Il Pandoro Veronese -- Verona's Pandoro
Pandoro symbolizes Christmas like few other cakes: It even looks Christmassy, a craggy mountain topped with snow-white confectioners sugar. It's difficult to make, and therefore most Italians prefer to buy commercially produced Pandoro from their local baker or supermarket, but if you are an accomplished baker making it at home will be quite rewarding. You'll need a high-sided mold -- the molds used in Verona are about 10 inches (25 cm) high, 8 inches (20 cm) across at the top, tapering, and star-shaped in cross section, usually with eight points. If you cannot find a Pandoro mold a similarly tapering cylindrical mold will have to do. In terms of ingredients, to make a Pandoro for 6 you'll need:
- 3 cups (300 g) flour
- 8 ounces (200 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2/3 cup (120 g) sugar
- 2/3 ounce (20 g) active baker's yeast of the kind one buys in the dairy section of the supermarket
- 1/2 cup cream
- The grated zest of an organically grown lemon
- 5 egg yolks
- 1 whole egg
- 1/3 cup (30 g) confectioners sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Flour for your work surface
- Butter and flour for the mold
Crumble the yeast into a bowl and combine it with 1 tablespoon of sugar, an egg yolk, 1/3 cup of flour, and sufficient water to make a soft loaf. Cover the bowl and let the loaf rise, in a warm place, for 2 hours.
Sift half the remaining flour onto your work surface and combine it with half the sugar, then work in the starter loaf, 3 yolks, and 3 tablespoons of the butter. Knead well, shape the dough into a ball. Lightly flower the bowl, set the dough in it to rise, and cover it with the cloth.
After another 2 hours combine the remaining flour and sugar on your work surface and work it into the dough, together with the whole egg and the yolk. Knead the dough well, until it is homogenous, put it in a floured bowl and cover it with a cloth, and let it rise for another 2 hours.
Flour your work surface and return the dough to it, add the lemon zest and the vanilla extract, and then knead in the cream, a little at a time, so it is absorbed well.
Spread the dough out on your work surface and shape it into a rectangle using your rolling pin. Cut the remaining butter into pits and distribute them over the center of the sheet. Fold the sheet in thirds, and reroll it out. Let it rest another half hour, and repeat the operation. Do this once more.
Butter and flour the mold, turn it upside down, and rap it to remove excess flour. Shape the dough into a ball and put it in the mold; it should fill the mold about half-full. Cover the mold with a cloth and put it into a warm place to rise until the dough reaches the top of the mold (about 20 minutes).
While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 400 f (200 C). Bake the Pandoro for a half hour, then reduce the heat to 360 F (180 C) and bake for a half hour more. Unmold the Pandoro immediately, and cool it on a rack. Before serving it, dust it with abundant powdered sugar.
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