Christmas is a time of the year when people eat more than usual because social events multiply (except in 2020, for obvious reason). Here in Italy, during the period spanning from December 8th till Christmas we traditionally organise dinners with friends, work-mates, family members, and all those who we cannot spend Christmas day with. We exchange presents and we eat a lot…part of the tradition is that by January 6th (the end of season’s break), all of the Italian people gain some weight.
These three items must be included in each of our Christmas-time meal because Christmas has a specific taste to us which is that of Pandoro, Panettone and Tangerines.
If you were in Italy at Christmas time there would be no way for you to skip at least one slice of Panettone or Pandoro and to have a lot of Tangerines. We all have plenty in our homes at this time of the year.
Pandoro and Panettone are the traditional Christmas “Cakes” to us, although they are not exactly cakes and pretty impossible to home-make. I tried to make Panettone myself following the very original recipe but the process is very long, the leavening process must be respected carefully and at certain moment the dough must be turned upside town to allow the creation of the traditional “dome”. Therefore we do buy these two at bakeries or even the industrial ones, which are pretty good.
Panettone is a typical Milanese dessert, which a legend would date back to the end of the fifteenth century, but which is probably of much older origin. It is a naturally leavened product, made up of hard wheat flours, eggs, butter, candied citron, raisins of the “sultanas” type. Panettone was probably born at the baker of a man called “Toni”, thus the name might derive from the Milanese dialect as people were used to buy this special Pan ‘d Toni (the bread of Toni), then transliterated into Panettone.
Nowadays there are several variations of Panettone as many do not like Sultana raisins or candied citrons, thus they can be repleaced with chocolate, pistacho cream, lemon cream, almonds. In some cases Panettone can be covered with an almond glaze, but to me the one and only Panettone is the traditional one, called “Panettone Milano”.
Pandoro is a traditional dessert born in the city of Verone (Romeo and Juliet’s city). It is soft and light, made with fine flour, sugar, butter, eggs and brewer’s yeast; it has a tall shape, with large straight ribs, arranged according to the design of an eight-pointed star, it is served sprinkled with vanilla icing sugar. It is widespread throughout Italy as a traditional Christmas dessert.
Pandoro is sweeter than Panettone. You may overhear people discussin a lot about what is bettter. Some will say Panettone and some orhers Pandoro. I like Pandoro a lot but personally, if I had to choose, I would pick Panettone. To make your own decision you just have to try both.
In this case also I would recommend to buy it at a traditional bakery of even the industrial ones, which are pretty good and easily found at every supermarket. You can find mountains of Pandoro and Penettones boxes along the aisles of every supermarket of Italy from late November till early January. After that, they simply vanish to show up again the next Christmas.
If I had to say which is the perfume of Christmas, I would definitely say: Tangerine. Chistmas falls in the time of the year when citrons are maturing in southern Italy, from Naples downwards to Sicily, where the best oranges in the world are grown. Tangerines are on every Italian table during this time. We do usually have it after the huge Christmas meal, and we pair it with roasted pistachos, peanuts, walnuts and dates.
To get what I mean you have to know that the skins of the tangerines are very rich in perfum and if you have a fireplace or a stove and you throw them in it, the room will get filled with a very pleasant aroma which is, to all of us, the smell of Christmas.
What about you? What is the taste or perfume of Christmas to you?