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Italian Traditional Holiday Cakes
Il Pandoro di Verona - A cake which is very traditional among the Venetians and Italians. It is a tall cake, needing to rise almost a dozen times, and covered in a sifted powdered sugar. They are sold commercially almost everywhere-- especially around the holidays: Christmas, New Years and Befana.
We can kindly take you back to the Austrian Empire "Asburgico" with this story. It would have been the pastry makers of the Royal House of Vienna to prepare "L'Antenato" of Pandoro (pan-bread\ oro-gold). And they named it "The Bread of Vienna." A variant to the French brioche dough. Others argue that it was native to the Republic of Veneto, that it was Venetian - and from the period of the Renaissance-- when wealthy families consumed a dessert cake called "Pan de Oro." The cake was entirely covered with thin leaves of gold, made from gold coins. Another theory seeming to be more appropriate is that the "Nadalin" (which was a dessert cake having the form of a star) may have performed its reappearing act once more. Following tradition at the end of the 1800's, the Venetian families prepared this cake during the holidays.
If you're not able to conquest one of these cakes, try preparing it at home, but follow the recipe scrupulously!
- 650g Flour (23oz)
- 250g butter (8.82oz)
- 200g sugar (7.05oz)
- 8 eggs
- 30g beer yeast (1.06oz)
- 1\2 cup of whipping cream (not whipped)
- lemon rind grated
- 1 package of powdered vanilla 0.5g (1.76 oz)
- 50g of powdered sugar
Place in bowl 75g (2.65 oz) of flour with 10g (0.35oz) of sugar and crumbling the yeast, then unite one egg yolk and blend into the mix. If the dough is too solid add a little warm water. Combine the ingredients well, and place the bowl in a warm place. (18-20°C \ 64°-68°F) to let rise for about 2 hours.
Now, unite the dough with 160g (5.64oz) of flour, and 25g (0.88oz) of softened butter, 90g (3.17oz) of sugar and 3 more egg yolks. Blend well, to perfection-and place in a warm place to rise another 2 hours.
After that unite 375g of flour, 40g of softened butter, 75g () of sugar, 1 whole egg, and 3 yolks. Work the dough again and blend in the ingredients then place to rise another 2 hours.
Put the dough now on a counter or flat surface and knead incorporating the 1\2 cup of liquid whipping cream, the grated lemon peel, and a dash of powdered vanilla. Now weigh the dough and calculate for every Kilo-(2.2 lbs) 150g () of butter. With the rolling pin, roll out the dough and make a square not too wide-place in the center, diced up butter pieces not too hard. Fold up the dough and with the rolling pin roll out and fold three times, roll out again and fold in three. Let rest for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes roll out the dough again and fold three times, roll out again and fold three times, and let rest another 30 minutes.
In the meantime butter 2 deep baking pans (without hole in center) now dust with sugar. Place the dough on a flat surface, and work lightly for a few minutes with your hands rolling it and dusting it with flour. Make to balls with the dough and put them in the two prepared baking dishes. The dough should fill half the baking pan. Place them in a warm place to rise or until the dough reaches the level of the baking pan.
When ready, place them in a hot oven 190°C (374°F) for about 40 minutes. After about 20 minutes lower the oven temperature to allow the inside to cook without colorizing the outside too quickly.
As soon as they are cooked, take them out of the oven and place them on paper towels to allow them to cool, dust in powdered sugar!
Il Panettone: Invention of an ex-falconer or a legend?
Like the night that Ugo left the house through the window in the stark coldness on that night in Milan. With ease he jumped over the banister of the balcony and fell into the garden of that residence. The dogs began to bark like mad, and without a care he ran across the yard until he was flattened against a barbed wire fence. (muro di cinta) He stopped for a second to catch his breath, broken up over the run and from fear. His eyes searched within the black darkness, towards the mansion, only to see a shimmering light in the window come on, the light of a candle.
All was tranquil, all was silent. The dogs were all in a state of rest; even that night, no one saw him escape from the window. Grasping some bricks, Ugo hoisted himself over the wall of the splendid mansion he shared with his father, Giacomo of Atellani, had received a gift from Ludovico il Moro-- from the courts in Milan.
The moon hides itself behind the clouds in theses shadows and this would have covered his expedition towards the courtyard all the way to Toni's shop, the bread-maker. Where here he came every night just to see his Adalgisa. A secret love, with opposing figures from his family, he was fond of the baker's girl for a long time. But things wouldn't go well, and shortly he would find out. Adalgisa was always tired; her work load was intensified from when her father's apprentice became sick. She must stop seeing him, because she didn't have time to make the dough's, prepare and bake them.
Ugo didn't want to have to give up those splendid eyes-for that he would have done anything and the following day, even though wearing meek and inferior clothing-- he, who was the falconer of Ludovico il Moro- was to be assumed as the new apprentice.
Nevertheless, the young boy, each night, broke his back in the shop preparing bread, and the shop's business seemed to continue to get worse. A new shop had opened right next to them, and was stealing away all of Toni's clients.
Ugo didn't waste any time, and with the recklessness of the typical youngster, he stole a splendid pair of Moro falcons-revenge to buy butter. That night, while he was mixing up the regular ingredients, he also added the butter that he acquired. The following day, the shop was overtaken with a rush, and already gave way to gossiping whispers of tall tales about the most delicious bread in Milan! Over the next few days another two falcons were sacrificed in obtainment of more butter, and a little sugar to add to the bread dough. Milan went crazy for "Toni's Special Bread." There was a line that appeared outside the shop, it was unending, and every night he had to make even more.
Meanwhile the winter began, and business picked up even more. Ugo and Adalgisa could think again to a future to spend together.
During the Christmas holidays, Ugo added the last magical touch to the status of the recipe for this special bread; and he added an egg, tiny pieces of candied citron, and raisins. All of Milan, during the few days before Christmas, was over at the shop to pick up-what everybody was calling- "PanGrande" or "Pan del Toni." From these came the "Panettone" meaning "Big Bread" and from then on, was on every table during the holidays. Toni was rich, and Ugo's parents were no longer grumbling over Adalgisa, and as every story goes, the two youngsters got married and lived happily ever after.
This is surely the most noted legend for one of the most glorious products Milan ever had- the Panettone. According to other stories, the invention of the panettone came about in a different way.
This is the tale of Ludovico Sforza and like every Christmas he was ready to be served at the table with the gentleman of Milan - his magnificent guests, at his lavish banquet. The famous cook was at Ludovico's service, giving his service in such a way that no one thought twice to the amount of a proper tip. He was governing his numerous subjects, whether it was at the table or around the stoves. The plates succeeded one after the other, with just the right pauses between them, and to cater to the correct tastes of the guests towards a marvellous dessert that must finish off an important dinner like this one.
The cook provided in person the overlooking and care of the batter for this important dessert, which was a secret recipe handed down from father to son all down through his family for centuries.
From in the kitchen came jangles and yells that covered the clattering of the plates and the rummaging of the pans, like everyone had something to do, and because of this, someone had forgotten to take out the cake. The cook realized that the dessert was missing, and in the oven he found a mass of something burnt and imaginable. He screamed and the curses even reached out to where the guests were. It was too late to prepare another elaborate batter, it didn't matter who forgot the cake in the oven-anyways he was in charge and he'd be the one that Ludovico would come to and condemn to death. Desperate, the cook gave up and began to cry and cry.
Toni a poor kitchen helper, came over to him and had keep for himself some of the batter in which he had added some candied fruits, an egg, sugar and raisins. He wanted to cook it after he was done working, to have something to eat. If the cook wanted, he could bring it to the table. Guided by the force of desperation, the cook put the confection into the oven. Nevertheless, (the poor face) not having anything left to lose, the cook served the cake at the table. There aren't enough words; the Pan del Toni had made a deafening success, and now the cook was now obligated to serve it at each and every banquet every Christmas for years to come, and soon it became a custom diffused to the whole population.
The Colomba For Easter
The Colomba is a symbol of Easter, but a tradition born on industrial demand and diffused in all of Italy. In the early 1900s the Milanese company "Motta" decided to make a product similar to the panettone, but with an aspect decidedly connected to Easter. The Colomba was born a dessert cake with a similar composition to the panettone, but that is enriched with the flavour of amaretto. In 1930, the Motta Company requested an artist specialized in public adverts, and produced the slogan "The Easter Columba by Motta, the dessert that knows of springtime." In realty, the Colomba has very old roots, way into the second half of the sixth century in which it was offered to "Alboino" the king of the Longobardi, (who happened to be harassing the city of Pavia) a yeast bread formed into the shape of a donut. Although the ingredients weren't very rich (egg, flour and yeast), in respects to the ones we have today, in which we use butter, sugar and candied fruits. They must though, add a topping of almonds, and dried fruits. The form of the Colomba (pigeon) was given by a choice made not of its symbolic nature, but also for the season; springtime.
The Easter Holiday all over the world is connected to nature, and was born for this reason; for thanks and offerings. Eggs, vegetables, lamb, chocolate and cakes in the form of a colomba are present in the Italian Home. All these ingredients of the Easter tradition have a worldly story behind them-the chocolate eggs were invented in Torino in the 1800's, as a refined substitute of the traditional exchanging of chicken eggs, that in turn represented the end of fasting.
The Easter Colomba, in respects of the Italian gastronomy and today represents a production of excellence in pastry making. In fact, the Colomba is a delicate dessert cake, it must be soft, aromatic on the outside, and moist on the inside and naturally left to rise one entire night.
The very next day, they make a second dough uniting flour, sugar and egg with some tiny pieces of candied fruits. After 30 minutes of rest it is divided into the appropriate sizes and after four hours of further rising it is covered with almonds, sugar and amaretto. After it is baked, it is left to rest at least seven hours, and then they are packaged.
By Jackelin J.Jarvis