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Easy and Delicious Pandoro “Christmas Tree”

If you follow this blog, you know I’ve posted a recipe for a Pandoro Christmas tree dessert in the past, filled with either a chocolate mousse filling, or a lemon curd/mascarpone filling. You can view it here. They’re as easy as can be, since the cake itself –  a traditional rich, buttery Italian Christmas treat – is purchased. All you have to do is slice it, drizzle it with some liqueur (or a simple syrup), make the fillings, and assemble the cake.

Making the filling is the hardest part. But this year, I’m making it really easy on myself with a filling made from whipped cream and a boxed vanilla pudding mix. That’s right, I’m taking a shortcut, and I have to confess, I think it’s my favorite of all the ones I’ve made in the past. After all the work that’s required for the Lucullan fish feast we enjoy on Christmas Eve, this easily prepared dessert is a much needed way to present a delicious showstopper without too much fuss.

And while we’re talking about Christmas Eve, I was recently contacted by a local newspaper, whose reporter interviewed me for a feature on holiday food traditions. As a former journalist, I’m used to being the one doing the interviewing, but this time the tables were turned and the reporter asked me lots of questions. He wrote a really nice article about my family, that includes my recipe for stuffed squid, and a photo of my dad and husband, that you can read here. But little did I know that my photo would be plastered on the front page – bad hair day, wrinkles and all! Where’s Photoshop when you need it?

Anyway, back to regularly scheduled programming – and the easy Pandoro Christmas tree. Slice the cake into about seven even layers. If you’re serving it right away, dust the cake first with powdered sugar. It’s easiest to sprinkle on the sugar before you layer it and add the filling, so you can roll it on its side and get better coverage. But if you’re holding it to serve it a day or two later, it won’t matter because the sugar will dissolve into the cake.

Make the simple syrup and add the liqueur. I divided the simple syrup solution and in one I added rum. In the other I added Sambuca. I alternated flavors with different layers. If you don’t want to add liqueur, you can just the simple syrup without alcohol. The cake isn’t particularly dry, but I think it really benefits from some moistening, so don’t skip this step.

Make the instant pudding mix by mixing milk with the mix (using less milk than the box calls for, since you’ll be adding whipped cream. You don’t want it so soft that it pours out of the cake layers.) Fold in the whipped cream.

Spread some of the filling on each layer, placing each layer at a different angle from the prior one, so the tips are in different orientations.

Decorate the edges with berries and slice.

You can see, it holds together very well, even after it’s sliced. Naturally, the bottom slices will be larger portions than the top, so you’ll want to split those in half (or maybe not!)

I’m getting hungry for some again. Time to make another one.

Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

Easy and Delicious Pandoro Tree
 
Author:
Serves: at least 12 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 1 large pandoro cake
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons sambuca or anisette
  • 2 Tablespoons rum
  • 1 5.1 oz. box instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • berries to decorate
Instructions
  1. Slice the pandora cake horizontally, in six or seven layers.
  2. Make a simple syrup by heating the water and sugar together until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Let the syrup cool, then divide in two and put the sambuca in one half, and the rum in the second half.
  4. Make the box of instant, mixing it with only 2 cups of milk instead of the 3 cups per instructions on the box.
  5. Whip the 1 cup of cream until soft peaks, then fold the whipping cream into the instant pudding.
  6. Drizzle some of the simple syrup on each layer of the cake, following by some of the pudding/whipped cream mixture.
  7. Continue with the rest of the layers, pivoting each slice so that the points are arranged in a star-like fashion.
  8. Finish by sprinkling with powdered sugar, and decorating the tips with berries.
  9. Optional, find a nice star at a craft shop for the very top.

Fried Sweet Ricotta Ravioli (Culurgioneddus Di Arrescottu)

This platter of cookies was the perfect ending to a fabulous meal at Agriturismo Sa Marighedda on our recent trip to Sardinia (recipe at the end of the post).  If you don’t know what an agriturismo is, let me explain. It’s sometimes a place to stay where the owners live, often on a working farm. It’s sometimes a place where the owners invite the public in for a meal using products grown or raised on site.

In this case, it was a restaurant next door to the owner’s home, and everything was homemade, from the cured meats, to the wine and liqueurs and everything in between. They offer a multi-course meal for a grand total of about 30 euros, or about $40.00 U.S. per person – a real bargain, especially considering the quality of the food and they even offer seconds of all the courses — if you have room in your stomach.

The owners, Mara and Roberto, work hard to deliver an authentic Sardinian meal and make you feel like  you’re sitting down to Sunday pranzo at their home. That is, if you’re in the habit of eating what seemed like non-stop courses – all of which were delicious. Families are most welcome here, and there’s even a playground for children who might feel a lightly antsy sitting at a table for two or three hours.

We were seated and immediately served a platter of homemade affettati (cured meats), olives and wine – all made in house and all wonderful.

Next came a frittata-like course, with zucchini dotting the egg and cheese mixture.

Then came savory pockets filled with seasoned raw tomatoes.  Think of tomato bruschetta, but with a flaky pastry dough instead of toasted bread.

We moved on to primo piatto, or in this case, primi piatti, since there were two first courses — one of malloreddus with sausage (see my last blog post here for the recipe),

And another of culurgiones, a typical Sardinian pasta similar to a fat ravioli, but filled with potatoes, pecorino cheese and mint.

We could easily have eaten seconds on any of these foods, but we knew there was still plenty to come, including the main event — roast suckling pig — cooked on an open spit.

Sardinia is surrounded by water and we ate fish nearly every night, but the interior of the island especially, is known for its delicious roast pig, and we were not disappointed in this juicy and flavorful rendition.

Before the main dessert arrived, we were presented with these small and juicy plums. They were just the right palate cleanser before moving to sweeter offerings.

I also wanted to show you these breads that are also traditional Sardinian shapes, using scissors and other implements to cut the dough.

Here are some of the implements Mara uses to make the breads and the cookies:

Aren’t they lovely with those scalloped, fringed edges? After they’re shaped, they get deep-fried and sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.

But we still weren’t finished after the cookie assortment. There was mirto (homemade blueberry liqueur) and grappa to taste. Fortunately, we didn’t have far to drive to get back to our hotel, after this abundant feast.

Thank you Mara and Roberto for your hospitality and the authentic flavor of Sardinian cuisine.

Mara was kind enough to give me her recipe for the ricotta ravioli (called culurgioneddus de arrescottu in Sardinian dialect) and you’ll find it below:

Culurgiones Di Arrescottu (Fried Ricotta Ravioli)
 
 
Ingredients
  • For the Filling:
  • 2.2 lbs.(1 kilo) ricotta (preferably sheep's milk)
  • 1 whole egg and one egg yolk
  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
  • 1 pinch of saffron (one of those waxed sleeves you buy in Italian grocery stores)
  • grated rind of two lemons, preferably organic
  • For the dough:
  • 5½ cups 00 flour (700 grams)
  • 2¼ cups (300 grams) semolina flour
  • water, as needed
  • ½ cup sugar (100 grams)
  • 1 cup lard or vegetable shortening - (200 grams)
  • confectioner's sugar or honey, to finish
Instructions
  1. Mix all the ingredients for the filling well until it is creamy, then set aside as you prepare the dough.
  2. Mix the 00 flour, semolina, sugar and lard (or shortening) together, and add just enough water until it comes together in a ball.
  3. Roll out the dough thinly, add some of the filling along a row of the dough, closing with another layer of dough, and cutting it out with a ravioli cutter.
  4. Fry the ravioli in hot oil, drain on paper towels, and when cool, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar, or drizzle with honey.