Italian gastronomy is perhaps one of the most universally beloved, and Italian sweet breads are a delicious part of it. It is rare to find anyone who does not like Italian food or has not tried it on some occasion. Their cuisine is very varied. Mainly, fresh ingredients and homey and comfort dishes constitute an essential part of their food culture.
Italian bread is a staple on so many tables. Tools and firewood ovens thousands of years old show that the ancient Romans considered making bread an art. They have been the ones who improved wheat milling techniques.
The Romans were also the first to produce flour to bake white bread. They made rich loaves with a soft and moist interior. Perfect for mopping up live oil, vinegar, and tomato among other Mediterranean ingredients.
However, Italian sweet breads are just as good as their savoury counterparts. Many Italian sweet breads have crossed borders and are known anywhere in the world. Sometimes, we might have heard their names, but we do not know precisely what they consist of.
Today we will discover little by little the different popular Italian sweet breads and get to know them a little more. Surely, many of them will sound familiar to you, or you might even have tried them in one of the many Italian restaurants.
The Most Popular Sweet Breads
Pandoro is one of the two most famous Italian yeasted sweet breads. Created in Verona, it’s a Christmas delicacy and has the shape of an eight-pointed star. Generously dust it with powdered sugar that represents the winter snows. Formerly this type of bread was only for royalty, but in 1894 Domenico Melegatti obtained the patent for its production, and the Pandoro spread among all social classes.
Panettone is perhaps the most famous Italian sweet bread, and like the Pandoro it’s a Christmas time must. Originally from Milan, the dough is raised in a narrow cylindrical mould, which ends up forming a dome. To flavour the dough you add raisins, candied fruit, and sometimes even chocolate.
Did you know its name means “Easter Dove”? The dough is similar to panettone’s, with flour, eggs, sugar, natural yeast and butter. Unlike panettone, it usually contains candied peel and no raisins. The dough takes a dove shape and finally, pearl sugar and almonds go on top before being baked.
This cake is typical of the city of Lucca. It’s popular all year round, especially during the demonstrations of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and Crossbow. Its name comes from the Latin “Buccella”, or bite. The modern Buccellato di Lucca retains its original ring shape but is today occasionally also straight in shape.
Buccellato di Lucca’s sweet flavour and dark brown colour and gloss result from a sugar and egg glaze applied to the crust. There is a slight cut on the upper crust that facilitates rising, and the interior is soft and sweet, filled with sultana raisins and aniseed.
Typical of Emilia Romagna, the dough consists of flour, yeast, salt and steamed pumpkin. You knead the dough until it’s smooth and compact, and the final shape vary greatly depending on the bakers’ traditions and habits. When it finishes baking, the crust is an inviting golden colour, the texture if soft and airy, and the flavour is lovely and sweet.
Which Italian sweet breads have you tried?