Panettone – only available at this time of year.
A traditional Italian Festive treat, panettone is a tall, sweet, leavened bread. Originally eaten in Milan, it has become a widespread symbol of an Italian Christmas. It has since been available all over Europe and further afield. Some mass produced panettone have put many people off – somewhat on the dry side and not a great texture. However, when made with care, by an artisan baker, using the lievito Madre (starter culture), sometimes taking up to 36 hours, the texture and flavour is a revelation. Traditionally made with dried fruits, sometimes soaked in alcohol, the bready mixture cannot be compared directly with bread as for ever kilo of flour, up to a kilo of butter is added. It is therefore a cross between a light and fluffy cake and a moist bread.
Since the original panettone, bakers have experimented with a variety of flavours. Some substitute the dried fruit with chocolate, some add vin Santo, apricots, apricot cream, add a topping of icing and roast almonds, some add grappa or a grappa cream.
They are an enormous treat and many Italians like to take one to a friend or relatives house at Christmas as a festive gift. They are usually wrapped in beautiful, extravagant paper or packaging in colourful tins and boxes. Giving one really is a statement of generosity and good will. This tradition dates back to the 14th or 15th centuries, when what was in short supply and was seen as a luxury. Bakeries would only make panettone and wheat products at Christmas (the rest of the year they used oats and spelt). Giving a bakery item made of wheat was considered a huge luxury.
We absolutely love panettone and try many every year, to make sure we get the most delicious for our deli customers. It’s worth visiting the deli just to see the range of gorgeous packaging!
If you’d like to read more about panettone, visit the BBC Travel website here.