Pandoro

In Italy, Pandoro (literally ‘golden bread’) is a bread/cake which regularly features on dinner tables during the Christmas period. It is star shaped, golden brown on the outside and has a moist, buttery crumb on the inside which reminds of a brioche and a croissant. Some people believe that, although traditionally associated with Verona, this dessert actually comes from Vienna, where it was prepared under the name of ‘Bread of Vienna’. Others, on the other hand, maintain the cake is an evolution of the ‘pan de oro’ baked for the rich Venetian merchants. Pandoro was patented on 14th October 1894 by Domenico Melegatti, the owner of the sweet manufacturing industries by the same name.

As with other traditional desserts, there are several recipes available. The one below has been devised by the Simili sisters from Bologna, well known in the Italian culinary tradition for their aptitude and competence with yeasted doughs. Their breakthrough achievement was to use yeast in the cake and to layer it, which provide extra softness, a honeybee-like structure and a really crumbly texture. The preparation is long and takes place in stages which require at least 9 hours. A good idea would be to stretch the preparation over two days, which also intensifies the flavour of the Pandoro. Also make sure to use plenty of vanilla, which is the natural and only flavour used in this cake. The original recipe asks for vanillina, the vanilla flavour compound which is widely sold in Italy. Seeing as this is not available in the UK, I substituted it with a good amount of vanilla beans, but you could as well use the extract. You will also need a 1kg Pandoro cake tin, which you can easily find online. I bought mine from Bakery Bits.

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Ingredients

  • 450g strong bread flour
  • 135g golden caster sugar
  • 170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 x 7g sachet of fast action yeast
  • lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla beans
  • extra butter and icing sugar, for the mould

Method

Start with the poolish. In a big bowl or the bowl of a freestanding mixer, combine the following:

    • yeast
    • 60g lukewarm water
    • 50g strong bread flour
    • 2 tsp golden caster sugar
    • 1 egg yolk

Use a whisk to combine all of the ingredients together, then cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in a warm environment until you see some tiny bubbles forming on the surface.

When that happens, start with the actual dough by adding the following to the poolish:

    • 200g strong bread flour
    • 25g golden caster sugar
    • 30g unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1 tsp lukewarm water
    • 1 medium egg

I used my KitchenAid to mix it all together, but you can do this by hand. Mix all of the ingredients but the butter, then add it once the rest is thoroughly incorporated. Knead either by hand or with the dough hook until the mixture is silky smooth, then cover with clingfilm and leave to prove in a warm environment for a good hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Then move on to the third stage by adding the below:

    • 200g strong bread flour
    • 100g sugar
    • 2 medium eggs
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tbsp vanilla beans

Incorporate these ingredients and knead the dough until soft and pliable, then transfer to a buttered bowl and leave to prove until doubled. Put the dough in the fridge for a good hour to firm up. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll out to a rectangle. Spread the butter in the middle and pile it up to a small mound, then fold the four corners on to the middle. Fold the dough over and start rolling it to a long rectangle away from you. Fold the top third of the dough onto the middle, then fold the bottom third on top of that – much in the way as for croissants of puff pastry. Wrap the folded dough in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes. Take it out of the fridge and repeat the folding process for 3 more times.

In between the folding stages, generously butter the Pandoro cake tin.

Once the last folding is complete, shape the dough to a ball and put in the tin, smooth side down (that is, with the non smooth surface facing you). Cover the tin with clingfilm and leave to prove in a warm environment for about 4 hours, or until the dough reaches the edge of the tin.

Towards the end of the proving time, pre-heat your oven to 170C.

Bake the Pandoro for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 160C and bake for another 15 minutes. Check with a skewer that the Pandoro is cooked through, otherwise give it another 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and unmould as soon as you can. Leave to cool, then serve generously dusted with icing sugar and enjoy.

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Storage: treat this cake as a brioche, so keep in a bag in a cool place to maintain it soft and spongy. It is very versatile and can be used for French toast, bread and butter pudding, etc. Just to give you an example, here what I did with a leftover one. I sliced it horizontally and sandwiched it together with custard, whipped cream and plenty of fresh fruits and chocolate chips. The whole cake has then been dusted in icing sugar. (edited 01/01/2014)

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7 thoughts on “Pandoro

  1. John

    We can purchase vanillina here in the us. It looks like they are a gram or less per envelope. How much vanillina did the original Pandoro recipe call for?

    • afoodiea

      Hi John! Both of your comments were successfully posted 🙂 The original recipe doesn’t specify how many grams, but a ‘sachet’ (the quantity usually mentioned) contains 7-8g. You don’t need to use vanillina here, simply substitute with the seeds from a vanilla pod for exactly the same result!

      • John

        Thank you. OK, I’ll be using extract then [I see it’s a 1 for 1 match, e.g. 1 TBLS of extract = 1 TBLS of bean. I plan on starting tomorrow to the point of refrigeration of the dough, and then resuming the next day. I’m following your advice to extend over 2 days. I appreciate your response. The butter and vanilla quantities seem logical and are mouth watering. Your recipe is unique in the aspect of folding. I’m very excited to get going.

      • afoodiea

        No worries, glad you’re finding it fascinating – I do too! Don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t turn out perfect your first time round. It may require some practice and adjustments. I made 5 in a row (Christmas presents) before finally getting the hang of it. That said, best of luck! 🙂

  2. John

    SUCCESS.. All went well on my second try. I messed up the folding the first time, I had no prior experience with that process. I referenced a Julia Child book for the process and that did the trick, your reference to puff pastry put me on that track. I had to reduce the butter by a third because my first attempt created such a buttery mess but, even with the reduction, it still came of great. I can now tweak over time. Also, I had to bake at 350 F. The 340 and adjust to 320 did not completely cook it at 38 min. The 350 for 45 min did it. It might have because of the butter bomb I created the first time, not sure (?). In summary, it came out GREAT. Can’t stop eating it. Thank you. I’m very glad I found your site. Merry Christmas.

    • afoodiea

      Hi John! Apologies for the delay but I was in the land of the Pandoro for the holidays. Great to hear it all went to plan! As anticipated, more than one try may have been necessary, but kudos for sticking with it (sometimes quite literally) and trying a second time. Hope you enjoyed it and will make it time and time again 🙂 (p.s. Happy New Year!)

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