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.
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)
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.