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Pandoro (pan d'oro) is a traditional Italian sweet yeast bread, most popular around Christmas and New Year. Typically a Veronese product, pandoro is traditionally shaped like a frustum with an 8 pointed-star section.
Modern taste sometimes calls for pandoro to have a hole cut into its bottom and a part of the soft interior to be removed, the cavity is then filled with chantilly cream or vanilla gelato. Cream or gelato can be served as a garnish to pandoro slices.
Pandoro appeared in remote times, the product of the ancient art of breadmaking, as the name, Pan d'oro ("literally: Golden Bread"), suggests. Throughout the Middle Ages, white bread was consumed solely by the rich, while the common people could only afford black bread and, often, not even that. Sweet breads were reserved for nobility. Breads enriched with eggs, butter and sugar or honey were served in the palaces and were known as "royal bread" or "golden bread".
The desserts consumed in the 17th century were described in the book Suor Celeste Galilei, Letters to Her Father, published by La Rosa of Turin, and they included "royal bread" made from flour, sugar, butter and eggs. However, the bread was already known and appreciated in the ancient Rome of Pliny the Elder, in the 1st century. That bread was made with "the finest flour combined with eggs, butter and oil". Virgil and Livy mentioned the preparation under the name Libum.
The first citation of a dessert clearly identified as Pandoro dates to the 18th century. The dessert certainly figured in the cuisine of the Venetian aristocracy. Venice was the principal market for spices as late as the 18th century as well as for the sugar that by then had replaced honey in European pastries and breads made from leavened dough. And it was at Verona, in Venetian territory, that the formula for making pandoro was developed and perfected, a process that required a century. The modern history of this dessert bread began at Verona on October 30, 1894, when Domenico Melegatti obtained a patent for a procedure to be applied in producing pandoro industrially. Pandoro was also the last meal eaten by the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini before his execution in 1945.
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