Italian Christmas Breads
Christmas, as are most holidays, in Italy is celebrated with religious processions and great feasts. Specialty breads and individual pastries are an important part of tradition. It is fitting that as the master bakers looked for new ways to celebrate the holidays they turned to bread.
Using the original recipes these festive delights require several days to prepare because of the amount of butter or oil they contain. In order to obtain a rich, moist, and fluffy bread the bakers would allow several rest periods as they added the various ingredients. Industry has shortened the preparation time by adding baking soda to the mix to supplement the natural leavening process. This takes away from the natural sweetness and digestibility of the bread.
Additionally the breads require Biga or Madre del Pane, “the mother of bread”. This is a natural yeast traditionally maintained by most every family. Today the madre may be purchased from just about any local baker. To prepare these breads according to the original method Biga is necessary and helps break down the starches.
The primary breads are Panettone of Milano, Pandoro from Verona, Panforte from Siena and Pandolce from Genova.
These breads are not difficult to prepare but do require time. The difference between the commercial products and the homemade version are well worth the time. They will stay fresh for extended periods and are a fantastic blend of bread, candied fruits, nuts, honey and butter.
Tags: Panettone Panforte Pandolce Italian Christmas Bread Pandoro Food and Wine Travel Italy