Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pan d'oro

Can you imagine I had never had pan d'oro (literally "gold bread", also spelled pandoro) until I took the Artisan III workshop at SFBI last summer? I had seen pictures of it but never seen one "in the flesh", much less tasted it. Didier Rosada, our instructor, told me that pan d'oro was excellent and that he preferred it to panettone. Better than panettone? I love panettone, so I couldn't imagine that I would ever say the same thing. But we made both panettone and pan d'oro during the class and, lo and behold, pan d'oro has become my favorite. It is light and delicate and it has great aromas, thanks to all the preferments. Plus, even though it is traditionally a holiday "bread", mostly eaten in Italy during Christmas and New Year, its star shape makes it a gorgeous addition to any party table. It is served dusted with confectioner's sugar, as can be seen on this picture taken during the class.
The reason mine is still in its birthday suit on the first picture is that it went straight from the cooling rack to the freezer. Some bakers say that, if well wrapped, it can keep for a month or longer at room temperature, but Didier has seen mold develop that way and told us that, if we couldn't make it one or two days before the intended date of consumption (which would be the best), then we should freeze it. So freeze it I did.
Four things you need to know before you decide to make a pan d'oro:
  1. Three different doughs go into the final dough. All need to ferment at 80ºF/27ºC. So before doing anything, check to see how you'd go about maintaining this temperature in your kitchen in the winter. It could be that your oven (turned off but with the light on) offers the perfect environment or that you can let your doughs rise next to your furnace and that they will be fine. I used the proofbox the Man built for me last year out of a storage plastic box equipped with a light bulb and a thermostat. Steve B. from Bread Cetera kindly gave us the idea and provided detailed explanations on how to go about building this home proofer. Thank you, Steve! It works like a charm and I use it frequently in the wintertime when the temperature in my kitchen never rises above 64ºF/18ºC.
  2. In making the pan d'oro, except for the temperature issue, timing is everything. You need to make yourself a time-line and stick to it like glue. As Didier says, with other artisan breads, you can relax - within certain limits, of course, briefly think of something else, go pour yourself a cup of coffee while the mixer does the work. Not so with the pan d'oro: the preferments must reach maturity at the same time and since the final dough can overdevelop in the blink of an eye (because of all the preferments), you need to watch it like a hawk.
  3. Since it is a high-sugar dough, you need to use either osmotolerant instant yeast (SAP Instant Gold for instance) or 15 to 20% more of your regular instant yeast than the quantity indicated below (according to Didier, that works fine also but I haven't tried it as I had bought SAP Instant Gold from the King Arthur store when I attended Jeff Hamelman's Whole Grains workshop in Vermont this past October).
  4. Didier recommends cooling the pan d'oro on a screen if you want it to keep its beautiful star shape. So the Man went to the hardware store and got whatever he needed to make a screened cooling rack that he then set between two chairs. He was a bit afraid that it would come loose under the combined weight of the loaves and that all the beautiful pane d'oro would come crashing to the floor but it held fast.

As you can see from the picture (please ignore my grandchildren's little red kaleidoscope which had rolled under the table. I hadn't seen it but the camera did!), there is only one true pan d'oro and the other loaves look different. That is because I wasn't sure I was going to actually succeed making a pan d'oro. So I only bought one pan d'oro pan (from amazon). For the others, I used a kouglof pan (which a kindly blog friend sent to me from France last year) and a brioche pan I must have had for the past forty years. For the four little ones, I used muffin pan liners. Right off the bat, I can tell you that the little ones were very disappointing. Forget the idea of making tiny individual pane d'oro. They just aren't the same (probably because the ratio of crust to crumb is so different that it totally changes the taste).
The tiny black speckles are the vanilla seeds
The kouglof-shaped pan d'oro has yet to be sliced open but we did sample the brioche one yesterday (it was heavenly) and here is how it looks inside... compared to the crumb of the one we made in class using the pan d'oro mold:

Because of the shape of the brioche pan, I didn't get the same lift as I did with the one baked in the pan d'oro mold. So the crumb is probably a bit denser. Didier had told us that it would happen but that it was still fine to bake pan d'oro in this type of mold if we didn't have the regular ones. And indeed it was.
So, back to the time-line: the pan d'oro needs to proof overnight - @ 70ºF/21ºC for 10 to 12 hours, @ a higher temperature, a bit less time, @ a lower one, it can take up to 16 hours before it domes.
In my case I knew I was going to proof it overnight at 70ºF in the proofbox and I knew I had to bake it in the morning of the day after or at the latest in the very early afternoon as I had to go out later on. I decided I would try to get it into the proofer at around 9 PM. Working backwards from there, I calculated that taking into account mixing and fermenting time I needed about 11 hours to get everything ready. I thus started with the levain feed at around 10:00 AM and used the following time-line:
  1. Feed the levain and leave it to ferment for 3 to 4 hours @80 to 85ºF/27 to 29ºC
  2. Make the first dough (using the levain) and let it ferment 2 hours @80ºF/27ºC
  3. Thirty minutes later, make the second dough (using instant yeast) and let it ferment one and a half hour @80ºF/27ºC (it is essential that it be ready as the same time as the first dough)
  4. One hour and a half after mixing the second dough, mix the third dough (using both the first and the second doughs) and let it ferment 2 to 2 ½ hours @80ºF/27ºC until it is 3 ½ to 4 times its initial volume
  5. Make the final dough (using the third dough and all the other ingredients as indicated below)
  6. Let it ferment one hour @80ºF/27ºC and give it a fold
  7. Let it ferment one more hour @80ºF/27ºC, divide and shape
  8. Proof overnight until the top of the dough reaches more or less the top of the mold
  9. Bake and cool.
Ingredients (for three pane d'oro):
For the levain (total weight needed: 130 g)
45 g unbleached all-purpose flour
22.5 g water 63 g mature white starter (100% hydration)

For the first dough (total weight needed: 325 g)

  • 90 g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 45 g water
  • 36 g eggs, beaten
  • 22 g sugar
  • 130 g levain

For the second dough (total weight needed: 106 g)

  • 55 g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 16 g water
  • 22 g eggs, beaten
  • 11 g sugar
  • 1.1 g osmotolerant instant yeast (or up to 1.3% regular instant yeast)

For the third dough (total weight needed: 570 g)

  • 81 g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 36.5 g eggs, beaten
  • 16.25 g sugar
  • 5 g butter, at room temperature
  • 325 g first dough
  • 106 g second dough

For the final dough (total weight 1500 g)

  • 300 g unbleached all-purpose flour (inexplicably and even though my calculations were accurate - they were double-checked by the Man who is a math wizard - I ended up adding twice 50 g to this amount as I was getting a batter, not a dough, after the first third of the eggs was added. I knew it was going to happen within certain limits but the dough was way over and could not have been rescued without the addition of some flour)
  • 225 g eggs, beaten
  • 144 g sugar
  • 15 g liquid honey
  • 6 g salt (I added another pinch after putting it the additional flour)
  • 570 g third dough
  • 225 g butter, at room temperature
  • 15 g cocoa butter (I didn't have any, so I did as Didier suggested and used white chocolate chips, crushed. He says it helps make nice holes in the crumb but can also be omitted)
  • 1 vanilla pod, sliced open and seeds scraped out (you only use the seeds)

  1. Mix the levain and let it ferment as indicated above in step 1 of the time-line
  2. Mix the fist dough and let it ferment as indicated in step 2 (low gluten development)
    All the videoclips were filmed during the workshop
  3. Mix the second dough and let it ferment as indicated in step 3 (low gluten development as well)
  4. Mix the third dough and let it ferment as indicated in step 4
  5. Cream the butter incorporating as much air as possible (that's what will give its fluffiness to the pan d'oro); when done, add the vanilla seeds and the cocoa butter or white chocolate chips, if using; mix until incorporated and reserve (at room temperature).
  6. Mix the final dough. This step is very delicate as the ingredients must go in in the prescribed order, i.e. first the flour and salt, then half of the eggs, then one third of the sugar (no water at all), mix some. When incorporated and as gluten develops, add the second third of the sugar and a bit of the eggs (so that the sugar doesn't draw too much water from the dough), mix again. When incorporated and as gluten develops further, add the last of the sugar and the remaining eggs. Mix 3 minutes at first speed, then add the honey (for flavor and to keep the crumb moist), then go for one touch of second speed. Didier explained that, by doing it this way, the dough acquires strength despite almost 30% of sugar, lots of eggs and, at the end, a lot of butter. If we tried to make it adding all the ingredients in one step, il would never work, just as if you suddenly put five bags of flour on someone's shoulders, the person would collapse. By doing it by steps, you not only build up the strength, you also build up the flavors. So before you add the butter, make sure the dough is pretty strong. Go back to first speed until it is smooth and you get the gluten structure you want. If the dough starts to collapse, it means you put too much sugar at once. You can then keep mixing but you risk overheating the dough when the gluten is fully developed. When you do add the butter, do it on first speed.

  7. When all is incorporated and the dough cleans the bowl, take it out to a bin (or a dough bucket) and let it ferment for 2 hours as indicated in the time-line, step 6, with a fold at the end of the first hour
  8. Divide at 500 g in a tight ball (if using a kouglof or brioche mold, divide at 450 g. That's what I did and that's why I had dough left over to make the small pane d'oro)
  9. Proof overnight as indicated in the time-line, step 8
  10. Bake in 325ºF/163ºC oven for 40 to 45 minutes (with only 2 seconds of steaming at the beginning, i.e. a few sprays of water)
  11. Invert on a screen to cool
  12. Sprinkle confectioner's sugar on the pan d'oro before serving.
Now I know all this sounds terribly complicated and intimidating and as I was mixing the third dough (especially when it started turning into a batter), I truly started wondering why I was doing this to myself and then the dough started to coalesce and it finally reached the point where I was happy with it and I set it to rise through the night. But frankly I had no clue whether or not it would rise. I was hopeful and concerned at the same time. That night, I must have dreamed of the pan d'oro because it is the first thing I thought of upon waking up! But everything had worked out and the pane d'oro all looked perky and in the end, I really like the way they came out. Relatively speaking, making the pan d'oro is a little bit like childbirth. You don't necessarily enjoy the process but you love the result!

The pan d'oro goes to Susan, from Wild Yeast, for Yeastpotting.


  1. Pan d'oro will never seem the same for me again! Yours looks so mouth wateringly delicious that I could almost taste it - all the way down here in the Southern Hemisphere - but the process! You deserve a medal, dear M-C. Such patience! But what a result....

  2. Thank you, Kaye! How I wish you weren't so far away (and not only because I would have loved to share the pan d'oro with you!)...

  3. MC,
    They look just beautiful....
    I am off to buy some pans tomorrow...
    What a great write up...
    I will have to work on perfecting this and a Stolen ala Richard Bertinet for a party...
    I will be busy...

  4. @Judd, thank you! Let me know how it goes...
    @Miriam, well, the class was a great help too! ;-)

  5. MC, I am one Italian that prefers Panettone to Pandoro, but maybe I would change my mind if I made it myself. Your instructions are so detailed and everything makes sense about the additions of sugar and eggs. That window pane looks gorgeous!

  6. MC, great post and beautiful pan d'oro! I was thinking of baking panettone this holiday season, but I'm not a real big fan of candied fruit. I think this pan d'oro just might fit the bill!

  7. You never cease to amaze me MC!

    Too tired to blog about my bread, teff and whole grain honey wheat!!

    Back to the grindstone mañana!

    Happy Baking!


  8. @Laura, I still love panettone too and you are right about pan d'oro. Commercial ones do not compare!
    @Steve, you won't regret it...
    @Jeremy, I'll keep my eyes peeled for that teff bread...

  9. Wow. wow! Just scrumptious looking.

  10. Wow this looks like a super intense recipe! It came out really well though.

  11. @Mimi and Joanne, thank you!
    @Stefano, grazie!

  12. In step 6, what does "one touch of second speed" mean?

    1. It means: "put the mixer on second speed for a minute or so".

    2. It means: "put the mixer on second speed for a minute or so".

    3. Hi MC, I am looking at taking a course in Viennoiserie at the SFBI and came upon your blog. I notice you also took a course from there. I am looking at opening a cafe serving french pastries and trying to perfect my croissant and danish recipe. Would you recommend taking the course from SFBI to acheive my goal. I live in Canada though. Your input will be greatly appreciated.

    4. Hello, Yin, sorry for the late reply. I haven't taken the viennoiserie class at SFBI myself but judging from the excellence and degree of professionalism of the other classes I took there, I am pretty sure it would be worth your while. Where in Canada are you located?
      Best of luck, MC



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