Growing up in an Italian house, I never thought much about Panettone. It was just always there right along with the Italian cookies, and the cannoli. Over the years and in my own household there was always a Panettone on the menu and a good dozen or more sent out as Christmas gifts to friends and family.
While writing my book I was researching bread puddings as I wanted to include one on a brunch menu. It occurred to me how yum Panettone would be as the bread choice. The rest is history as they say. See page 45. However I have never really stopped to ask about the history of the sweet bread.
So here it is. I won’t try to impress you with some regurgitated research project. This is straight from good ole Wikipedia. 🙂
But before I copy, paste let me urge you to reconsider whatever dessert you have planned for after Mass tomorrow night or on Christmas day. A Panettone bread pudding is truly divine, especially with the gorgeous warm brandy sauce that I suggest with it. Recipe to follow.
“Panettone (Milanese: panetton classical orthography, panetùn other orthography) is a typical bread of Milan, usually prepared and enjoyed for Christmas and New Year around Italy, and one of the symbols of the city. Maltese nationals are also traditionally associated with this sweet bread. In Latin America, especially in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile and Peru, it is a Christmas dinner staple and in some places replaces roscón de reyes (King cake). It has a cupola shape which extends from a cylindrical base and is usually about 12-15 cm high for a 1 kg panettone. Other bases may be used, such as an octagon, or a frustum with star section shape more common to pandoro. It is made during a long process which involves the curing of the dough, which is acidic, similar to sourdough. The proofing process alone takes several days, giving the cake its distinctive fluffy characteristics. It contains candied orange, citron and lemon zest, as well as raisins, which are added dry and not soaked. Many other variations are available such as plain or with chocolate . It is served in slices, vertically cut, accompanied with sweet hot beverages or a sweet wine, such as Asti Spumante or Moscato d’Asti. In some regions of Italy, it is served with Crema di Mascarpone, a cream made from mascarpone cheese, eggs, sometimes dried or candied fruits, and typically a sweet liqueur such as Amaretto; if mascarpone cheese is unavailable, zabaglione is sometimes used as a substitute to Crema di Mascarpone.
Efforts are underway to obtain Protected Designation of Origin and Denominazione di origine controllata status for this product, but as of late 2008, this has not occurred. Italian Agriculture Minister Paolo De Castro was looking at ways to protect the real Italian cakes from growing competition in Latin America and whether they can take action at the World Trade Organisation.
In Italy and France, the panettone comes with an often varied history, but one that invariably states that its birthplace is in Milan. The origins of this cake appear to be ancient, dating back to the Roman Empire, when ancient Romans sweetened a type of leavened bread with honey. Throughout the ages this “tall, leavened fruitcake” makes cameo appearances in the arts: it is shown in a sixteenth century painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder and is possibly mentioned in a contemporary recipe book written by Bartolomeo Scappi, personal chef to popes and emperors during the time of Charles V.
The word “panettone” derives from the Italian word “panetto”, a small loaf bread. The augmentative Italian suffix “-one” (pronounced “o-neh”) changes the meaning to “large bread”. The first recorded association of Panettone with Christmas can be found in the writings of 18th century illuminist Pietro Verri. He refers to it as “Pane di Tono” (luxury bread).
Haute n the Kitchen Panettone Bread Pudding with Warm Brandy Sauce
Lightly butter a rectangular baking dish. Cut a 1 lb. panettone into 1 inch cubes trimming off rough crusts. Arrange the bread cubes in the dish. In a bowl whisk 8 eggs, 1/5 cups whipping cream, 2.5 cups milk, 1.4 cups sugar and a teaspoon of nutmeg. Pour over the bread and press the bread until gently submerged in custard. Let stand 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake until the bread pudding puffs up and is set in the center, roughly 45 minute. Cool slightly. Spoon into bowls and drizzle with warm brandy sauce.
In a saucepan bring 1/2 cup whipping cream, 1/2 cup whole milk and 3 Tbsp. sugar to a boil over medium heat. In a small bowl mix the brandy and cornstarch to blend and whisk into the cream mixture. Simmer over low heat until it thickens about 2 minutes. Spoon over warm bread pudding.