The secret of a traditional panettone lies in its elaborate and loving preparation. From the dough, to baking and drying, to the finished product in the store, it takes a good 48 hours.
Origin, history and origin of the popular Christmas cake
Every year, Christmas is just around the corner, and in addition to the traditional hearty holiday dishes, sweet pastries are also a must. In addition to cookies, there is often also a Christmas cake, such as a stollen with candied fruits and raisins, which is probably familiar to most people. But for those who want to treat themselves to a very special Christmas treat, there is Panettone, which comes from Italy.
In this post, we will reveal all the secrets of this special and lovingly handmade delicacy and why it is so popular not only in Italy but around the world. We take a close look at the origin, history and specialities of the preparation of the panettone and take you on a culinary feast.
What is Panettone and what is special about this pastry from Italy?
Panettone is a lofty sweet bread with raisins and citrus fruits and a soft, buttery texture. The Christmas cake comes traditionally from Milan and is a registered trademark in the Chamber of Commerce. As a result, both the production and the ingredients are subject to precise prescribed guidelines (Disciplinare di produzione del ‘Panettone tipico della Tradition artigiana Milanese‘).
The unique wheat sourdough, the raw materials and production of which must necessarily originate in Italy, is particularly noteworthy. It requires a particularly long fermentation period and thus retains its unique flavour.
Panettone is mainly offered and enjoyed as a traditional Christmas cake or on special occasions.
Italian food manufacturers and bakeries produce 117 million panettones and Pandora cakes each year at Christmas with a total value of € 579 million.
Since 2013, Milan has hosted an annual event to taste and award the best traditional panettone in Italy. Panettone is also becoming increasingly popular in Switzerland as a Christmas cake and as a delicious pastry for special occasions in general.
The history of traditional Italian Christmas cake
The origin dates back to 1495. During a Christmas banquet of the Duke of Milan, the dessert was burned by the chef. A young chef named Toni reacted quickly and offered his homemade bread filled with raisins and candied fruit as a substitute. The Duke and his guests were delighted and the bread received the name ‘Pane di Toni’ = panettone (Toni’s bread).
Later, in 1821, the panettone became a symbol of freedom in Italy. Red candied cherries and green-coloured citrus fruits replaced the raisins and fruits, creating the red-white-green Italian flag. A Christmas bread with an extraordinary story and, if done right, an equally extraordinary flavour.
Nowadays, in December, you can find a variety of beautifully packaged versions of this tall, round cake all over Italy and even in ordinary grocery stores.
Three days of manual labour in the bakery: the elaborate production of panettone
The secret of a traditional panettone lies in its elaborate and loving preparation. From the dough, through baking and drying, to the finished product in the store, it takes a good 72 hours.
Probably the most complex and challenging part is the dough, which is only provided with selected ingredients and has to undergo a lengthy fermentation process. The pre-dough is mixed with a special mother yeast (lievito madre), which gives the dough its unique and spicy flavour.
In the first run, the dough needs 12 to 14 hours in the fermentation oven to be processed further. In the next step, the second dough is added. This is made by hand in spherical shapes using a special technique (pirlare in Italian). The bales of dough are carefully placed in the classic Panettone paper moulds (Pirrotino). Then ferment the dough balls in the Pirrotini mould for another 6 to 8 hours to continue fermenting. This fermentation gives the panettone an airy texture and more flavour.
When the dough has risen to the edge of the paper mould, a cross is cut into the dough. This step is called scarpatura and it is typical of the Milanese panettone. Place a butter ball the size of a walnut in the middle of the dough cross. The butter helps to make the panettone rise nicely and give it a round shape. The butter also prevents the formation of a crust in the dough cuts and burning during baking. When the fresh panettone comes out of the oven, it is skewered and placed in a holder. The panettone is then turned upside down and allowed to cool for 24 hours. If you didn’t turn the panettone upside down, it would collapse. This is the only way the panettone gets its typical shape.
Making a classic panettone from Verona is a very complex process.
It takes a good 72 hours from the dough, through baking and drying to the finished product, which is available in the store.
What is Lievito madre?
Lievito madre (lievito means ‘yeast’) is a naturally mild sourdough that is widely used in Italy. It is appreciated both for its active character, its mild flavour profile (not too sour) and its ability to acidify doughs enriched with eggs and milk.
Lievito Madre is a spontaneously fermented dough in which bacteria and lactic acid bacteria develop naturally: a yeast with very special properties, ideal for the preparation of ciabatta, pizza and focaccia as well as panettone. The aroma is unadulterated and cannot be bought anywhere in its originality with this complex fine acidic aroma. Advantages of this mother yeast are the dough stability, the open-pored, soft crumb and the fine aroma and easy to digest.
Lievito Madre is said to have originated during a flood of the Nile in Egypt. Whole loads of flour were submerged. To save the flour, fresh flour was added again and again. Suddenly, the Egyptians noticed that the flour could now be used to bake an excellent bread Lievito Madre was born.
In Panettone, this yeast is at the heart of the dough, bringing it to life. The Lievito Madre is often over 70 years old. This is what makes the original Italian panettone so unique and gives the dough its unique fluffy consistency and mild sour taste.
A brief introduction to the original Milan panettone recipe
For an original Milanese panettone, traditional bakeries only use ‘Lievito Madre,’ known as mother’s yeast, which is often over 70 years old. In addition to flour, sugar, salt, egg yolk, butter, candied oranges and raisins are added for the original panettone recipe. In addition to the classic variant with raisins and candied fruits, there are always newer creations, which are prepared with olive oil, candied fruits or even chocolate.
It should also be emphasised that only natural ingredients are used in traditional panettone and no preservatives.
PANETTONE VS. PANDORO: DIFFERENCE AND TASTE OF ITALIAN DESSERTS
Maybe you’ve already heard of Pandoro when you’ve been looking for recipes for the panettone. The Pandoro is another variation of the Christmas cake. Both are delicious Italian sweet breads, but they are made in different ways and come from different places. Panettone originates from Milan, while Pandora originates from Verona.
Producing a panettone is much more time-consuming than making a Pandoro. To make the dough so airy and fluffy, it takes many hours, sensitivity and handwork. It is filled with raisins, candied oranges, lemons and lemon peel.
Pandoro – also known as golden bread – is much easier to make. It is a sweet bread that is only enriched with butter, eggs and sugar and dusted with icing sugar. It does not contain raisins or candied fruit. It also differs in its shape, which resembles an eight-pointed star, while the panettone has a cylindrical shape.
A LOOK BEHIND THE SCENES INTO THE BAKERY OF DI BENNARDO IN VERONA
The bakery of our Panettone is located in Verona, the big city in north-eastern Italy. The city is not only known as the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but also for its traditional delicacies.
The family business
The family business attaches particular importance to the traditional production of panettone. For the production, high-quality and local ingredients are used to give the Italian Christmas cake its delicious flavour. According to the baking tradition, the dough is kept for 48 hours. The master bakers create our soft, juicy panettone without any preservatives using our own yeast ‘Lievito Madre,’ which melts on the tongue like the finest butter.
You can buy the lightest and tastiest panettone in Switzerland from us in our online shop. As our panettone is made exclusively from the finest fresh ingredients and contains no artificial preservatives, it has a shelf life of ‘only’ 40 days when packaged. Once opened, it should be consumed within a week.
Frequently asked questions
1st WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT PANETTONE?
The special thing about Panettone is its unique recipe and the elaborate production process. The complex process of cementing the dough in combination with manual processing and subsequent overhead positioning gives the dough its butter-soft and fluffy consistency. In addition, a very special mother’s yeast is used for the dough, which is often up to 70 years old.
2. HOW IS PANETTONE MADE?
Panettone takes three days to produce. For this purpose, the sourdough is first applied, which is then further processed with an elaborate process of fermentation and careful manual work. To make the dough particularly airy, the dough must be kneaded several times using a certain technique and stored overhead. Finally, the panettone receives its finishing touch by cutting it by hand with a knife and baking it to the end with a piece of butter.
3rd WHY DO YOU GIVE PANETTONE AS A GIFT?
Unlike traditional Christmas cakes, Christmas cake is a culinary delicacy of great value. It is mainly enjoyed during the Christmas period. It is also often given as a traditional, special Christmas cake.
4 HOW LONG DOES PANETTONE KEEP FOR?
Panettone has a shelf life of up to 40 days when packaged. As it is traditionally made using only natural ingredients and no artificial preservatives, it should be eaten within a week after opening.
5. WHAT IS THE RIGHT WAY TO EAT PANETTONE?
Christmas cake is usually served in slices and combined with hot soft drinks such as cocoa or with sweet wine. Many people just eat it with creamy butter. In some parts of Italy, this is served ‘crema di mascarpone,’ made from mascarpone, eggs and a liqueur such as amaretto. Or with our delicious pistachio cream.
ENJOY A PANETTONE AT CHRISTMAS: ORDER NOW IN THE DI BENNARDO ONLINE SHOP!
Treat yourself to this delicious Italian baking speciality this Christmas. In terms of taste, elaborate production and exquisite raw materials, Panettone is one of the best that can come from a bakery. Creamy buttery, spicy and fruity, light and airy – a feast for the senses. Order our traditional Panettone now in our online shop.
Our Panettone is also perfect as a Christmas gift for your family and friends or as a company present for colleagues and supervisors. Buy our Panettone in the shop now!