A slice of this fantastic sweet-stuffed bread and a flute of sweet wine it’s the traditional way to celebrate this time of the year in many Italian homes. This traditional Christmas sweet bread has been considered a homegrown, Lombard speciality since the 19th century.
The tradition of consuming large sweet bread at Christmas dates back to ancient origins: since 1395 all the ovens in Milan were allowed to bake wheat bread, which was then used for this celebration. Making panettone is not for the novice cook, that is why most of us buy it pre-made. It is a long process, taking up to a week to make a traditional one. The original recipe contains candied orange, lemon zest and raisins. Nowadays, it comes in many varieties plain and chocolate being the two most popular. In some regions of Italy, it is served with mascarpone cream, made with mascarpone, eggs, candied fruits and a sweet liqueur, to give this delicious sauce a special “kick”. But what’s the story behind the name “panettone“?
It can be explained in many singular stories, one of them says that the person who invented panettone was the Milanese nobleman Ughetto degli Atellani who lived in the 13th Century. He fell in love with a girl named Adalgisa, the daughter of a poor baker named Toni (remember this, it’s important). To win her love, the nobleman got a job in the bakery (no one knew he was a nobleman) and invented a rich bread with butter, eggs, raisins, and candied peel. After tasting it, the duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro Sforza, launched a new cake-like bread: pan del Ton (pan-et-ton(e), or Toni’s bread.
At its best, panettone combines the moistness of a cake with the texture of a, particularly delicate bread. You can’t miss having a slice of this traditional sweet bread if you decide to celebrate Christmas the Italian way.
And now, some interesting facts about panettone:
-Italians consume an estimated two-and-a-half panettone (5.5 pounds) per family per year.
-The first time that the word panettone was included in the dictionary was in 1606 and more precisely we refer to the Milanese-Italian glossary.
-The world most expensive panettone worth 80,000 euros (£72,000) and was made by an Italian pastry chef for a billionaire Russian businessman. This panettone is so expensive because it was decorated with golden leaves and diamonds.
-The world’s largest panettone, weighing in at a hefty 332,20 kilograms (732 lb) and towering 1.5 meters tall, was prepared by master chocolatier Davide Comaschi and a team of six from the Chocolate Academy Centre. The Guinness World Records certified that this panettone as the largest ever made.
–Panettone is hung upside down after baking until it cools down. This prevents the bread from falling in on itself and keeps it soft and fluffy.
-It is protected by law to prevent frauds and fakes products (hundreds) around the world.
-It must be made with natural yeast.
-The saffron-yellow colour you can see in the panettone (especially when still to bake) comes from the butter in it. A lot, of butter.
-The “scoring”, in the top of each panettone it’s important to let rise it properly and a way to bless the bread.