The Italian Panettone

There wasn’t Christmas without PANETTONE

In short, it’s not my favourite dessert. I prefer creams, puddings, ice cream or simple cakes. I’m pretty horrified by that brown dome full of butter, eggs and candied fruits; I have always considered it indigestible… simply too much. I make an exception only when I’m sure about its quality.

But when I was a child in Milano, it was different: there wasn’t Christmas without PANETTONE. Motta and Alemagna were still symbols of the city; the best pastry shops like Cova, Cucchi, Marchesi and Sant’Ambroeus, just to name a few ones, baked the most fragrant and unreachable panettoni, in a never-ending friendly competition.

Over the years this leavened cake had countless transformations. The confectionary industry took possession of its receipt, coating and stuffing it with improbable creams, which are light years away from the tradition, but also, let’s face it, mostly unpalatable and suspicious, considering their low prices.

All over Italy patisseries have tried to develop the original recipe exploring new solutions, but at the end only high quality ingredients have been rewarded. It’s no coincidence that Massari, the famous pastry chef from Brescia, sold out again this year: his web site was already on tilt on November the 25th, because of the huge amount of orders received and now… well, you can just be patient and get in line at 6 am outside his elegant shop in via Salvo D’Acquisto to try to get one. Hoping it doesn’t start snowing!

"Star chefs and aspirating ones successfully tested many variations"

The Italian Panettone

The Italian panettone

All over Italy patisseries have tried to develop the original recipe

Star chefs and aspirating ones successfully tested many variations: from the disjointed version to the vase-baked one: in other words, a glass of panettone. Food bloggers first sailed the seas of innovation and experimentation, then landed to the quiet beaches of candied fruit, raisins, sourdough and biblical rising times. Everybody says a home made panettone is not prohibitive nor difficult to bake, but, just in case, I prefer to leave it to more expert hands.

Recently there were debates, competitions and many articles, interviews and TV shows looking for the best panettone and pastry chef of Italy: someone capable to give the final version of this famous cake. According to these investigations, last year the best panettoni were baked in Potenza, Salerno and Grottaglie, while Milano’s rankings were pretty low, without considering that this cake is one of the few products to boast of the De.Co. (Municipal Denomination) of Milano, along with ossobuco, the famous sliced veal shank. This year’s prizes go to Gabicce Mare and Taranto.

And even Sardinia has something to say! It’s not a joke: there’s Stefano Pibi from PBread Natural Bakery with its limited edition gourmet cake in which we can find goat cheese, candied pompìa (a big and pretty rare Sardinian citrus) and the fragrant Dop saffron from San Gavino. A very special version, respectful of the traditional proceedings, but surprising for its taste. Maybe it could even make me change my mind.

Anyway there’s no doubt that the panettone is living a moment of glory: it seems that even Londoners prefer it to the famous Christmas pudding. But attention: they want it stuffed and glazed and they are willing to pay more or less 30 euro per kilo, accompanying it with a glass of Prosecco, another made in Italy product particularly appreciated across the Channel.

Cristiana Grassi aka Orata Spensierata