In Season: Delizioso Panettone
by Robert Veitch
As the seasons change and the chill of winter begins to bite, it’s time to enjoy a slice of Continental heaven in the form of Pannetone.
In my youthful ignorant days, I concluded ‘panna toni’ was some form of pasta, the ‘in thing’ to cook when keen to impress a lady friend. Unsurprisingly the romance failed, but my fondness for the Italian dome shaped sweet bread remains.
The translation of the word is simple; it’s a large cake.
The Romans sweetened bread with honey and during the following millennia this maintained a limited popularity. But pannetone as we know it today only became popular when two Milanese bakers, Angelo Motta and Gioacchino Alemagna got their fingers into the mixing bowl around 1920. They developed a dough with additional ingredients to sweeten it: orange, lemon, raisins and sometimes chocolate. The dough was raised three times, for almost 20 hours, creating a light and fluffy texture. Competition between the bakers improved quality and reduced cost. Consumption increased, particularly around Christmastime.
As Italians have migrated around the globe, they’ve taken their cake with them and over 110 million pannetone are baked annually. The traditional way to eat it is with sweet drinks, or with a cream sauce made from mascarpone cheese and eggs. ‘Gusti favolosi’ as the Milanese might say.
So if you want to treat the ‘bella donna’ or the ‘splendido maschio’ in your life, (avoid the pasta) a slice of pannetone may be all it takes to bring a smile to their face.