All about Panettone

This typ­i­cal Mi­lanese Christ­mas treat is hav­ing a huge suc­cess. The ori­gins of Panettone – a sym­bol of Made in Italy – date back to an­cient times. It's be­come a trendy treat and, not­with­stand­ing diet fa­nat­ics, it has cap­tured peo­ple through­out the world,

Where Milan - - WHERE NOW FOCUS - By Chiara Zac­carelli

Panettone, the Mi­lanese Christ­mas treat par ex­cel­lence, con­tin­ues to at­tract dis­ci­ples. In fact, it has be­come so pop­u­lar that even the fash­ion world has be­gun to no­tice it. If you're look­ing for a gift for a friend who's pas­sion­ate about fash­ion and food, Dolce & Gab­bana's branded panettone could be just the gift you're look­ing for (see page 12). This panettone, cre­ated in part­ner­ship with the his­toric Si­cil­ian pas­tic­ce­ria Fi­as­conaro, has been re-imag­ined with the flavours of Si­cily and pro­duced in two vari­a­tions: pis­ta­chio and cit­rus fruit with saf­fron. But the real piece de re­sis­tance is the tin box in which it ar­rives. Fea­tur­ing bright colours and a favourite pat­tern of the brand, it is in­spired by the dec­o­ra­tive mo­tifs of the Si­cil­ian cart and the char­ac­ters of the pup­pet theatre, mak­ing it a truly col­lectable item. (www.dol­cegab­bana. it/food). If you pre­fer some­thing a lit­tle more clas­si­cal, and your loy­al­ties lie with King Gior­gio rather than the Si­cil­ian duo, we rec­om­mend Ar­mani Dolci's sig­na­ture panettone. The brand's fes­tive treat comes in an el­e­gant red hat box tied with a match­ing bow and it's avail­able in ei­ther the clas­sic ver­sion or with pears and cho­co­late (www. ar­ An­other fa­mous brand has re­cently paid tribute to her Majesty, the panettone. At the last edi­tion of fash­ion week, Jil Sander hosted her fash­ion show in a for­mer panettone fac­tory. The pas­sion for this leav­ened spe­cialty of Mi­lanese tra­di­tion has ex­tended beyond the con­fines of Italy. Over the past few years, ex­ports of ar­ti­sanal panettone have in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly. In the United States in par­tic­u­lar, where the art of bread mak­ing has be­come a col­lec­tive ma­nia, the coun­try's most fa­mous bak­ers, from New York to San Fran­cisco, are ob­ses­sively com­pet­ing with each other to see who can turn out the per­fect panettone. So what's so spe­cial about this sweet treat made from flour, but­ter, eggs, raisins and can­died fruit, tra­di­tion­ally eaten dur­ing the Christ­mas hol­i­days but now avail­able year-round?

A LIT­TLE HIS­TORY Al­though many le­gends have grown up around the ori­gin of panettone, these are two of the most fa­mous. One tells the story of a ban­quet held at the court of Lu­dovico il Moro on Christ­mas Eve. The dessert that the chefs had planned to serve at the end of the meal was ac­ci­den­tally burnt. In de­spair, the head chef took the ad­vice of his young as­sis­tant Toni, who sug­gested that he serve the cake just the same, jus­ti­fy­ing the burnt crust as an in­te­gral part of the dessert. Hence, the birth of ‘pan del Toni' (Toni's bread) a fore­run­ner of to­day's panettone. An­other le­gend tells the story of Ughetto degli Atel­lani, a Mi­lanese noble­man who was in love with Adal­gisa, the daugh­ter of a baker. Ughetto dis­guised him­self as a baker's boy and pre­pared a sweet bread filled with raisins, can­died or­ange and cit­rus peel. The cake was so good that it won Adal­gisa's heart. Be­tween fact and fic­tion, we do know that a de­cree is­sued

in 1395 per­mit­ted all bak­eries in Mi­lan to make the so-called ‘Pan del ton’ (lux­ury bread in Mi­lanese di­alect) at Christ­mas: a wheat bread that was only ac­ces­si­ble to poorer mem­bers of the com­mu­nity dur­ing the sea­son's fes­tive Christ­mas meal. In the 19th cen­tury, it was fur­ther en­hanced with the ad­di­tion of nour­ish­ing in­gre­di­ents like eggs and sugar. Raisins, on the other hand, were al­ways a sta­ple in­gre­di­ent be­cause, ac­cord­ing to com­mon be­lief, they sym­bol­ize pros­per­ity for the com­ing year. How­ever, panettone as we know it to­day was only man­u­fac­tured in 1919, when Angelo Motta opened his first bak­ery in Mi­lan. Un­til that time, its shape was flat­ter and its dough more com­pact. Motta, the founder of one of Italy's most fa­mous con­fec­tionery brands, rev­o­lu­tion­ized tra­di­tional panettone by adding yeast and more raisins, and won in­stant suc­cess.

THE HALL­MARK TRAITS OF MOD­ERN PANETTONE How is ar­ti­sanal panettone made to­day? Its tan­ta­liz­ing taste is the re­sult of a com­bi­na­tion of prime-qual­ity in­gre­di­ents, fa­natic at­ten­tion to tech­nique and… lots of pa­tience. To make the his­toric dome, it's nec­es­sary to knead the dough, made from flour, nat­u­ral yeast, eggs, but­ter and sugar, sev­eral times. Af­ter com­plet­ing this stage, the dough is en­hanced with the ad­di­tion of raisins and can­died fruit (usu­ally pieces of can­died cit­rus peel). The whole process in­volves three dif­fer­ent stages of leav­en­ing, dur­ing which time the dough is ex­tremely sen­si­tive to tem­per­a­ture and hu­mid­ity. With so many op­tions on of­fer, how do you rec­og­nize an au­then­tic panettone? You might not know that panettone is gov­erned by strict reg­u­la­tions. This clas­sic Christ­mas cake can only be called panettone if it fol­lows cer­tain spec­i­fi­ca­tions, in­clud­ing nat­u­ral fer­men­ta­tion, and the pres­ence of at least 16% but­ter, 4% egg yolks and 20% raisins and can­died fruit. Sim­i­lar cakes, with dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter­is­tics, are not al­lowed to be called panettone, so that the mak­ers re­sort to names like Christ­mas Cake.

LET’S GET CREATIVE Over the years this Christ­mas treat has of­fered en­ter­pris­ing chefs fer­tile ground for a va­ri­ety of culi­nary ex­per­i­men­ta­tions to suit all tastes, al­though this hor­ri­fies the purists. These in­clude ver­sions that are cov­ered with al­mond ic­ing, filled with cho­co­late, made with­out raisins or can­died fruit, in­fused with cho­co­late drops in­stead of raisins or, in more ex­treme cases, flavoured with truf­fles. There are re­gional ver­sions, in­spired by the prod­ucts and tra­di­tions of the ter­roir. In Tre­viso, one of the most pop­u­lar ver­sions in­cludes panettone made with can­died red radic­chio while, in Naples, some bak­ers have even launched “pizza panettone”, a ver­sion filled with sweet ri­cotta, can­died fruit and raisins, topped with sliv­ers of cho­co­late and a sprin­kling of co­coa. An­other Christ­mas favourite is Italy’s gas­tro­nomic panettone, a savoury ver­sion which can be filled with dif­fer­ent types of char­cu­terie, smoked salmon, paté and a va­ri­ety of cheeses. Over the past few years, the range has been ex­tended to in­clude whole wheat, or­ganic or ve­gan ver­sions. Also wor­thy of note are the vari­a­tions on the theme. Ver­gani, a his­toric Mi­lanese pas­tic­ce­ria, of­fers a street food ver­sion. In­stead of the cup or clas­sic brioche, cus­tomers can pur­chase a mini panettone filled with their favourite ice cream fla­vor. At the Ver­gani store in the Porta Ro­mana district, you can also or­der panettone-flavoured ice cream (www.panet­ton­ev­er­ Thanks

to an in­no­va­tive twin­ning be­tween France and Italy, Eclaire de Génie, a French com­pany that has won over the Mi­lanese with its choux pas­try éclairs, also pays tribute to this typ­i­cal Christ­mas spe­cialty. Dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son, its branches, scat­tered across the city, sell éclairs filled with panettone cream, topped with a white cho­co­late ic­ing and dec­o­rated with a sprin­kling of panettone crumbs, can­died fruit and gold flakes (www.leclaird­e­ge­ Lastly if you want to end your Christ­mas lunch on a high note, we rec­om­mend a glass of re­serve Mon­tev­erro grappa with hints of vanilla and panettone (www.mon­tev­

WHERE TO BUY IT But where should you go to taste or bring home au­then­tic ar­ti­sanal Mi­lanese panettone? The city of­fers an ar­ray of orig­i­nal pas­try shops that will not dis­ap­point. Here is our pick of the best ad­dresses. One of the most tra­di­tional is Cova. One of Mi­lan's old­est, most his­toric cof­fee shops, Cova was pa­tron­ized by pa­tri­ots of the Risorg­i­mento. It was here that Giuseppe Verdi and Maria Cal­las drank their cof­fee, and here that Mi­lan's elite and af­flu­ent in­ter­na­tional trav­el­ers now meet for lunch or an aper­i­tivo. In ad­di­tion to a clas­sic panettone, Cova also sells a ver­sion with can­died pineap­ple and a typ­i­cally Mi­lanese ver­sion with saf­fron and raisins soaked in sparkling wine (www.pas­tic­ce­ri­acova. com). Biffi, a main­stay of Mi­lanese pas­tic­ce­ria since 1847, of­fers this typ­i­cal Christ­mas del­i­cacy in its most tra­di­tional ver­sion (www. bif­fi­pas­tic­ce­ An­other his­toric venue, which re­cently cel­e­brated 80 years in the in­dus­try, is Cuc­chi, in Corso Gen­ova. Here, you can find panettone year-round and, al­though Cuc­chi favours the clas­sic recipe, other must-trys in­clude the ver­sions with can­died ap­ples or cin­na­mon or can­died pears and cin­na­mon (www.pas­tic­ce­ri­acuc­ For the past thirty years, Sant’Am­broeus, in corso Mat­teotti, has de­lighted the palates of the Mi­lanese. In ad­di­tion to the tra­di­tional recipe, it also of­fers madeto-or­der panet­toni, filled with spe­cial creams and gar­nished with fes­tive dec­o­ra­tions (www. san­tam­broeusmi­ If you're look­ing for an el­e­gant, beau­ti­fully wrapped panettone, head to March­esi 1824. It's not only to­tally ir­re­sistible (see page 54), but it comes in a pre­cious vel­vet, silk lined box (www.pas­tic­ce­riamarch­ Lo­cated just a short dis­tance from the Navigli, an­other go-to pas­try shop is Gat­tullo, a his­toric ad­dress for Mi­lanese panettone, also avail­able in the ‘del Sul­tano' ver­sion, with dates and wal­nuts (www.gat­ Ger­man born, Mi­lanese choco­latier and Bake-Off Italia judge Ernst Knam is renowned for his su­perla­tive ren­di­tion of Mi­lan's Christ­mas treat. His ver­sion in­cludes a clas­sic base, en­hanced with sliv­ers of cho­co­late or pears and cho­co­late. Knam also pays tribute to his coun­try of ori­gin with a Christ­mas Stollen, a type of Ger­man panettone made with marzi­pan, lemon and rum (www.ek­ At the Mi­lanese head­quar­ters of Eataly, in pi­azza 25 Aprile, you'll be spoilt for choice. Here, you'll find all shapes and forms of ar­ti­sanal panettone and pan­doro, sourced from small pro­duc­ers ( If, on the other hand, you pre­fer savoury to sweet, your go-to ad­dresses are Lorini, a charm­ing bak­ery lo­cated just steps from Porta Venezia (www.pas­tic­ce­ri­alorini-mi­, or pas­tic­ce­ria Panz­era near the Cen­tral Sta­tion (www.panz­erami­

The Panet­toni by T’a Mi­lano, the brand of ar­ti­sanal choco­lates and pas­tries founded by the Ale­magna broth­ers, are made ac­cord­ing to an an­cient fam­ily recipe, us­ing only nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents. Avail­able in the clas­sic ver­sion, with pears and choco­lates, with­out can­died fruit or in the new all cho­co­late ver­sion. T’a Mi­lano

Chiara Zac­carelli Travel Edi­tor Where® Italia

Dolce & Gab­bana

Cova Pas­tic­ce­ria

Peck Peck, Mi­lan’s tem­ple of taste, also of­fers a tra­di­tional ver­sion of panettone. The dough is pro­cessed for 72 hours be­fore be­ing baked and only prime­qual­ity in­gre­di­ents, in­clud­ing stone-ground wheat germ, Bour­bon vanilla beans from Mada­gas­car, can­died or­ange peel and Tus­can aca­cia honey are used. In ad­di­tion to the above, they also do sev­eral re-imag­ined ver­sions.

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