My youngest daughter, since the Great British Bake Off, has become obsessed with baking and all things to do with bunnage, brioche and every conceivable manner of sweet delicious bounty. In her spare moments from the mixing bowl she is plugged into re-runs whilst speedily colouring in the GBBO colouring book designing new sugary creations.
It’s given me inspiration to go back to some seasonal Italian treats this Christmas. The one that receives a lot of glory is panettone. While its packaging is always exciting and beautiful, it can be tricky to get inside to discover the treasure for fear of spoiling the beautiful paper and silky ribbons enclosing it. My favourite way of eating it is toasted with lots of unsalted white butter. Or perhaps Alastair Little’s utterly delicious Panettone Bread and Butter Pudding made with grappa soaked raisins – perfect just out of the oven but equally as wonderful straight from the fridge after a late night tottering in from a fabulous party at two in the morning! Hashtag wicked.
Pandoro – this comes with a warning label: ‘Once started you will be unable to stop’. Completely true – however large this buttery cake is with its liberal sprinkling of icing sugar, from the first mouthful, for some reason it has to be finished. Best accompanied by a like-minded friend, a cup of tea and a chat, you won’t notice the diminishing melt in the mouth tower until you are scraping crumbs from the plate. Hashtag moreish.
From the biscuit department, soft Italian almond biscuits from southern Italy. Simple large round buttons full of almonds that speak of Christmas and Sicily. So good on their own or with a scoop of creamy gelato, affogato if you need that extra caffeine kick. Hashtag kick-start.
Chef Giuseppe Silvestri declares the best canoli are made on Capri and by the time they leave the island on the boat they never make Naples or the mainland having been devoured en route! Their crunchy outer shell with its creamy sweet centre makes them irresistible. It can be a messy business as you bite into them and the rich, luscious filling seeps out of the cracked casing. Hashtag napkinathand.
Rounding off my selection of Italian Christmas desserts is the wonderful sweet, peppery and spicy panforte. Traditionally from Siena, with its mix of nuttiness, candied peel and figs panforte conjures up the all the flavours of Christmas. Serve it alongside cheese or with clementines and a glass of Vin Santo, Moscato d’Asti or Recioto. Hashtag perfect.
Has our pick of Italian Christmas desserts whetted your appetite? For more delicious dishes this festive season, see how to do a Christmas dinner the Stirred way.