” and is the Genova variety. Legend has it that Andrea Doria (16th-century Doge of Genova) invited Genovese chefs for recipes to create a food that would reflect the Republic’s wealth and be healthy, durable, and suitable for long sea voyages. This is how to pan dolce was created. It is dense and crumbly and stuffed with spices and candied fruit. Tradition dictates that one portion of the pan dulce should go to the poor and another for St. Blaise’s feast day on February 3.

Panforte Despite its name, this bread is not actually bread. It’s a dense, chewy fruitcake made from Siena and heavily flavored with honey, coriander cloves, coriander cinnamon, white pepper, honey and coriander. Because of its durability, Crusaders took panforte along on their journeys. There are records that panforte cakes were even given to Sienese monasteries in 1205 as a type of tithe!

Panpepato or pampepato: While not a bread, panpepato, also known as “spiced bread”, is a gingerbread cake made with honey, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s also spiced with honey, nuts, dark chocolate and candied fruits. Although it dates back to the 15th century Ferrara (some claim its origins are Tuscan), the shape of this cake is said to resemble a clergyman’s cap. The first mention of panpepato was made in 1465 in a record book for noble house d’Esta. It stated that the Duke had given his butler a gold d’Esta and instructed him to place it in the panpepato being served.

Panettone: A sweet, dome-shaped loaf of bread, panettone hails from Milan and is studded with raisins, candied citrus peels, and other sweet ingredients. It takes several days to make the dough. Like sourdough it must be cured. You can serve it with a hot beverage, or a sweet wine such as Moscato d’Asti.

Pangiallo Pangiallo is a bread made with nuts, raisins, and spices. It originated in Rome and Lazio. Pagan Romans made pangiallo’s predecessor aid the return of the sun during the winter solstice. However, the nuts are a new addition to the pangiallo’s repertoire. Previously, Romans had used dried plum kernels and apricot kernels as an alternative, because nuts were too costly.

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