By Ippolita Douglas Scotti:
Italy is a country rich in traditions—especially when it comes to the holidays. Every holiday has its own unique traditional flavor, whether it be a dessert, for antipasti, or the main course.
For me, Christmas has the decadent scent of panettone with candied fruit and the vanilla taste of pandoro—a cake from Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet. It is soft as a cloud with the sweetness of hard torrone.
Pandoro and panettone take a long time to make—about three days. These monumental, traditional spongy cakes are very difficult to replicate, so it’s better to buy them in or from a “pasticcerie” where they bake these produzione artigianale Christmas desserts. In America, here are two options to order your pandoro: Di Bruno Bros or World Market.
The Christmas delicacy known as "torrone" can be made at home. Torrone is an easy-to-make, all-natural nougat candy. One of the best things about it is the simplicity and purity of the ingredients—no processed ingredients. Just honey, egg whites, and nuts. Once it sets, you can slice it into bars and wrap every bar in a cute package to give this delicious Italian nougat as a gift.
Ingredients for 4 bars:
1/2 pound honey
2 large egg whites
1/2 pound nuts (a mixture of almonds, hazelnuts, and pistachios)
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Cover a loaf pan (8 inch by 8 inch) with parchment paper. Have another sheet of parchment paper ready to cover the top of the torrone once it's done.
Place the nuts on a single layer in a baking tray and toast in oven at 350º F for about
8 minutes or until shiny and fragrant. Set aside.
Place honey in a double boiler or large bowl over a saucepan of water (bain-marie) on the lowest heat.