How to Recognize Them: Panettone and Pandoro

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Panettone and Pandoro are the two most popular traditional Christmas cakes in Italy, and in the last years it’s possible to find more and more of them also abroad.

But are they all the same? Of course not 🙂

I decided to write this post because some people I met abroad (but also italians) were incredulous and even shocked to know that I paid an artisanal 1 kg panettone 30-35 euros in Italy, and they didn’t understand how was it possible given that most of the industrial panettone sold abroad cost usually 7-10-15 euros per kilogram (which in some cases it’s already double price than the same products in Italy), so I thought that it could be a good and maybe useful idea to explain what’s behind the generic names “panettone” and “pandoro” (SPOILER: the final answer is more obvious than what you are maybe thinking now 🙂 but sometimes it’s needed to write also the obvious things 😀 )

First of all let’s start saying that, in Italy, there are procedural guidelines to respect to label a product as “pandoro” or “panettone” (I’m talking about the traditional and more “simple” recipes), so it means that there are rules to follow during their production: specific ingredients and specific quantities of those ingredients.

The ingredients must be the following (the percentages are referred to the dry product, so after baking it: during the baking process the liquids evaporate, raising the concentration of the ingredients which were in the dough before baking the product).

PANETTONE:

  • wheat flour
  • sugar
  • eggs of “A” category (“fresh eggs”), and there must be at least 4% of yolks in the whole product
  • butterfat, at least 16% of the whole product (so NO vegetable fats, NO margarines, only extra cocoa butter as explained below)
  • at least 20% of raisins and candied citrus
  • sourdough (mother dough)
  • salt

These are mandatory, then it’s possible to add also:

  • dairy produce
  • honey
  • malt
  • cocoa butter
  • yeast, no more than 1%
  • natural aromas and natural-identical aromas
  • emulsifiers
  • the preservative ascorbic acid
  • the preservative potassium sorbate

 

PANDORO:

  • wheat flour
  • sugar
  • eggs of “A” category (“fresh eggs”), and there must be at least 4% of yolks in the whole product
  • butterfat, at least 20% of the whole product (so NO vegetable fats, NO margarines, only extra cocoa butter as explained below)
  • sourdough (mother dough)
  • aroma of vanilla or vanillin
  • salt

These are mandatory, then it’s possible to add also:

  • dairy produce
  • honey
  • malt
  • cocoa butter
  • yeast, no more than 1%
  • natural aromas and natural-identical aromas
  • icing sugar
  • emulsifiers
  • the preservative ascorbic acid
  • the preservative potassium sorbate

 

These are the MINIMUM percentages to respect.

So now let’s go to the main question: why are there products sold also just at 3-4 euros/kg and other (artisanal) products sold at 25-30-35 euros/kg? (prices in Italy, where actually the cheapest ones are always used as “bait and switch” products in supermarkets)

Of course, most of the industrial products are made with exactly the minimum quantities required in the official guidelines, reducing the costs, while well renowned artisanal confectioners make products that are made with higher amounts of yolks and butter, they don’t use any emulsifier, any vanillin but real vanilla beans (which are much more expensive), any industrial candied citrus with sulfur dioxide but just high quality artisanal candied citrus (and not only orange but also citron, which is even more fine and it’s usually specifically declared in the label when they use it), just natural aromas and not natural-identical (with the same aromatic fraction than the natural aromas extracted from the raw material with that name, but extracted from different raw materials), any yeast but just sourdough, and generally higher quality ingredients.

And those differences are evident: if you open and cut a high quality panettone first of all you will smell soon a much stronger and fresh citrus aroma, then you will notice that the dough it’s deep yellow (because of better quality yolks and higher amounts of them) and not a bland color  or almost white, you will notice the much better developed “alveolatura” (the air pockets visible inside), sign of a perfect and not “pushed” leavening (a panettone made in a traditional way it’s at least a 48 hours long job), you will notice a better butter taste, you will notice it’s nicely soft and lighter, and you will notice a better moisture and not a dry product, and every bite it’s literally an explosion of flavors in your mouth.

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Moreover, we all know that exist flours and flours, butters and butters (good quality butters can cost also 10-15 euro/kg), eggs and eggs (good ones can cost 0,50 euro each or more, and a good quality product is made with many yolks), raisins and raisins (the best are from Australia, and can cost 10 euro/kg), candied fruit and candied fruit (good quality ones can cost 25-35 euro/kg), in few words we all know that exist ingredients of different quality (and prices), which in the end all together can lead also to very different quality products that of course cannot have similar prices.

All of these things combined together are influencing the final price. As I wrote in the spoiler at the beginning, that’s simply obvious, right? 🙂

I hope this post was useful to someone, and now that you maybe know something more choose what you prefer but be always aware of what you choose 🙂 the knowledge always helps to avoid to get a bad buy.

What I mean is that it’s not necessarily needed to buy a 30-35 euros/kg panettone, also a 15 euros/kg panettone can be a good buy if it’s sold at 15 euros, but it’s no more a good buy when the same product it’s sold at 25 euros 🙂 and be sure that the label respect the official procedural guidelines if it’s sold as “traditional italian panettone”, otherwise you are maybe being cheated: the knowledge will help you to understand also this.

PS: I think it can be interesting to start a series of posts “How to recognize them“, talking about products in the details. We’ll see 🙂

Merry Christmas to all of you! 🙂

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