The story of Italian panettone. Original recipe and variations
We Italians like to spend Christmas respecting the traditions and among these, there are undoubtedly culinary traditions. Who doesn’t eat at least a piece of Italian panettone during the Christmas holidays? Probably almost nobody, unless you suffer from some food intolerance. But now there are many variants of panettone:
• vegan panettone,
• panettone for celiacs,
• panettone for those who are allergic to lactose.
Many cakes and desserts that have little in common with the traditional panettone recipe are also called with this name. There is a company, Hiromi Cake, which has various stores in the main Italian towns and has combined the Italian art of panettone with traditional Japanese pastry. In this way they managed to create a panettone that leavened for about 36 hours, enriched with Japanese aromas and flavors and called Matcha Tea, apricot and yuzu.
Origin of Italian panettone
The panettone is originally from Milan and the most famous companies that produce it are in northern Italy’s towns, especially in Turin and Verona. Within a 1599 register of the expenses of the Borromeo college of Pavia, there’s the oldest and most reliable attestation of a “Christmas bread” produced with butter, raisins, and spices.
Some narrate that Messer Ulivo degli Atellani, falconer of the Contrada delle Grazie in Milan, in love with the daughter of a baker named Algisa, got hired by her father and tried to invent this dessert to win the girl’s heart.
Another story is about a chef in the service of Ludovico il Moro who, on the occasion of the preparation of a Christmas dinner, forgot the cake in the oven and burnt it. A hustler proposed to bring guests a sweet bread which he had prepared by using what was left in the pantry. Given the success of the dessert, the duke asked what it was called and the cook replied: “L’è ‘l pan del Toni” – it’s Toni’s bread, from which the name would derive.
What’s the difference between artisan and industrial panettone?
Artisan panettone is produced in limited quantities by small companies. The raw materials used are of high quality, the processing is very accurate and not standardized, therefore it allows variations of the recipe. Besides, no brewer’s yeast is used to speed up the preparation process and there are no preservatives, in fact, the deadline is short enough.
The industrial panettone, on the other hand, is produced by large companies in large quantities and sold in supermarkets. In the industries, specialists are consulted to experiment with the ingredients, to control the temperature and humidity and to check the pH level of the mother yeast strains. The unforeseen events in this process are canceled and the products produced are almost all identical.
The cost of industrial panettone varies according to the brand but is generally less than 5 euros per kg. The artisan panettone has a cost between 15 and 25 euros per kg.
The ingredients of the traditional Italian panettone recipe
You love Italian food and you’d like to know what the ingredients of artisan panettone are? To make a classic panettone it takes:
- candied citrus peel,
- natural yeast consisting of sourdough,
In the artisan panettone, various other ingredients can be added and the processing must last at least 30 hours. After mixing the natural yeast, with part of the ingredients the leavening takes place followed by a re-mixing with the other ingredients. It’s divided into the quantities necessary for each piece poured into the paper molds and after further leavening, it is put into the oven. The panettones are turned upside down after cooking so that they retain the rounded shape and are left to cool for about 10-12 hours.
The success of the Bompiani’s Italian panettone
There are many famous Italian companies that produce traditional panettones, such as Antico Forno Roscioli, Bonci, Bompiani and De Bellis. These were the protagonists of an event that took place in Rome at the Bistrot Cafeteria of the Chiostro del Bramante, entitled “Artistic Panettones – Panettoni a Regola D’Arte”. The title plays on the combination of art and panettone because, in the two days of 7 and 8 December 2019, those who bought the ticket to visit the exhibition inside the Chiostro del Bramante Museum could taste at the Cafeteria a selection of the best panettone produced by these four masters Roman pastry and bakery.
The special ingredients of Bompiani panettone are:
- Pamplie butter, highly prized quality of the Loire, obtained by whipping, without spinning and organic eggs of Italian origin;
- Molino Dallagiovanna flour;
- high-quality aromas in large quantities such as Raiatea Grancru vanilla produced in Polynesia (Thaitienne) by Alain Abel, candied 10×10 caliber orange, cedar, lemon produced by small companies in southern Italy.
You can hear the story of Italian panettone and my interview with Bompiani company’s leader Walter Musco in the podcast https://www.spreaker.com/user/senzabarcode/il-panettone-italiano published Thursday 12 December 2019 on the Webradio SenzaBarcode.