It is almost impossible to ignore the big blue and red boxes in the supermarket during the holidays. The Italian Panettone has nestled itself forever on the shelves. If you've ever been tempted to take a Panettone home, you'll most likely, like me, have been a little disappointed.
What is the origin of the recipe for panettone?
Panettone di Milanese and its little brother Pandoro from Verona are not so much a delicacy as a tradition. Their origins, dating back to the early Middle Ages, are the subject of many stories: from the poor nun who receives a visit from the bishop and who tosses everything she has into a pan, the nobleman who fell in love with the baker's daughter, to the master chef at the Milanese court of Duke Ludevico who had to invent something new. The same type of stories as are known about other traditional recipes.
Panettone, buy or make one yourself?
The original cone-shaped Panettone takes a lot of time to make, as the essential part of the dish is the use of home-grown natural yeast. The ingredients are not earth-shattering, such as flour, eggs, milk, butter, raisins and lemon and orange peel, and sometimes cocoa.
Anna del Conte, my absolute top Italian foodie, says in her standard work 'The Gastronomy of Italy' that she prefers to buy an ordinary Panettone at Christmas and then make a pudding with what is left after the holidays. Recipes for leftover Panettone are plentiful, which strengthens my suspicion that this Christmas bread gets better the more you turn it into something else.
Verona has its own version, the Pandoro
Pandoro, the golden bread of Verona is baked in a star-shaped baking tin. Just like Panettone, it is rarely made at home. The ingredients are flour, butter, eggs and yeast. The cake is covered with a solid layer of powdered sugar.
Panettone and Pandoro are often eaten with a dot of mascarpone on top, or toasted and then served with a dash of hot chocolate sauce, with fruit or after dinner next to a good glass of dessert wine. But more often it is eaten separately with a glass of spumante or prosecco.
Where can you buy a panettone?
If you prefer an artisanal panettone go and have a look for an Italian caterer or Italian food stores near you.
Order Panettone online at Vergani.