Tempting with recipes from our Christmas kitchen!
Panettone is a typical Christmastime sweet from Milan, and as we mentioned above, there’s a really sweet story behind its inception.
**Remember to make your starter the day before you mean to make the panettone.
For the Starter
- ¾ cup of flour
- A pinch of natural yeast
- 1/3 cup cool water
For the Dough
- All of the starter
- 2 ¼ cups flour
- ¼ cup lukewarm water
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup or 4 tablespoons, softened butter
- 1 vanilla bean, slit open
- 1 tablespoon instant dried yeast
- 1 ¼ teaspoons sea salt
- 1/3 cup sugar
- ½ cup raisins, pre-soaked in rum or Vin Santo even better!
- ¼ cup lemon or orange naturally candied fruit
- ¼ cup of crushed almonds, unshelled
- ¼ cup of crushed pistachios, unshelled
- A handful of whole almonds for garnishing, and some coarse sugar
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest, from an unwaxed lemon
- Sugar pearls for decorating, if desired
Mix together all the ingredients for the starter in a wide mixing bowl. When well mixed, leave to rest overnight.
For the Dough
Combine the starter dough with all of the ingredients for the panettone except the fruit and nuts, and mix and knead them together preferably in a mixer with a hoop or by hand, until the dough is soft and workable.
Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. It will be light and airy. Gently deflate the dough, and knead in the fruits and zest. Roll the dough into a ball and place it in a paper panettone lining. Cover and let the dough rise until touches the rim, approximately 1 hour. Sprinkle a handful of almonds and coarse sugar over the top, before putting it in an oven preheated to 400°F. Bake for 10 minutes then reduce the oven heat to 350°F and bake for a further 30 minutes or until golden brown. Once baked, remove the panettone from the oven and leave to cool. Decorate with sugar pearls if desired. Slice and serve with a hot cappuccino or a cold bubbly.
Moscato d’Asti Motta
This Moscato d’Asti offers up aromas of fresh citrus fruits, dried and candied fruits as well as honey. Vivacious and well-balanced, its good acidity makes it eminently drinkable. Enjoy with panettone and all manner of dry pastries, tarts and dried fruits.
Zeppole ~ Christmas Fried Dough
- 25 g (1 oz) natural yeast
- 250 ml (1 cup) warm milk
- 500 g (4 cups) ‘00’ flour
- 2 tbsp (50 g) sugar
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 50 g (2 oz) butter, melted
- 1 pinch of salt
- Zest of 1 orange
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Sunflower or peanut oil, for frying
- Sugar and cinnamon, for dusting
Dissolve yeast in milk. On a work surface, pour the flour and the sugar, mix and make a well in the middle. Add the milk mixture, beaten eggs, melted butter, salt and zest and slowly start to incorporate the flour. Kneed by hand for about 10 minutes until smooth. Cover and set aside to rise until the dough doubles in size.
Roll dough out into coils and twist into ribbons. Set aside and allow to rise about 30 minutes. Heat frying oil on a high flame until very hot. Test oil by dropping in a zeppola – it should drop to the bottom, then rise to the top right away to make sure it is hot enough. Fry for 3-5 minutes turning until golden. Drain excess oil on a paper towel.
Toss with sugar and cinnamon while and serve while still hot.
While you could pair various types of passito or vin santo with these zeppole, this award-winning Prosecco would certainly do the job just as well. With its intense perfume offering aromatic notes of apple, pineapple, peach and even some flowers, this Prosecco is classic party fare!
Biscotti Di Natale ~ Christmas Cookies
These Christmas cookies are deliciously light and can be left plain or cut into different festive shapes and decorated as desired.
- 100 g (½ cup) sugar
- 200 g (1 1/3 cups) rice flour
- 50g (1/3 cup) potato flour, plus additional if sticky
- Few drops of vanilla extract
- 100g (3 ½ oz) butter, melted
- 1 large egg
In a bowl mix the sugar, both flours, vanilla, melted butter and egg. Mix all ingredients by hand. Once well combined, form into a ball and set aside for at least 30 minutes to rest.
Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). On a well-floured surface, roll out the pastry dough into a rectangle. Using a pastry cutter, cut into stars or other shapes and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake at 180°C (350°F) for about 20 minutes until golden. Allow to cool, decorate if desired, serve or store in an airtight container.
A good passito di Pantelleria will go well with many types of sweets and desserts, but we like it especially with cookies and biscotti. Ben Ryè offers a rich bouquet with notes of apricots and candied orange peel. Very fresh and intense on the palate, the sweetness followed by a long and satisfying persistence. Also good with cheeses and artisan chocolate.
Struffoli ~ Christmas Fried Dough In Honey
It is said that the Greeks brought struffoli to the Gulf of Naples back in the times of the Siren Parthenope, and still today, they are the emblem of a true Neapolitan Christmas. In the 1600’s, the nuns in Naples offered out them as small Christmas gifts to the people, but this delicious sweet soon became known throughout the south and center of Italy.
- 400 g (3 1/3 cups) ‘00’ flour
- 6 egg yolks + 1 egg white, if needed
- 25 g (1 oz) butter
- 1 tablespoon grain alcohol, optional
- Zest of 1 lemon, grated
- Zest of 1 orange, grated
- Salt, to taste
- 50 ml (2 fl oz) water
- 270 g (1 1/3 cup) sugar
- 250 g (3/4 cup) honey
- 150 g (5 oz) candied citrus peels, chopped
- 50-100 g (2-3 oz) candy sprinkles, as desired
Sunflower or Peanut Oil, for frying
On a work surface, mix the flour with the egg yolks, butter, alcohol, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, a pinch of salt, and the grated orange and lemon zest. Mix well and if needed, add an egg white if the dough is too hard. Knead by hand for a few minutes then set aside. Let dough rest for about 1 hour.
Roll the dough out into long coils and cut into small, bite-size pieces. Fry small quantities of the dough in the very hot oil and when golden, remove and allow to drain on paper towel to absorb excess oil. When all dough is fried, let cool to room temperature.
In a saucepan, heat the honey, the remaining sugar and water until the foam on top disappears and the color becomes light amber. Add the honey mixture to the struffoli and chopped candied citrus peels, and stir lightly with a large wooden spoon to combine.
Place onto a serving plate and sprinkle with candy sprinkles and some additional pieces of candied citrus peels to garnish, as desired.
Golden yellow in color, this passito from Campania offers up notes of dried apricots and white flowers. Silky soft on the palate, this wine nevertheless has a good dose of acidity and minerality. The finish is persistent and recalls candied citrus fruits, cinnamon and white peach. Great with all manner of Christmas pastries.
Panforte ~ Christmas spice cake from Siena
The first documentation of this sweet dates back to the year 1000 when it was made, not by bakers, but by the spice merchants who had access to the then very exclusive ingredients. (The cocoa was clearly a later addition.) As such, it was once a sweet to be enjoyed only by the wealthiest families. Sliced thinly, this specialty from Siena is a perfect accompaniment to small cups of potent black espresso or a glass of vin santo.
Ingredients for 1 cake
- 200 g (1 ½ cups) almonds
- 100 g (3/4 cups) walnuts
- 100 g (3/4 cups) hazelnuts
- 150 g (6 oz) candied orange and lemon peel, chopped
- 100 g (4 oz) dried figs, chopped
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Pinch white pepper
- Generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 50 g (2 oz) cocoa powder
- 75 g (3 oz) type ‘00’ or all-purpose flour
- 175 g (1/2 cup) honey
- 100 g (1/2 cup) sugar
- 25 g (1 oz) icing sugar plus 1 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 180°C (360°F), and line a buttered 24cm (10”) round cake tin with rice paper. Otherwise, buttered, floured baking parchment will do.
Toast the three types of nuts under a hot grill, being careful not to burn them, then chop or whiz briefly in a food processor. Place nuts into a bowl and add the candied peel, the figs and all the spices. Sieve in the cocoa powder and the flour and mix well.
In a small, thick-bottomed pan (or in the microwave), gently heat the honey then add the sugar stirring continuously until the honey is hot and the sugar is perfectly incorporated. Pour honey mixture immediately over the fruits and nuts and stir gently until well mixed. Spoon mixture into the prepared cake tin, smoothing the top with the spoon. Bake for 40 minutes until dry. Allow to cool slightly then remove cake from tin and place on a wire rack. Once completely cool, dust the top of the cake with the icing sugar mixed with the cinnamon. Alternatively, the cake can also be covered with melted dark chocolate. Wrapped well in foil, this cake will keep for up to a couple of months.
A great dessert wine from the countryside north of Siena, this vin santo is amber in colour, with notes of almond, honey and spices. It is nevertheless fresh on the palate and has a measured sweetness that makes it the perfect accompaniment to this rich panforte and even some cheeses.