There’s no doubt that my favorite panettone is the Poli and and the best spumante I can think of is the Giulio Ferrari, Riserva del Fondatore which is why, if you can get hold it, it’s the Christmas gift to give any Italian. And me. If anyone needs to know where to deliver mine, just shout. I love the stuff & can eat panettone until the cows come home. For a little background: panettone originated in Rome when the ancients made a leavened bread that tasted pretty much like the panettone of toda; the word comes from the Italian word “panetto” which is a small loaf of bread.
There’s a sweet legend about this cake & it tells of a nobleman, Ughetto Atellani, who fell passionately in love with Adalgisa, the baker’s daughter. The story’s a little confusing but, in short: in order to get the object of his passion to fall in love with him, Ughetto pretended to be a baker and created this enormously rich bread for her.
When he asked permission to marry her, the famous Duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro (of risotto fame) agreed to the marriage and when she finally tied the knot, she did so in the presence of Leonardo da Vinci. Said bread was named after her father, Toni as a sign of respect and so pan di Toni became panettone. The true story? There were two hard working bakers from Milan who started baking these cakes in the early 1900′s. They baked large quantities for distribution throughout Italy and in 1919 Angelo Motta, then in full swing, gave the cake it’s traditional dome shape.
The Poli that is wickedly enriched with a grappa cream, the grappa made in an artisan distillery at Schiavon near Bassano di Grappa in the Veneto region.
This is probably the quintessential Italian Christmas dessert. What is Christmas without Panettone?
- 1.5 kg all purpose flour (sifted)
- 20 g dry yeast (this certainly depends on the kind of yeast and the country, so look at the flour and see exactly what kind of yeast you have & take the instruction from there)
- 250 ml lukewarm water
- 7 tablespoons melted butter
- 200 g white sugar
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 egg yolks (at room temperature)
- 1 whole egg
- ½ cup candied citron peel (finely diced)
- ½ cup seedless raisins
- ½ cup pine nuts
- Combine yeast with 1 cup of water and add to 1 cup of flour in mixing bowl, mixing thoroughly.
- Put the dough on a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, make a ball with the dough and put in floured bowl; cover with a cloth or some cling wrap and let it stand in a warm place for an hour.
- Put 1 cup of flour in a separate mixing bowl and now add about ½ a cup of lukewarm water as well as the dough ball.
Make a new ball with this mixture, cross with a knife and put the ball in a floured bowl, cover with a cloth or cling wrap and set aside in a warm place for 2 hours.
- After this, once again put 1 ½ cups of flour and ½ cup of lukewarm water to another clean bowl with the dough ball, knead mixture on floured surface for 10 minutes and now put in a really big floured bowl, cover with cloth and allow to stand for 2 more hours.
- Put the butter and salt in large mixing bowl, add the egg yolks and the ball of dough, and mix with your hands until the dough becomes a smooth again; there is nothing wrong with using a food processor here if you like!
- Combine sugar, honey, 3 tablespoons of lukewarm water and add dough mixture, beat with spoon or processor until dough is smooth and glossy.
- Mix about ½ of the rest of the flour with the dough, put on floured bread board, knead for 2 – 3 minutes and finally add the rest of the flour & knead for about 20 – 25 minutes, then add raisins, pine nuts and citron peel, knead for about 5 – 10 minutes to incorporate everything well; cut the dough in half, and roll each half into a ball.
- Bake in a deep, well greased baking and cover the bottom layer with about 3 layers of wax paper.
- Cover with cloth or cling wrap and allow to stand in a warm place for about 6 hours.
- Make a cross with a knife on top of the dough, and place in 180 C oven, and bake but put a small cup of water in the oven to help the cake to rise and make the crust glossy.
- After the first 10 minutes, enlarge cross marks and drizzle about 2 tablespoons of butter into the cross, bake for 20 to 25 minutes more, then reduce heat to 160 C and bake about 40 minutes longer.
- The cake will be ready when a skewer comes out clean – allow the cake to cool on a wire rack.
Other Italian Christmas recipes: