A slice of Panettone and a glass of bubbly (either Prosecco or Moscato), and you know that the Christmas season is right upon you. Even the most adverse person to Christmas festivities will not give up on a slice of this moist and delightful cake.
From legend to history
Like many other food and traditions, the Christmas cake could be an ancient Roman invention, as they used to bake a soft bread sweetened with honey.
However, the history of how this deliciously sweet loaf was born is wrapped around several legends, all going back to Renaissance times.
Nonetheless, the most popular took place at the Castle of the Duke of Milan: Ludovico il Moro.
While the cook was preparing Christmas dinner for the Duke and its noble guests, he forgot the cake in the oven and burnt it. The young kitchen helper tried to help by mixing leftover from the pantry: flour, eggs, sugar, butter, citrus peel, and raisin. The result was a delicious, soft, and sweet cake that won all the guest’s palate.
When the Duke and its invitees asked the name of the delicious pastry they had, the cook said: “El pan de Toni” (Tony’s bread). And from “pan de Toni,” a legendary cake was born: Panettone.
But it was only in 1919 that Panettone became widely available in Italy, thanks to Angelo Motta that started producing it on a large scale.
Furthermore, he introduced the triple leaving, giving the cake the tall dome shape. A few years later, his competitor Gioacchino Alemagna adapted the recipe, turning the artisanal sweet bread into industrial production.
Panettone became cheaper, allowing everyone to have one on the table for Christmas in Italy and to all those Italians who started seeking a new life in other countries worldwide.
Today majorities of bakeries and pastry shops still take pride in making their masterpieces and personalizing them. Instead of regular candied fruits, you can find the most luxurious creams such as chocolate or pistachio or even limoncello cream, or a combination of chocolates and fruits such as white chocolate and pears, or chocolates and cherries. The options are endless!
The whole process is very long but necessary to get top results, and all ingredients must be of excellent quality.
Instead of regular baking powder, “Mother Yeast” is used to get the typical fluffy and texture, with a tanginess hint. But the critical step is refreshing the dough every 12 hours, for at least two times, if not three, before getting it to the oven.
No wonder the price for a hand-made Panettone will start at about € 25 compared to an industrial one at around € 5, but it will be worth it.
Do you want to know a few more curiosities about it?
- Panettone takes three whole days to make. Mixing, leaving, baking, and resting.
- When Panettone has finished baking, it is flipped upside down to prevent the top from falling and keeping its fluffiness. Some bakery hangs them down on a rack, and some others have unique baskets.
- Every year for Christmas, Italian factories and bakeries produce around 120 million Panettone and Pandoro. Just a little bit less than 600 million Euros.
- The most expensive Panettone was made in 2017 under the specific request of a Russian billionaire. The Italian Pastry chef, Dario Hartvig, topped it with edible gold leaf and a crown of diamonds and sold it for $ 90,000
- December 2018: Panettone enters the World Guinness Record. Pastry Chef Davide Comaschi with six people prepared the largest Panettone ever: 332,20 kg (732 lbs). The huge Christmas cake took about 100 hours of work.
Check out the amazing ingredients list:
49.5 kg flour, 37.8kg butter, 25.2 kg of sugar, 25 kg dark chocolate, 22.5 kg raisins, 22.5 kg candied orange, 22.5 liters water, 18 kg egg yolks, 15 kg cream, 7 kg ruby chocolate, 5.1 kg honey, 2 kg white chocolate, 810 g salt, 540 g natural orange flavor, 360 g natural lemon aroma, 225 g vanilla!
Make your Christmas a little exotic this year!
Search for a Panettone to share with your friends and family.
If you cannot find it in your nearest store, there are plenty of websites from which you can get it.
A slice in one hand, a glass of bubbly in the other, and BUON NATALE! (in real Italian style).