In love with traditional Italian Christmas desserts? Let’s discover the Italian Christmas dessert recipes you need to try in the most wonderful time of the year!
Christmas desserts are an integral part of Christmas tradition in many countries. Italy offers a wide range of Christmas desserts, both artisanal and industrial, all characterised by local ingredients and by the oldest recipes handed down from generation to generation.
Let’s discover together the most famous traditional Italian Christmas desserts to sample during this holidays.
Panettone, the “king” of Italian Christmas desserts
It is a traditional Italian Christmas dessert from Lombardy, created in Milan and shrouded in mystery. According to the most famous legend, Panettone was invented around 1600, when a cake called “Christmas Bread” appeared for the first time in the expense register of the Borromeo College of Pavia, on the occasion of the lunch held on December 25 for the students of the institution.
Panettone is one of the most popular Italian Christmas desserts – thanks to the industrialization that allows every year its large-scale production and distribution all over the Peninsula -, as well as abroad. In Milan there are many pastry shops that keep the traditional method alive and are appreciated by food lovers. The recipe is very simple and consists of a leavened dough based on water, flour, butter and egg yolk, enriched with exquisite candied fruit and raisins.
It is a traditional dessert from Verona and owes its name to the Venetian dialect “Pan de oro” (that is to say, bread of gold), in honour of the rich Venetians who used to eat this sweet during Christmas. Together with the Milanese Panettone, Pandoro is an institution of Italian holiday desserts.
It consists of a soft and golden dough based on flour, sugar, yeast, eggs and butter. It has got an unmistakable vanilla scent, thanks to the flavoured icing sugar that always covers it generously. Pandoro is famous around the world for its typical star shape: it is an elegant cake, usually paired with delicious creams.
It is a traditional Italian Christmas dessert with very ancient roots, spread across many regions of Italy in different times. It consists of a dough made of egg white, honey and sugar, with a filling of toasted nuts. There are many types of nougat and recipes in Italy. That’s why the tradition of this sweet has been so important in the Peninsula since hundreds of years.
It is a traditional Tuscan dessert from Siena. The first evidence related to Panforte dates back to the year 1000, when it was called “Pane Natalizio” (that is to say, Christmas bread). At that time, it was offered only to the aristocracy and the prelates. Suffice it to say that it was made with spices that were very expensive for those times, as well as orange, flour, sugar, honey, cedar and almonds.
In particular, the Panforte Margherita traces its origins back to the year when Queen Margherita visited the Tuscan city. It was 1879 and, for the occasion, an apothecary dedicated to the queen a Panforte covered with vanilla sugar instead of black pepper. This recipe is currently the most known and widespread. Like for other Italian Christmas dessert recipes, industrialisation has allowed a widespread distribution in the whole country, although there are many pastry shops that still hand down the artisan recipe.
The Neapolitan Struffoli
Among traditional Neapolitan Christmas desserts, these fried sweets bring with them a profound joy and festive atmosphere. It is a set of small balls of dough, made with flour, eggs, lard, sugar and anise, fried in olive oil and sprinkled with honey, candied fruit and a shower of tiny coloured sugared almonds. Despite being recognised as specialities from Campania, the origins of these traditional Italian Christmas desserts seem to be very ancient and belonging to Magna Graecia. In Greece, in fact, there is a dessert very similar to the Struffoli which is called “loukoumades”.
Queens of Apulian Christmas desserts, the Cartellate belong to the artisan baking tradition since time immemorial and are linked to the Christian religion, as they represent Jesus Christ’s halo. Their name derives from the traditional “wrapped” form, that is, curled up on itself as an elegant spiral. Their origins are extremely ancient: a first version of this cake was in fact depicted on a rock drawing found near Bari and dating back to the sixth century BC. The Cartellate dough, always fried in abundant extra virgin olive oil, is very simple and consists of olive oil, flour and white wine.
The Sicilian Buccellato
Among the most popular Sicilian Christmas desserts, Buccellato is a regional dessert made of shortcrust pastry, filled with figs and dried fruit, orange zest and raisins. It is said to date back to ancient Rome, but the true origins are shrouded in mystery. Its shape is that of an elegant ring-shaped cake, covered with icing or icing sugar.
Taste your favourite Italian Christmas dessert!
We have seen together the most famous Italian Christmas desserts, excellent to enjoy with the family during the holidays or to give as gifts.
For those who don’t just want to eat an Italian Christamas dessert, an original idea is to visit one of the many artisan workshops where Christmas desserts are still produced according to ancient traditions or, even better, to attend a pastry class to make them with own hands.
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