Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Traditional Christmas sweets

I wrote this post while I was still in Rome, but never got around to publishing it after I got home. Even though the Christmas season is almost over, I didn't want it to go to waste :)

During our last week in Rome, my program directors provided us with some traditional Italian Christmas treats - panettone, pandoro and torrone.

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Panettone is a sweet bread that is said to have originated in Milan over 500 years ago, and it is probably the most well-known dessert of the Italian Christmas season. The most traditional contain dried fruits and candied citrus. A more modern twist is a chocolate chip panettone.

Prior to my visit to Rome, I had tried traditional panettone in the United States a few times. In Rome, however, I was able to taste the chocolate chip version. I wasn't too crazy about this one for some reason -- I thought the chocolate tasted funny with the texture of the bread. I'm not the biggest fan of panettone, but I do enjoy eating a small piece of it.

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Pandoro ("golden bread") is another type of sweet bread that is also traditionally eaten around Christmas and New Year's. It is usually shaped like an 8-pointed star and is dusted with powdered sugar to resemble the snowy mountain peaks of Winter.

If I had to choose between panettone and pandoro, I'd say that pandoro wins hands down. It is so delicious and it's hard to stop after eating just one piece! It is much sweeter and more spongey and soft than panettone, and the fact that it's appearance is modeled after snowy mountains doesn't hurt either!

Torrone is a sweet rectangular bar typically made of egg whites, sugar, honey and some type of nut (usually toasted almonds, pistachios or hazelnuts) that is a specialty of Sardegna. There are two types of torrone -- morbido (soft), and duro (hard). Torrone usually have a citrus flavor -- the bar pictured above is one that I bought in Rome and it tastes like orange.

I happen to love Torrone -- I prefer the citrus flavored bars to the chocolate version. They are completely addicting and just melt in your mouth...but you do have to be careful not to break a tooth on them! Even torrone morbido are a bit difficult to eat.