Happy Christmas 2021. I’m writing this on 27 December, which is only technically the second or third of The Twelve Days of Christmas (depending on how you count them). But like many, I’m already a bit worn out by it all. Consumerist Christmas starts in late October, primary school Christmas not long after, then many people have their decorations and trees up for advent. We tend to put our tree up around Santa Lucia, 13 December, but we have underfloor heating in our living room, so that’s total folly – it’s so desiccated now, if you so much as cause a slight breeze walking past, hundreds of needles fall. The other protracted part of Christmas is the baking – if you’re an obsessive baker like me.
This year, I’ve done a Santa Lucia crown (during Advent, not technically Christmas), ricciarelli, ginger biscuits, a couple of chocolate salami, mince pies, game pies with a hot water pastry crust, genoise sponge for trifle, and other stuff I can’t remember. My biggest Christmas baking project this year, however, was that classic northern Italian Christmas cake, pandoro. Quite a lot of food considering the ongoing misery and frustration of Covid curtailed most of our plans. But we managed to eat most of it, with help from my parents, who we were at least able to see this year.
Making the pandoro was slightly bloody-minded. I find homemade bakes are almost always superior to palm-oil infused supermarket products, but the factory made pandoro I’ve bought over the years have been pretty good. Even the cheap one from Aldi. But I bought a pandoro tin last winter, so fancied trying it. I won’t give the recipe here, as I want to try other recipes (over the coming years) to compare. But it was an Italian one, where you started with a biga (a low hydration starter, made with just water, flour and a small amount of yeast).
Then made two doughs, over two days. With each dough, you add more enrichment – some acacia honey infused with vanilla and zest, some butter, and eggs, lots of eggs.
With this dough, most of the water came via eggs. One day I may do a hydration calculation as discussed in my previous post, but not now. Here are couple of pics of it in its nice eight-pointed star tin, before and after baking. Apparently, it needs to get to 92C to be fully baked.
All I will say is that it was fun to make, and when eaten within a few days, was good. Though it staled much faster than the industrial ones, so we ended up toasting some – which is apparently non si fa, just not done, or at least according to Giorgio Locatelli writing in The Times. I was wondering if it would be good to use in another trifle, or for a zuccotto – an Italian dessert of Florentine origin that’s a bit like a semi-frozen trifle. But no, we’ve not got enough left now.