Pandoro is a golden holiday bread, plain but with a wonderful flavor and texture. It's enriched with eggs and butter, so you know it will be delicious. It's a favorite around here to give as a gift. It makes great bread pudding and sweet French toast.
Pandoro is an Italian holiday bread (pan means bread and d'oro means golden), egg and butter based, like brioche or pulla. But the texture and flavor are completely different. It's a very simple bread, sweet and plain, yet utterly delicious.
This bread reminds me of snow globes, those glass balls with fake snow inside that you turn upside-down and make come alive.
The bread is wrapped inside a clear bag with a packet of powdered sugar (usually vanilla flavored) attached. When you're ready to eat it, you empty the packet inside, close the bag, give it a few shakes and out comes a white bread, completely covered in the sugar.
It's magical and festive.
- Yeast: I use active-dry yeast, which needs to be hydrated before. You can use instant yeast (¾ of the amount given for active dry) and add it directly to the flour, then add the water, no need to foam it first. If using fresh yeast (the ratio is 3:1 to dry), and is used in the same way as the active-dry, you need to hydrate it first and let it foam.
- Flour: both all-purpose and bread flour are used. If you can find the latter, use only all-purpose.
- White granulated sugar.
- Eggs: fresh, large.
- Unsalted butter.
- Salt: I like using kosher salt when baking, but regular table salt works just fine.
- Vanilla: I use pure vanilla extract or pure vanilla paste when available, but a good vanilla essence (artificially flavored) also works and is infinitely cheaper.
- Lemon zest.
How to make Pandoro (golden bread)
This bread consists of a yeast starter and two more steps until the dough rests a final time and is then baked. There's little hands-on time and several hours of waiting for the yeast to act, as it usually happens with yeast breads.
The ingredients are simple and easily available and divided into three parts.
This bread is rich and dense, so a sponge and two rises are needed to create that soft but chewy texture.
Sponge and first dough
Have the ingredients measured and at the right temperature before starting.
Stand mixer: it is highly recommended. Although pandoro can be made by hand, well, it will be somewhat messy and laborious, and you'll need some arm power and patience.
The sponge: it takes 3 minutes to make it, and then we have to wait half an hour until it's frothy and bubbly.
This is the first step to help strengthen the final bread dough, so it rises as it should despite all the heavy ingredients, like eggs and butter.
Mixing: this is easy to do with a stand mixer. The final dough (image below) is soft and quite sticky. To proof, simply leave it in the same bowl and cover it.
Resting: the yeast starts working its magic and the dough doubles in size. It should not increase more than that. So keep an eye after 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Vintage Kitchen tip: when checking that the yeast is active, make sure the mixture is puffed and bubbly. If it doesn't show activity, the yeast is not working. You'll need to start over with new, active yeast. If you continue with the recipe, it'll be a waste of time and ingredients.
The final step, it continues to build on the other two.
You'll see that, besides the flavorings, almost the same ingredients are added, building the final rich dough that will become our fantastic golden pandoro bread.
- Flavorings: lemon zest and vanilla are the traditional ones and, similar to the great Alfajores recipe, the final flavor is amazing.
Adding butter: make sure it's soft and add it in pieces, a few at a time, allowing it to be integrated a bit before adding the next. Eventually, it will all be completely dissolved and part of the dough.
When is the dough ready? Knowing how much flour a dough needs is probably the most critical part of bread making and something that happens with practice.
But a good parameter is when the dough starts to create 'strands' that regularly leave the sides of the bowl but not completely. Don't be tempted to add flour until a ball forms because that is too much and the bread will be tough.
Proofing the dough
It's the process where the dough is allowed to rest and double in size one last time before baking after it's fully kneaded.
Make sure the pan is covered with a clean kitchen towel and in a place with a mild temperature and no drafts. This is important for the dough to rise as it should.
Depending on how strong the yeast you use is and the room's temperature, it will take more or less to double in size. Don't let it rise too much, more than double.
- Traditional way: the way to eat it is dusted with powdered sugar, preferably vanilla sugar, as explained in the Notes section of the recipe card.
I like to put it in a plastic bag, add the sugar, close the bag with my hand and shake it until the sugar coats most of the bread; it resembles a snow globe.
- Gifting it: put the Pandoro bread in a cellophane bag with a nice holiday ribbon, add a packet of vanilla sugar (or put it outside the bag), and instructions to serve it.
- Organization: read the recipe and take into account the resting times. There's little hands-on work, but there are several hours where the bread will be proofing and growing. It's important to allow the yeast to do its job at its own pace. Ensure you have ingredients at the correct temperature, equipment, and enough workspace. This will make the process so much easier.
- Baking time: consider that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer(like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
- Yeast: any type can be used. Be careful when using the instant or one of those fast-rising ones, as they usually leaven faster than the time frames in this recipe.
- Vanilla sugar: it can be bought online like Dr. Oetker Vanilla Sugar or Alsa Vanilla Flavored Sugar. You can make your own by adding some vanilla beans to a jar of powdered sugar. Or, easier than the latter, mix powdered sugar with some Pure Vanilla powder, which will instantly flavor the sugar.
- Flavoring: you can add some chopped candied lemon or orange and orange zest, but I think the beauty of it resides in its clean, unassuming appearance and the extraordinary flavor you discover when you take a bite.
- Flour: all-purpose works very well, but you can also use half bread flour and half cake flour. They both do their own thing, so the bread will have texture and softness.
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For the sponge:
- 2 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast
- ¼ cup of warm water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ⅓ cup all-purpose or bread flour
For the first dough:
- 3 ½ to 4 cups all-purpose flour (see Notes for alternative)
- 1 teaspoon active dry or instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon warm water
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the second dough:
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
- ½ cup sugar
- Reserved flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest (½ teaspoon pure lemon extract also works)
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- Extra all-purpose flour for kneading (if necessary)
- Powdered sugar, to serve (if you have vanilla powdered sugar much better)
For the sponge:
- In the bowl of the electric mixer, stir the yeast into the water and stir.
- Add sugar and flour and mix with a wooden spoon until well combined.
- Let stand, covered with plastic wrap, until bubbly and foamy, about 30 minutes.
For the first dough:
- Measure 2 ½ cups of the flour (that will be used for this part), and reserve remaining for the second dough.
- Attach the bowl to the stand mixer with the paddle.
- Stir the water with the yeast in a small bowl.
- Add to the yeast mixture together with the sugar, and eggs.
- Start the mixer at low speed.
- Add the flour to the sponge by half cups. Mix with the paddle attachment until combined.
- Add the soft butter, one piece at a time, and beat at medium speed until well blended and the butter has dissolved. It will be thick and maybe a little stiff.
- Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rest until doubled, about 45 minutes.
For the second dough:
- Add eggs, yolk, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest to the first dough and beat with the paddle attachment until it's all well integrated.
- Change to the dough hook.
- Gradually add the softened butter and mix until well incorporated.
- Add the reserved flour and salt in ½ cup additions.
- Knead for 10 minutes at medium speed. The dough should be soft and buttery. It should not clean the sides of the bowl completely, but add up to ½ cup more flour if the dough is still too wet and pools in the bottom and sides like a thick cake batter.
- Transfer the dough to a buttered bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rest in a warm place until doubled in volume, anywhere between 1 to 2 hours.
- Turn out the dough onto a clean surface and, with floured hands, deflate first and then gather it to make a loose ball. The dough should be soft and elastic, sticky but easy to work with.
- Shape into a loose ball and place in a well-buttered pandoro pan (see Notes for alternatives), cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let rise until doubled, between 1 to 2 hours.
- Preheat oven 30 minutes before baking to 350º F /180ºC.
- Bake pandoro bread for 20 minutes on the middle oven shelf.
- Reduce oven temperature to 300ºF/150ºC and continue baking for another 30 minutes. The top should be brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped. If the top is too dark cover loosely with aluminum foil. If unsure, insert a cake tester; it should come out clean with no wet crumbs attached.
- Let cool on a wire rack and remove from pan.
- Dust with powdered vanilla sugar and shake inside a cellophane bag before serving.
Organization: read the recipe and take into account the resting times. There's little hands-on work, but there are several hours where the bread will be proofing and growing. It's important to allow the yeast to do its job at its own pace.
Yeast: any type can be used. Be careful when using the instant or one of those fast-rising ones as they usually leaven faster than the time frames given in this recipe.
Vanilla sugar: it can be bought online like Dr. Oetker Vanilla Sugar or Alsa Vanilla Flavored Sugar. You can make your own by adding some vanilla beans to a jar of powdered sugar. Or, easier than the latter, mix powdered sugar with some Pure Vanilla powder, which will instantly flavor the sugar.
Flavoring: you can add some chopped candied lemon or orange, and orange zest, but I think the beauty of it resides in its clean unassuming appearance and the extraordinary flavor that you discover when you take a bite.
Flour: all-purpose works very well, but you can also use half bread flour and half cake flour. They both do their own thing so the bread will have texture and also softness.
- Prep Time: 240
- Cook Time: 50
- Category: Bread
- Method: kneading + baking
- Cuisine: Italian
- Serving Size: 1/12
- Calories: 361
- Sugar: 11.7 g
- Sodium: 124.7 mg
- Fat: 13.9 g
- Carbohydrates: 50.5 g
- Protein: 8.1 g
- Cholesterol: 107.5 mg
Keywords: pandoro bread
Adapted from The Italian Baker, by Carol Field