5 Italian Christmas Desserts and Sweets

During these strange and uncertain times one thing we can all look forward to is Christmas.

These 5 Italian Christmas desserts will warm your heart and for some bring back memories of Christmas with Italian relatives.

Maybe you won’t be able to celebrate Christmas in the traditional way based on where you live. However Christmas sweets and desserts are not cancelled.
As a dentist I’m sure you’re wondering why would I be promoting sugar-filled delicacies. Hey we’ve all had a hard year.

A small indulgence to acknowledge that we’ve made it, is welcome.

Make sure to brush and floss carefully especially during the holiday season.

Many of you might have had Italy on your bucket list this year and you may have had to cancel or postpone your plans. If you want to know what Italians will be feasting on this year as they have in years past, keep reading.

Outside of Italy, Italian restaurants might not identify themselves based on the particular regional cuisine they serve. In Italy they do. What’s interesting is that there isn’t necessarily a homogenous national cuisine to speak of, as compared to French cuisine.
Each region, city, town even village can have particular dishes which are not traditionally served outside of that area.

Christmas desserts are best where you see the heterogeneity of Italian cuisine. That being said there are some desserts that are served everywhere throughout the Bel Paese and are hallmarks of the Yuletide season.

I will not be going through all the regional desserts. This article would become a thesis. I’m going to highlight my choices on desserts that you should become familiar with.

Panettone

The symbol of Christmas throughout Italy. It is a traditional Milanese bread/cake. Its popularity has swept across Italy and also in countries with large Italian populations.

Panettone
Panettone

Its consistency is spongy, fluffy and springy. This is because this cake contains yeast and must undergo at least 2 rising periods depending on the recipe used. Panettone is usually cylindrical and contains eggs, butter, milk, mixed dried fruits, raisins, water, flour, yeast, vanilla, sugar and salt.

Amongst the mixed dried fruit they put in dried orange peel. I absolutely hate dried orange peel. I’ve always hated it and will remove it from every dessert.
Turns out other people hate it too. How do I know that?

Commercial versions of Panettone include Panettone without dried fruits only raisins, Panettone filled with different creams, Panettone with chocolate drops instead of raisins and a myriad of other varieties. A good Panettone should be MOIST! Nothing is more annoying than a dried out Panettone that starts crumbling like a cookie.

If there is an Italian bakery or pastry shop in your area good bets are that they will be selling panettone during the holidays. Why not give it a try?

Pandoro

Also diffuse throughout Italy. It’s a relative to the Panettone. It originates from the city of  Verona (of Romeo and Juliet fame).  It was served at the tables of rich Venetians who gave it the name ‘pan de oro’ roughly translated bread of gold. It has an octagonal base and its shape resembles that of an octagon.

Pandoro
Pandoro

Consistency is more cake-like as compared to the panettone and its rich yellow color on the inside comes from the eggs. Flavor is that of a rich vanilla sponge cake not too sweet. Seeing as it’s not too sweet for most people I’ve met, this just will not do. So what happens?

Pandoro is sold with a package of powdered sugar. Pandoro is sold in a box but comes in a plastic wrapper. Powdered sugar and plastic doesn’t mix well for long periods so the powdered sugar is kept separate.

You can therefore take out the Pandoro from its plastic wrapping and sprinkle powdered sugar on top. For theatrical effect some people will dump the contents of the powdered sugar in the bag, close the bag with the twist tie and shake shake shake so the powdered sugar literally coats the entire surface of the Pandoro.

This cake also has various phases of rising. It doesn’t traditionally have dried fruits or raisins or cream . On most Italian tables for Christmas you can find both Panettone and Pandoro.

Torrone

Torrone
Torrone

Found in two versions hard or soft, this classic Christmas dessert has its roots in Antiquity according to some.

Torrone is made of egg whites, honey, sugar, toasted almonds or other nuts sandwiched between two layers of unleavened bread. The difference between the hard and soft versions is found in the cooking time and also the recipe.

Some hard versions in fact are baked for up to 12 hours giving the Torrone that extremely hard crumbly consistency. The softer version has a cooking time of not more than 2 hours but the ratio of honey and sugar is different to that found in the hard version.

Torroni (plural form in Italian) can also be categorized based on the amount of almonds used as compared to hazelnuts. Be aware that some Torroni are extra long. Sometimes its better to buy the more manageable Torroncini.

Torroni/ Torroncini are extremely sweet. Well too sweet for me. As I’m sure you’ve already realized I’m not a fan of extra-sweet desserts.

Tronchetto di Natale

Its form is meant to represent a log. This is a sweet which originates from the region of Piemonte in the North of Italy. This dessert is more popular in homes in the North. I remember eating this a few years ago and my gosh it is as sweet as it is dense. Covered in a layer of rich chocolate cream, the density of this dessert is because of its ingredients. Butter, mascarpone cream, eggs, whipped cream, chocolate and chestnut cream. It is a cake roll smothered with a dense layer of the chocolate cream on the outside.

Struffoli

Struffoli
Struffoli

Just typing out the name gives me so much joy. This dessert hails from the Neapolitan cuisine and Christmas would not be complete in Naples and the surrounding areas without a plate of struffoli. These are tiny balls of dough which are fried. They are then rolled in honey and dried fruits and sugar sprinkles. The little balls are then stacked usually to make a pyramid.

They are absolutely delicious well at least the ones I tried. Despite the use of honey they are not excessively sweet.

They are so many other Italian Christmas sweets and desserts that I’ve tried that I could go on about. Yes I told you I’ve been quite greedy over the last 13 years. Each region and there are 20 in Italy, can have up to three unique Christmas desserts served during the Yuletide season.

Have you tried any Italian Christmas desserts?

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