Winter solstice sweet bread

 

As well as all the traditional dishes prepared for Lent, Veneto is also famous for its pan conzà and soft nadalin, two star-shaped sweet breads made with the finest flour combined with eggs and sugar. These are usually savoured dipped in wine, not necessarily a sweet one.

Although nowadays pandoro is much more renowned, pan conzà and nadalin have an ancient tradition, and are more similar to other cakes and sweet breads made in Italy at Christmas time, such as panettone, panforte and spongata. Similar breads are also made in other European countries, e.g. barm brack, the traditional Stollen bread from Germany or the French pain de Calandre. All these sweet breads were made for the winter solstice (and later on, to celebrate Christmas), and soon became a symbol of this festive time, together with Christmas trees, holly and mistletoe. Flour, dry fruit and honey were use to make a bread that would then be offered and eaten, wishing everyone a new season of fortune and prosperity.

All the members of the family were involved in the making of this bread, which was then consumed after returning from mass. The eldest member had the honour of cutting the bread, and the first slice was destined to the first pauper who would knock at their door.

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