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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.

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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.

Pandoro Zuppa Inglese And Alkermes

Pandoro Zuppa Inglese and Alkermes

Pandoro is a staple in Italian households at holiday time, along with its cousin, Panettone. Unlike panettone, pandoro has no raisins or candied fruits, and is typically served with a dusting of powdered sugar.

But with all the cakes, cookies, candies and ice cream eaten in our household in the last week, there is still plenty of Pandoro to be eaten.
If you’re like me and have leftover pandoro, here’s a way to use it up – a zuppa inglese – a classic Italian dessert whose name translates to “English soup,” although it’s not at all a soup, but more of an English trifle. The words “pan d’oro” mean golden bread in Italian, and it’s easy to see why once you slice into the egg-rich confection.
Zuppa Inglese is typically made with sponge cake and layers of pastry cream. The cake is usually sprinkled with Alkermes, an aromatic red liqueur that’s used in Italian desserts and as a digestivo.
Recipes for Alkermes date back to the Renaissance, and generally contain a variety of spices including cardamom, cloves and cinnamon, along with rose water and other ingredients. Its scarlet red color is derived from a small parasitic insect called kermes, or cochineal. These are parasitic insects growing on paddles of prickly pear cactus in Mexico and Central and South America. They look like a white fungus on the prickly pear paddle, but when when scraped off, give off a brilliant red color. On a trip to Peru earlier this year, I saw the insects first hand, and observed Incan women dying fabric using coloring made from the insects after they were dried and ground.
Here in the U.S., it’s nearly impossible to find alkermes (sometimes spelled alchermes) but the last time I was in Florence, I brought some back from the Santa Maria Novella Farmacia, one of the oldest pharmacies in the world, dating back to 1221, and well worth a visit.
The farmacia has expanded its product line to include perfumes, soaps and other items, but still makes alkermes, using the same recipe since 1743.
The company now has branches all around the world, including one in New York City, but alas, alkermes can’t be bought there.
If you can’t get to Florence, Italy, you can always try making your own alkermes. Francine Segan has a recipe in her book “Dolci,” (using red food coloring, not cochineal insects). Email me if you’d like that recipe. Or use a combination of kirsch and the liquid from maraschino cherries. It won’t taste the same, but it’s a pleasant substitute and it will be the right color.
Anyhow, to assemble the zuppa inglese, make some chocolate pastry cream and some vanilla pastry cream. I “cheated” and used a box of instant chocolate pudding, to which I added some rum, and a box of instant vanilla pudding, to which I added some whipped cream.
Place the chocolate pudding on the bottom of large glass bowl, followed by a layer of the pandoro (or sponge cake or savoiardi biscuits.) Sprinkle the pandoro with the alkermes, then cover with  the vanilla pudding/whipped cream mixture, followed by another layer of pandoro and more alkermes.
Whip some heavy cream, spread it over the layers and top with sprinkles. Grab a spoon and dig in.

 

For more recipes using pandoro, click here for a Pandoro “Christmas tree”,
 here for a zuppa inglese “alla Napoletana,”
and here for a fruity zuccotto.
Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I’m cooking up each day.
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter.
Pandoro Zuppa Inglese with Alkermes
1 large Pandoro cake (or sponge cake or savoiardi biscuits)
1 small box instant chocolate pudding
1/4 cup dark rum
1 small box instant vanilla pudding
1/2 pint whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
alkermes (I diluted it slightly with a simple sugar syrup made by boiling some sugar with water)
sprinkles
Mix the packaged instant pudding according to directions on the box (or make pastry cream from scratch.) Add the rum to the chocolate pudding. Whip the 1/2 pint of cream with the sugar, and fold 1 cup of the whipped cream to the vanilla pudding. Save the rest for the top.
Slice the pandoro cake. Place the chocolate pudding on the bottom of a large glass bowl and cover with slices of the pandoro (or sponge cake or savoiardi biscuits.) Sprinkle alkermes on top, then cover with the vanilla pudding. Place more slices of pandoro on top of the vanilla pudding and sprinkle with more alkermes.
Spread the remaining whipped cream on top and decorate with colored sprinkles.
Zuppa Inglese Alla Napoletana

Zuppa Inglese Alla Napoletana

 I know, I know. Most of you are in detox mode after the decadent excess of holiday eating. But if you’re like me, there’s still a panettone or pandoro lurking in your pantry somewhere. I tucked the extra panettone in the freezer and will pull it out later this winter for this warm, boozy bread pudding that’s always appreciated on a cold day in February. But the pandoro was put to good use last weekend in this zuppa inglese. (Side note – My darn computer’s spell check keeps changing zuppa inglese to “cuppa ingress,” whatever that is!)

Anyhoo, you don’t even need a pandoro for this dessert. You just need a sponge cake – something you could make or pick up at the bakery.
Traditional zuppa inglese has layers of liqueur-soaked sponge cake, interspersed with pastry cream, and topped with whipped cream. I didn’t leave out the whipped cream on top, but this version uses ricotta cream instead of pastry cream, something you’d find in a lot of Neapolitan desserts, hence the “all Napoletana” in the name.
I don’t normally trim the outer “crust” of a pandoro, but in this case I did. Just because I thought it would look nicer through the glass bowl. But first slice the cake in horizontal layers, then trim the crusts.
 I made about five layers, each about 1 inch thick.
 Place the first layer in a bowl, filling in the circumference with smaller pieces you cut from the larger ones. Drizzle the simple syrup and liqueur mixture over the top once it’s in the bowl.
 Mix the ricotta, sugar and chocolate bits together.
 Spread the ricotta mixture in between each layer of cake, drizzling each cake layer with more simple syrup and liqueur.
 Top the whole thing with whipped cream and decorate with chocolate curls.
It tastes pretty good right away, but if you leave it in the refrigerator overnight, it’s even better, since the liqueur and simple syrup have more time to permeate the cake.
And if you’ve still got some bits of cake and leftover ricotta that won’t fit into that big bowl, make a mini zuppa inglese just for you and someone special.
 Dig In!
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Zuppa Inglese Alla Napoletana
1 large Pandoro, or slices of sponge cake
3 pounds ricotta cheese
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup rum
3 oz. dark chocolate, chopped into bits
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
Slice the Pandoro into four or five horizontal slices, then trim the “crusts.” Place one layer in a glass bowl, and cut pieces to fit the circumference of the bowl.
With a wooden spoon, mix the ricotta cheese with the sugar and chocolate.
Make a simple syrup by boiling the water with the sugar. Remove from heat once the sugar is dissolved. Let cool, then add the rum.
Drizzle the syrup liberally over the cake layer, then spread some of the ricotta filling over the cake.
Continue layering the cake, drizzling the syrup and spreading the ricotta until you get almost to the top of the bowl. I used three layers of cake and two layers of ricotta.
Whip the cream with the confectioners’ sugar, then spread the whipped cream over the last ricotta layer. Shave some chocolate over the top to decorate.