December 24, 2018 |
Christmas time has come and for Italians around the world this means the time to feast with Panettone has come. Now, Italy has many Christmas sweets and treats, but a slice of Panettone and a glass of prosecco is the classic way for Italians to welcome the festive season. Panettone is a traditional cake-like bread which is very fluffy and stuffed with dried raisins, candied orange and lemon peel.
Although Panettone is now famous all over the world even in non-Italian communities, there is very little known about its true story. In fact, the origins of this delight have been lost over time and the birth of Panettone is linked to many legends.
The most famous one narrates that the Panettone was born at the court of Ludovico il Moro, lord of Milan from the long ruling Sforza family in the fifteenth century. It was Christmas Eve when, on the occasion of the festive banquet the head chef of the Sforza family inadvertently burned a cake. To recover the situation, Toni, the kitchen help who was on duty that day, decided to use a loaf of dough that he had kept aside for Christmas. He worked it adding flour, eggs, raisins, candied fruit and sugar to obtain a particularly leavened and soft dough. The dessert was appreciated so much that the Sforza family decided to call it “pan de Ton” (Toni’s bread), from which the term “Panettone” would then derive in the centuries to come.
Toni’s story is the most famous amongst all the legends surrounding this sweet Christmas treat. For historians the only certainty is, however, that the Panettone was born in the Middle Ages. It is linked to the Christmas tradition of those times, which included the preparation of very rich breads which were then served by the head of the family to the guests as a special treat. The first documented evidence of the existence of Panettone dates back to 1606. At that time the Milan-Italian dictionary mentions a bread baked for Christmas which is called “panaton de danedaa” and contrary to today’s Panettone it was very low and not leavened, similar to the pandolce of Genova. In the nineteenth century the recipe was then perfected and the dessert took the name of “panatton or panatton de Natal”.
The current shape of the Panettone was finally created in the 1920’s, when Angelo Motta, taking inspiration from the kulic, an orthodox dessert that is eaten at Easter, decided to add butter in the recipe to make the dough even more moist and to make it look and taste as it does today. The recipe was then picked up by other big companies such as Bauli, which made the Panettone into the global Italian export that it is today. However, amongst Italians it is considered a treat of higher value to go to one of the many artisanal bakeries such as Pasticceria Cova, Pasticceria Gatullo or Pasticceria San Carlo, who create handcrafted Panettone in small batches according to their own old recipes.
Both together, the industrial and the artisanal Panettone production sell their cakes all over the globe with a total value of almost 600 million Euro.
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