Panettone or Pandoro: Which came first?

I’m sure you already heard of Panettone, but what about Pandoro?

Both sweets originate in North Italy: The Panettone in Milan, the Pandoro in Verona.

„The big bread“. The Panettone.

There is no doubt:The Panettone came first. The recipe of the Panettone already circulated in the 16th century and was found in a recipe book of a certain Cristoforo di Messibugo, a cook from Ferrara who in 1549 spoke about a sweet pastry that was produced in the area of Milan and consisted in flour, butter, sugar, eggs and milk. The candied fruit and raisins were still missing, but the dough is the same.

Panettone and Pandoro
Dal Mas Pasticceria: Panettone and Pandoro

Different legends evolved around the origin of the Panettone.

One of the most famous legends talks about the court of Ludovico Maria Sforza: It was Christmas Eve in the year 1495 and you can imagine how busy it was. The complete court came together to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Everyone was drinking, eating, laughing and making fun. In the palace’s kitchen the pans and ovens were boiling and steaming, the air was filled with the smell of meat, vegetables, fish and … the sweet delicate smell of a dessert.

The headchef had his hands full with the different preparations and asked a scullion named Toni, 12 years old, to keep an eye on the sweet doughnuts baking in the oven. Tired from the last hard days of work, the huge amount of stress on the day of the banquet to make sure every single course would delight the guests at the right time and the heat emanated by the oven made sure that Toni actually fell asleep. He woke up with his heart beating fast and seeing immediately that the doughnuts ended up in smoke. „What now? What shall I do?“, thought Toni desperate. „The cook will take my head of.“ He immediately took the leftovers of the dough and added eggs, butter, candied fruit and raisins.

The cook was not very convinced in the beginning, but when he smelled the divine sweet fragrance of Toni’s creation he decided to serve this sweet that actually had a huge success at the banquet. The cook, obviously, took all the praise for himself but in the end the truth came to the surface and so the new creation of Toni was called „bread of Toni“, „el pan de toni“ that later on became „Panettone“.

The second legend talks about Ughetto, son of Giacomo Atellani and thus the heir of a wealthy family. He fell in love with Adalgisa, the daughter of a humble baker, but just as the family of Romeo and Juliet, the Atellani family was against the marriage of Ughetto and Adalgisa. Ughetto decided to work as a scullion in the bakery of his beloved and to improve the bread with butter and sugar. A huge success! But this was still not enough and so he added some candied lemon peel and eggs to the dough. Now the clients were queuing up in front of the bakery to get a taste of this divine sweet and Ughetto and Adagisa could finally marry and lived happily ever after.

Btw: The name Ughetto originates from „ughet“ that in the milanese dialect means „raisin“ ;).

But in reality …

Actually 3 big bread loaves were used during a Christmas ceremony in the area of Milan, the so called ceremony of the tree stump, „cerimonia del ceppo“.

Pietro Verri narrates in his “Storia di Milano” (1782 and 1799) that on Christmas a stump covered in leaves was burnt pouring three times wine and juniper over it. Meanwhile the whole family was gathered around the fire and the head of the family divided the bread with his family. Not only one loaf, but three big bread loaves made out of wheat. Today, we can all afford wheat bread, but once this was a real luxury. This ceremony was celebrated till the 15th century.

It’s possible that these three big loaves of bread are the real origin of Panettone as the tradition to eat wheat bread together is historically documented starting from 1395, when all the ovens in Milan had the possibility to bake wheat bread. This was a privilege that only the bakery Rosti had throughout the year as they were producing bread for the richest citizens. But the union decided that on Christmas Day there should be no difference between the poor and the rich and a symbol of equality. This wheat bread, or luxury bread, was called pan de Sciori or Pan de ton (wheat, butter, sugar and zibibbo) and is the grandfather of today’s Panettone.

The real Panettone revolution started in 1919 when Angelo Motta began to produce panettone industrially making sure that the panettone entered the house of millions on Christmas Day.

Dal Mas: Panettone and Pandoro heaven

And what about the Pandoro? Isn’t it the same?

Pandoro, the „golden bread“, is shaped like a star, fluffy and coverd with a hint of sugar. It seems that it was invented ex novo in the city of Romeo and Juliet around the 1500s at the time of the Serenissima Republic.

Others think that the Pandoro is the evolution of another sweet, the Nadalin that was also baked in the shape of a star. Others think that this sweet made out of yeast dough was inspired by yeast dough sweets from the Habsburg reign.

In reality it seems that the inventor, Melegatti, was inspired by an antique tradition from Verona: On the 24th all women from the village came together to knead the so-called levà, a yeast dough sweet, that was decorated with almonds and sugar on the top. Melegatti took the recipe of the levà, added some butter and eggs to make the dough more fluffy, but he didn’t add the sugar and almonds to make sure that the process of fermenting was not interrupted. The Pandoro was born!

The perfect shape and a little wager

Only the shape was missing: Angelo Dall’Oca Bianca designed the pyramidal shape with 8 points that immediately had a huge success and was thus imitated by many people. Thus, Melegatti made a wager, promising 1000 lire (a huge amount of money at that time), to the man who would be able to rebake his Pandoro.

Noone ever won the 1000 lire.

There are many legends and theories about the Pandoro, but they all have one thing in common: They are rich in butter and thus a real calory bomb. Flour, yeast, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and icing sugar are the ingredients for the Pandoro, but attention, there are no candied fruit or creams inside!

The official birthday of the Pandoro is the day when the patent was registered, on the 14th of October 1884, by the pastry chef Domenico Melegatti.

And the name Pandoro?

According to legend the name was created when an assistant first saw the sweet and shouted „The dough is looking like gold!“

Fugassa veneziana – the Venetian panettone

In Venice and the Veneto region you will find a Christmas sweet that looks very similar to a Panettone: It has the same shape as a Panettone, the same basic ingredients like a Panettone, but there are no candied fruit inside (just like the Pandoro) and it is covered with sugar and almonds.

Dal Nonno Colussi: Focaccia Veneziana

It’s the Focaccia Veneziana! Wait, but the focaccia is a savoury snack, isn’t it? Well, here in Veneto you also find this sweet “focaccia” or “fugassa” (in dialect) in occasion of Xmas or Easter.

And now there is only one task left for you

Are you going to eat a Pandoro, a Panettone or a Fugassa on Christmas Day. Or maybe all three of them?

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