Panettone, the Sicilian Way
Updated: Feb 20, 2021
Buone Feste Tutti! (Happy Holidays Everyone!)
We are so happy to announce……. We have partnered with world renowned Sicilian bakery Fiasconaro to bring Panettone to the US, and in particular West Michigan! We know what you’re probably thinking: “what the heck is Panettone?” In this blog we’ll explore its origins, how it became Sicilian, and how to properly eat it.
What is Panettone?
Some call it Christmas cake or sweet bread — Italians call it bread, end of story. Panettone (pronounced pan-eh-tone-ay; the plural, by the way, is panettoni) is Italy's beloved Christmas cake steeped in legend. Golden-colored, puffy and soft, it’s shaped like a mushroom cap and embossed with a festive cross motive on it. Traditionally, the outer surface is darker, slightly burned, with raisins and other dried fruit sticking out of it. As panettone became a national delicacy, bakeries from across Italy added local products and regional flavors, making truly unique adaptations. For Italians, a Christmas without Panettone is like Christmas without presents, or candy canes, or the movie elf. It’s that important.
The Legend of Panettone
Legend has it that one cold Christmas Eve back in the 1400s, at the castle of the local Sforza ruling family, a baker’s boy named Toni was preparing bread for dinner. But despite the joyous celebrations he wasn’t in the mood to party. Toni was sad and distracted as his girlfriend had just dumped him, so in an involuntary gesture he dropped eggs, sugar and raisins into the dough. The bread, instead of being salty, turned out to be sweet, but it was already late, and he had no time to make another one. “In a desperate move, he served it and luckily for him the ruler and his guests loved it: that’s how Toni’s bread – ‘il pan de Toni’ in Italian – came to be,” says Massaro.
There’s also another simpler, more realistic version of the story. Ever since the Middle Ages locals in Lombardy liked to celebrate Christmas with richer, more lavish breads made with premium wheat not typically eaten every day. These breads were larger, hence another likely origin of the name “panettone”, which in Italian also means “big bread”. The loaves were placed to bake above burning logs inside a huge fireplace around which families would gather to celebrate. As time went by and families could afford it, sweet ingredients like raisins and candied fruit were added so the bread eventually became a cake.
Adding the Sicilian Twist
Despite being anchored to tradition, panettone is the Italian cake that has undergone most transformations and creative twists, according to Stanislao Porzio, organiser of the yearly event dubbed Re Panettone – “King Panettone” – held in Milan to showcase the best panettone varieties and pastry artists. Pastry stars across Italy are reinventing the classic recipe and extending it beyond its Milan boundaries. So now gourmands can taste southern twists coming from Sicily, Puglia and Calabria, where local ingredients are added to the northern base recipe.
World-famous Sicilian pastry star Nicola Fiasconaro has come up with unique ways to incorporate Sicilian flavors into panettone. “I like to play around with tradition and transgress, but with style and using only local elite ingredients to satisfy regional palates, perhaps used to stronger tastes,” he says. Fiasconaro also adds tiny red strawberries, dried figs, almonds, pistachio, prickly pear jam, chestnuts, Marsala wine, and honey to his other panettone varieties.
How to Eat it
First things first - You want to be sure to remove the paper wrapper that runs around the outside of the base of the cake before you try to cut the panettone. Trust me, it makes it much easier to slice it if the cardboard wrapper is peeled back. And you certainly do not want to serve the slice of cake with the wrapper still attached. Using the right kind of knife (a long, serrated knife like a simple bread knife) is key. This is the best way to cut through the light texture without destroying or smushing the cake.
Once you have sliced the panettone, it is very easy to eat. The most traditional way to serve the panettone is on its own after dinner with a coffee or espresso. Simply take a slice, add some cream if you wish (I always slather on some pistachio or chocolate cream) and eat. Also, Europeans often eat panettone for breakfast around the holidays, and is used for a French toast recipe!
Fiasconaro & Vitaleone
To keep to our core value of providing the highest quality Sicilian and Italian foods to the US, we have partnered with Fiasconaro, one of the leading panettone brands in the world.
Fiasconaro has since partnered with Dolce & Gabbana, to infuse the highest regarded Italian art to create a truly unique and authentic Sicilian product. These panettoni are now available on our website, in multiple flavors, with the option to buy for your family or give as a gift to loved ones. Supply is limited, reserve your order today!