Panettone is always one of our top sellers during the holiday season and it’s no surprise, we know shoppers love to indulge in this sweet treat, but do they know how it’s made? Read on to learn more!
What is a Panettone?
Panettone, a sweet yeasted cake, hails from Milan, a charming city in northern Italy. Traditionally enjoyed around Christmastime, it has become available year-round due to its popularity. Classic panettones are dotted with candied lemon, orange, and raisins, but you may find modern variations studded with chocolate chips, cherries, or filled with sweet pastry creams.
Today, Panettone is loved around the whole world. Italy produces over 7000 tons of it each year, with 90% sold in Italy and the rest internationally. A variant is also popular throughout South America, thanks to Lombard immigrants who settled in Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, and beyond. While some tasty Latin panettone exist, the cakes finding their way into the U.S. tend to be of inferior quality compared to their Italian counterparts.
Who invented the Panettone?
Its exact origins are lost in time – but its roots may be traced back to leavened cakes popular during the Roman Empire. Legends remain about its origins. The most famous one tells the tale of a Nobleman, Ughetto, a lover of fine things and falconry who fell in love with the daughter of a baker. To be able to woo her despite their class difference, Ughetto disguised himself and took a job at the ailing bakery. To produce better bread and impress the family, he sold his beloved falcons and bought butter and sugar to add to the bread mix, soon after candied citrus peel and raisins were included as well. The bread soon became incredibly popular, and the lovers’ family agreed to their wedding. A fairytale ending!
How are Panettone Cakes Made?
Panettone is rarely attempted by home cooks, for its preparation is painstakingly long and complex. This year, we’re excited to continue offering and expanding our selection of Vergani Panettone. For more than four generations, Vergani has been crafting Panettone in Milan. What started as the small shop of Angelo Vergani in 1944 has since evolved into a world-renowned Panettone maker. Fun fact: Vergani is the only major producer of Panettone that produces 100% of its products in Milan!
Unlike many cakes that owe their rise to eggs or baking powder and soda, panettone is made with yeast. Vergani’s “Mother” was created more than 75 years ago, and has been kept alive and growing since. This yeast not only gives the Panettone its distinctive moist and airy texture but also contributes to the dough’s unique and delicious flavor. And let’s not forget the inclusions! For example, the candied orange peels that dot the traditional Vergani Milano Panettone are hand-peeled and exclusively sourced from Sicily.
Shaping is key. When the dough folds onto itself, creating a tight dome, it ensures the cake will rise evenly without any large air bubbles.
A cross-shape is cut into the top of the Panettone to ensure an even rise as well – it is also said to represent the Christian cross.
No, this photo wasn’t posted upside down – that’s how the Panettone actually cool! After being baked, the cakes are hung upside down to cool down and rest – this prevents them from collapsing under their own weight.
Now that you’ve learned how this traditional Italian cake is made, we hope your appreciation for it has grown as much as ours! Have you tried a Vergani Panettone this year yet? We’d love to hear your thoughts!