This is my worked-out recipe for pan d’oro, or gold bread. It’s an Italian sweet yeasted bread but it’s unlike the more commonly known Pannettone, but nonetheless delicious. I have added saffron to mine to make it even more golden and to enhance the vanilla taste.
Pan d’oro (or as some have concatenated it, ‘pandoro’) is a laminated bake, occupying a unique spot between a bread, a croissant and a cake. It’s a festive Italian speciality and is a mammoth baking endurance test, yet the results are worth it. It will take the best part of two days to complete, though thankfully you won’t be not hands on for all that time!
I have added a couple of links at the end to wine pairing websites that list pan d’oro – as this creation deserves the right Christmas tipple to serve it with.
There are recipes for ‘quick’ pan d’oro out there and yet others still that are more of a cake. These, I’m sure, are all delicious recipes but are not the traditional, multi-stage lamination bake.
I have tried to time my bake and recipe around my working day, so that you can get on with normal life as I have had to!
Now that I’ve conquered a recipe for it I do feel like I’ve got over a major hurdle or ticked something off a life list! It has been one of my “must bake” items for several years now. I eventually baked it three times, tweaking here and there and ensuring you don’t have to stay in the house for two days to make it (that’s a lot of my life devoted to pan d’oro). And it meant a lot of pan d’oro eating – though much has gone into the freezer and some made a nice chocolate bread and butter pudding.
I used a number of references for the recipe – several very old baking books I own (pre-70s) that I have wrested from second hand shops on holiday and some archives I found. In all the recipes the instructions for the latter stages are identical processes – well, it’s the physical method that makes this bake what it is; ie proving, laminating, resting, more proving and finally a slow bake. So it makes sense they would be unlikely to differ – but ingredient quantities do alter considerably between the recipes I looked at, even if you account for different sizes. I came to my recipe by examining the ratios of ingredients across a number of old recipes and took a sort of ‘mean average’ (that’s sort of the best way to describe it). I can imagine that because of the long development and proving processes that as long as you’ve got roughly those sorts of ingredients (and providing the ratios between them are all sound) the results would be good whatever. Anyway, with a few tweaks after bake one, the second and third bake both came out marvellously.
This recipe uses both fresh yeast and some sourdough starter. I tried to do it this way because I often use this halfway house method for my breads. Being a busy working mum I can’t always afford the time to make sourdough and I am not sniffy or stuck up about the use of quick dried yeast. Boo to those who are snobs about this. For those people who have the luxury of enough time to bake solely sourdough then I tip my hat to you as that’s simply awesome. However, there are some bread makers out there that come across as looking down their noses at those who don’t only do sour. Besides, sometimes I like a good springy normal white loaf – especially as my bacon sammich.
I do often like making my ‘mid week’ bread with about 75% of the stated dried yeast and then adding a small ladleful of my starter. I get the convenience and I get some of that wonderful taste. Plus, this tactic also uses up my starter and forces me to refresh and feed it, when otherwise I may not use it from one weekend to the next. Because this technique affords a lovely taste and crumb structure I wanted to use this for the pan d’oro.
- 500g pan d’oro tin (I bought mine online from Bakery Bits)
- Two bowls – one very large
- Spatula/flexible dough scraper
- Wooden spoon
- Pastry brush (for greasing the tin)
- Cling film and/or tea towel
- Wire rack
- Small sieve for icing sugar dusting
- Sharp bread knife
Ingredients – stage 1
- Fresh yeast – 10g
- Saffron – about 10-15 strands
- Milk (full fat), warmed – 70 ml
- Sourdough starter – 20g
- Plain flour (I used 00 type) – 70g
- Egg yolk, from a large egg – 1 (please try and use free range, not only are they higher welfare anyway, this better environment for the hens affords the eggs a more yellow hue, great for ensuring the goldeness of pan d’oro)
- Caster sugar – 20g
Ingredients – stage 2
- Caster sugar – 100g
- Eggs, whole – 2
- Flour (as before) – 200g
- Unsalted butter, softened – 30 g
- Vanilla seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod
- Milk, warmed – 60 ml
Ingredients – stage 3
- Flour (as before) – 200g
- Egg, whole – 1
- Salt – 1 tsp
Ingredients – stage 4
- Unsalted butter, room temperature but not too soft – 140g
- Light oil for greasing the bowls etc
- Melted butter for greasing the final dough/mould
- Icing sugar for dusting
- Extra plain flour for dusting
Stage 1 method
Stage 1,2 and 3 can be started late afternoon/early evening – you will need about 4 hours of time (though not all of it is hands on) for all three stages
- Warm the 70ml milk (do NOT boil!) in a saucepan with the saffron. Leave to infuse for 5 minutes
- After this time, strain the milk to remove the saffron strands. If the milk is now cold, warm it again slightly (although it may well be warm enough to use now)
- Add in the egg yolk, 20g of caster, 20 grams of starter and the 70g of plain flour – mix gently but thoroughly and cover with a clean tea towel or some cling film.
- Leave to bubble away and double in size. This should be about a couple of hours
Stage 2 method
- Crumble the 10g of fresh yeast in the additional 60ml of milk and stir until the yeast has dispersed
- Add this to the bowl of ingredients from stage 1
- Also add in 100g caster sugar, two whole eggs, 200g plain flour, 30g of softened unsalted butter and the vanilla seeds
- Mix this all together with a wooden or metal spoon, and then cover as before
- Again, leave to double in size – this should be about an hour
Stage 3 method
- Add the final ‘body’ ingredients to the bowl – this is the last 200g of flour, 1 more egg and a teaspoon (5g) of salt
- Grease a clean large bowl and transfer the dough to it
- Cover and leave to rest overnight somewhere cool but not freezing
Stage 4 method
Stage 4 and the first prep stage can be started early morning on day two (for example, before going to work) – you will need about an hour, so you may have to get up earlier than normal, but it can be done.
- Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a square and dot the 140g butter on to it, as if there were a diamond shape in the middle of the dough square
- Fold in each of the corner of the dough to meet in the middle, like a simple envelope
- Pinch all the edges together to seal the dough up and encase the butter (so it doesn’t leak out)
- Dust the top of the dough with flour and then, using a heavy rolling pin, roll our the dough so that it is a long rectangle (only roll it so it stretches away and towards you, not side to side)
- Book fold the dough – that is, fold the top third over the middle third and then the bottom third over them both, similar to making puff or croissant pastry
- Cover the dough with cling film or place in a large food bag and stick in the freezer for 5 minutes
- Take the dough out and with an edge of pastry towards you where you can see the folds, roll our to another rectangle and then make another book fold
- Chill again for another 5 minutes in the freezer
Final prep stage
- Warm some butter and lightly grease the pan d’oro tin – don’t use too much or it will pool in the bottom
- Bring the dough out of the freezer and squash the corners up and in to make a ball shape
- With the smooth centre at the bottom and the raggy ends upwards, drop the ball into the pan d’oro tin
- Leave to rest somewhere cool but not too cold (ie not in the fridge unless it is a very hot day) while you go to work – or about 7 – 8 hours
Baking and finishing can be done in the evening of day two
- The pan d’oro is ready when it has risen just above the top of the tin. Like bread, it will spring back when press lightly with a finger
- Put your oven on to 150C fan / 170C conventional
- Bake on a low shelf for about 1 hour 10 minutes
- The top should be golden
- Leave to cool a little in the tin
- Turn out on to a wire rack
- Before serving, dust liberally with icing sugar and cut the cake horizontally into several slices – turn the slices so that the star points resemble a Christmas tree
After all that, go put your feet up, have a nice slice of what you’ve just created with a glass of Asti or Moscato spumante. Or you just may want to know the right wine pairing to serve to your Christmas guests.
Wine pairing websites that mention matches for pan d’oro: