In Italy it wouldn’t be Christmas without this traditional sweet breadcake!
A peace of panettone and a prosecco flute is the true Italian way to wish a happy Christmas holidays.
The ancient recipe created in Milan at the time of “Ludovico Il Moro” (1480) still remains unchanged: yeast, flour, sugar, butter, eggs, raisins and candied fruits. Panettone litterally means large loaf of bread. Its true origin dates back to the Middle Ages, when this “bread of luxury” was allowed to be tasted only on the Christmas Eve. Some ancient documents report that on the night of 24th December three large loaves of wheat, symbolizing the Trinity, were used to be brought to the table. This bread was not that of everyday, but of superior quality sweatened with the honey. The loaves were served to diners starting from the family man and the last slice was conserved until the following year or Epiphany as a sign of continuity.
There are several legends about the panettone origins and two of them might be plausible.
Let’s go back to the court of Ludovico il Moro. The traditional panettone pie was invented by Toni, a young helper of a chef in the kitchen of a noble family. On Christmas Eve, the court chef burned by mistake the pie he had prepared for the feast and had no dessert to offer. Toni had no other options than prepare something using everything he had available at the moment. So, to a piece of dough, he added everything he found in the kitchen (candied fruits and raisins, flour and eggs) and baked it into a cylindrical shape. Having no other choice, the chef decided to serve the baked dessert and wait the reaction of the guests hidden behind a door. The guests enjoyed it so much that the chef was called out and asked the name of such heavenly dessert none ever tasted before. He replied Pan del Toni that literally means Toni’s bread.
Another legend tells about a young falconer, Messer Ulivo degli Atellani, who lived in the Contrada delle Grazie in Milan. In love with Algisa, the beautiful daughter of a baker, he was hired by her father as a helper and, in order to increase the sales, he tried to invent a new dessert: with the best flour from the mill he kneaded eggs, butter, honey, candied fruits and raisins. Then he baked. It was such an amazing success that Algisa married him and everyone in the city wished to taste the new bread.
Just after the end of World War I, the panettone became widely known thanks to a young Milanese baker, Angelo Motta, who gave his name to one of Italy’s now best-known brands.
Motta revolutionized the traditional way of preparing panettone, making the dough rise three times before cooking and givinig it the classic domed shape. Another popular brand in the production of panetone is considered to be Vergani that since 1944 has followed the ancient recipe and tradition in the preparation of pie while maintaining the original taste.
Nowadays the Panettone remains for Milan a Christmas symbol but the traditional dough recipe has been enriched with the selection of extra fillings and flavors.
Taste a slice of hand-made artisanal Panettone then! 🙂