Culture, Mediterranean lifestyle


Beautifully packaged, the original “luxury cake” prepared only for religious celebrations is eagerly awaited by all. Giving away this delicacy is not just a gesture of kindness, but a traditional ritual across the country. During the “season”, from the end of September into December, thousands of Panettones of various varieties emerge from home ovens and bakeries. A traditional Panettone is a time-consuming process, which is why it’s rightfully more expensive than most other baked goods.

Instantly recognizable by its tall, domed shape, Panettone is actually more of a flavored bread than a cake. Its sweet, fluffy dough is peppered with candied fruit and raisins, and if you think it’s just a wrapped cake, you’ve never tasted a quality Panettone. All over Italy, bakers spend years perfecting their recipe, while the rules of preparation remain strict. To be labeled as such, a Panettone must consist of at least 20 percent candied fruit, 16 percent butter, and at least four percent eggs. Raisins are added for good wishes as they are known to bring luck and fortune.

In addition, its history is also a mixture of legend and fact. How and when it originated is still a matter of debate as the ancient Romans enjoyed a bread sweetened with egg and raisins called panem triticum. One of the traditions goes back to a young man named Ulivo degli Atellani who tried to win the heart of his beloved Adalgisa. Since it was a baker’s daughter, he decided to work for the baker and created a yeast dough from flour, eggs, honey, sugar, butter, candied fruit and sultanas to prove his great love for her. The venture was successful and she not only fell in love with Panettone, but also with him.


Another story says that its origin dates back to 1495. During the luxurious Christmas banquet of Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, dessert burned in the kitchen and the court chef had nothing to serve. A young assistant cook named Toni than stepped in. He mixed any leftovers with sugar, egg, candied fruit and raisins and conjured up a rich brioche bread. The Duke loved it so much that the tradition “il pan de Toni” (Toni’s bread) was born and henceforth declared the official Christmas dessert called Panettone.

Read the full article in Issue 21

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