This recipe, from Executive Chef John Piombo of the Homestead Resort in Glen Arbor, is a traditional Christmas specialty from Genoa, Italy, where he grew up. There are two kinds of pandolce: Basso, or “low,” is crumbly like a scone or biscotti and called Genoa Cake. Alto, or “high,” is a yeasted bread more like a fruitcake.
Pandolce basso is delicious dipped into Spumante or eaten as is.
“My dad, Giovanni, was a baker,” says Piombo. “He would ship this all over Italy. This is the half-kilo recipe. I remember going to the post office every holiday season and shipping hundreds of pounds for him.”
Each cake would be wrapped in butcher paper, Piombo recalls, “then we’d crimp down some lead to tie the bow so it wouldn’t separate in transit.”
Slice this like a Bundt cake and store the rest in a plastic bag on your countertop to keep it moist. It should last about a week. Serves about 8.
1 cup dried Michigan tart cherries
2 tablespoons orange flower water
4 cups sifted pastry flour
1 scant cup granulated sugar
6 teaspoons baking powder pinch of salt
½ cup pine nuts
½ cup candied citron
½ cup Marsala Dolce wine
½ cup warm milk
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Soak dried cherries in orange flower water for at least 30 minutes before using. Zest and juice the lemon, reserving the zest and juice separately. Pour sifted flour into a large bowl; mix in sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the lemon zest, the soaked cherries (drained and squeezed of excess liquid), pine nuts and candied citron and mix all ingredients together.
In a small bowl, beat egg with wine and 2 teaspoons of the reserved lemon juice.
Next, make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add milk, the egg mixture and melted butter. Mix all ingredients together for some minutes until a dough forms.
Butter a round cake tin. Shape the dough into a round loaf and place it in tin. Make a deep cross cut on the top of the dough and let it rest about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
When ready to bake, take the round of dough out of the buttered pan, place it on the prepared cookie sheet, and bake at 400° for 35–45 minutes, or until golden brown.
Allow to cool before serving.