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Pandoro di Verona

Servings: Makes 1 loaf
Pandoro appeared on the scene in remote times, the product of the ancient art of breadmaking, as the name, "golden bread," suggests. Throughout the Middle Ages, white bread was consumed solely by the rich, while the common people could only afford black bread and, often, not even that. Sweet breads were reserved to the nobles. Breads enriched with eggs, butter and sugar or honey were served in the palaces and were known as "royal bread" or "golden bread".

The desserts consumed in the 17th century were described in the book Suor Celeste Galilei, Letters to Her Father, published by La Rosa of Turin, and they included "royal bread" made from flour, sugar, butter and eggs. However, the bread was already known and appreciated in the ancient Rome of Pliny the Elder, in the 1st century. That bread was made with "the finest flour combined with eggs, butter and oil." Virgil and Livy mentioned the preparation under the name Libum.

There are those who see the French brioche as the ancestor of Pandoro and those who regard it as a derivative of the Viennese art of pastrymaking, even if that school is itself of French derivation. However the first citation of a dessert clearly identified as Pandoro dates to the 18th century. The dessert certainly figured in the cuisine of the Venetian aristocracy. Venice was the principal market for spices as late as the 18th century as well as for the sugar that by then had replaced honey in European pastries and breads made from leavened dough. And it was at Verona, in Venetian territory, that the formula for making pandoro was developed and perfected, a process that required a century. The modern history of this dessert bread began at Verona in October 30, 1894, when Domenico Melegatti obtained a patent for a procedure to be applied in producing pandoro industrially.

By 1894, when pandoro entered the annals of Italian confectionery, it had long been a traditional practice at Verona for pastry cooks to go to Vienna to learn their craft. Until a few decades ago, the oldest pastry shops in the historic center of Verona employed Austrian pastry chefs and Veronese bakers would customarily go to Vienna's famous Sacher to train.

Pandoro, a close relation to Italy's most famous Christmas bread, panettone, is an egg and butter-rich bread baked in a traditional star-shaped pan. The biga (starter) helps keep it fresh right through the 12 days of Christmas!

Biga (Starter)
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose Flour
1/2 cup water
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

1/4 cup (1/2 stick/2 oz/56g) butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon lemon oil or 2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup golden raisins, slivered apricots or dried fruit of your choice
Garnish: (optional)
Confectioners' sugar

Serving suggestion: (optional)
Serve each slice with a dollop of Mascarpone cheese.

The Biga (starter):
Combine the flour, water and yeast, mix till fairly smooth, and allow to rest, covered, overnight.

The Dough:
Next day, add the dough ingredients to the biga, mixing and then kneading by hand, mixer or bread machine until you've made a soft, smooth dough. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 1 hour.

Round the dough into a ball, and transfer it to a lightly greased pandoro pan* (see note below). Allow it to rise, covered, for 2 hours, or until it's nearly level with the top of the pan.

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

Bake the bread in preheated oven for about 40 minutes, tenting it loosely with aluminum foil for the final 15 minutes. Remove it from the oven, let it rest for 10 minutes, then gently remove it from the pan. When cool, sprinkle the bread with confectioners' sugar, and serve it, sliced, with mascarpone cheese, if desired.

Makes 1 loaf.

Pandoro pans may be purchased online at King Arthur Flour or at Sur La Table.
Their web Url's are:

Source: King Arthur Flour
Date: November 19, 2004