It was a couple of years after I had moved to Berlin. One day, around Christmas time, Silvia, an Italian colleague from Verona brought to share with the rest of the team in the lab a typical cake from her city. It came covered with powdered sugar in a plastic bag. It had a very particular shape, it was tall and its periphery all around had several edges like a star. Its name, Pandoro!
At that time, I was still not so much into food and cooking and didn’t elaborate much trying to get more information about that cake. But, in the years after I got to know and appreciated it even more.
First of all, I learned that this isn’t a cake but a bread!
That means that the dough is not simply mixed and baked with the addition of baking powder, but it has to ferment and rise like a bread dough. Traditionally Pandoro is leavened using the Italian (stiff) sourdough, known as pasta madre!
I got really excited when a few years ago, another Italian friend gave me as a Christmas present the characteristic metal mold in which Pandoro is risen and baked. I went happily to try out for the first time to make my own Pandoro!
Pandoro, like its rival Panettone, is not an easy bread to make. The dough is very demanding, it requires a very active sourdough and enough patience to rise enough before getting into the oven.
As a ‘heavy’ dough containing butter, eggs, and sugar it’s better kneaded using a dough mixer. However, from my experience, even a simple hand-mixing can be sufficient so as to obtain good bread.
That first time making the bread, it was Christmas 2020 now that I see, I was extra nervous because I was asked to bring it to the Christmas dinner organized by my Italian friend who had given me the mold. There, my Pandoro would have been eaten by many other Italian guests.
In the end, everything went fine, the Pandoro came out nice and sufficiently soft inside. The Italians were also amazed after realizing that it was not store-bought but homemade!
This year back in Greece, spending my first Christmas here for a long time I thought to try to do it again. I followed exactly my first, simple recipe, changing only the mix of aromatics in the dough. Instead of vanilla and lemon, I used Chios mastic and carob flour.
Made in a Pandoro mold of 16 cm tall
400g strong wheat flour*
200g active sourdough
20g carob flour**
1g Chios mastic***
powdered sugar for dusting
butter for coating the mold
* That is a flour with a high protein content (>13%)
** Carob flour will give a distinct taste and a darker color to the bread - You can easily omit it if you don’t like it or it’s difficult to find
*** I use the mastic for its characteristic aroma – you can easily substitute it with vanilla and lemon/orange zest which are the aroma components in the original recipe
- Mix well in a bowl all the ingredients (except the butter) until the flour is fully hydrated. Let the formed dough to rest for an hour. In the meantime, cut the butter into slices and let it come at room temperature.
(Typically, a dough mixer is used but you could also do everything with your hands in a bowl as I do here)
- Incorporate the butter into the dough by pinching it and stretching-folding the dough.
(This is the most difficult part - Add the butter stepwise in 2-3 rounds waiting for 10min in between each addition)
- After all butter is incorporated let the dough rest for 10min and then knead it by simply doing some stretch&fold actions a few times every 10min.
(The dough will be sticky, hence extensive kneading by hand is not a good idea, and it’s also not really needed)
- Cover the bowl and let the dough rise (at least double, even triple in size) as long as it takes.
(It took me ca. 10 hours at a room temperature of 20°C)
- When the dough is risen well, scrape it off from the bowl and transfer it onto a well-floured surface. Do a simple shaping and place it into a well-butter-coated Pandoro mold. Cover it with plastic wrap and let the dough rise again until it reaches the top of the mold.
(In my case it took an additionally 8 hours at 20° )
- Preheat the oven at 180°C, and bake the Pandoro at 160°C for ca. one hour. Cover it at some point with aluminum foil if it gets too dark on the top.
- Take it out from the oven, let it stand for a few minutes, cover it with a towel, and let it cool down for several hours.
- Remove it from the mold, dust it generously with powdered sugar, and enjoy!!!
(You can also seal it inside a plastic bag and keep it for many days)