Panettone is the typical Christmas dessert of Lombardy. Where does its name come from? And what is it made of?
A legend says that Panettone – the typical Christmas dessert in Lombardy, Northern Italy - was born at the Sforza times (their dukedom reigned over the city of Milan from 1450 to 1520), when an absentminded cook burnt the dessert he was preparing for an important and lavish Court dinner on the 24th of December. Mortified and helpless, he didn’t know what to do. His assistant, whose name was Toni, suggested to use the leftover dough together with what could be found in the kitchen: eggs, raisins, candied fruits, butter and sugar. The cook, with no other option, served it and it was a great success. Even Ludovico il Moro complimented him, but he honestly recounted that “L’è ’l pan del Toni” (It is Toni’s bread”), that was Toni who saved the dessert and since then it was called “Pan (bread) de Toni (of Toni)”.
This is only a legend, of course, and there are different versions about the etymology of this term: some say it’s from “Pane di tono” from French “pain de ton”, which means “rich people’s bread”, some say it comes from the Milanese dialect: “panett”, referred to the dough or to the “panett de butter” which means small pack of butter (a very important ingredient of Panettone). Because of its size, and because the dough rises while cooking, the dessert ended up with a name that indicated the opposite of panett, a small bread: “Panetun”, a big bread.
The preparation is incredibly complex because it requires the use of a natural yeast that needs to have the right amount of acidity. The dough goes through 3 different leavening stages, and it takes two days to prepare one panettone. This is the classic leaving, but a different kind of yeast can also be used (the brewer’s yeast, or compressed yeast). If you buy an artisanal Panettone you will notice immediately the difference with an industrial one: the freshness is what makes it delicious. It is such a typical dessert that it is protected by a decree that establishes its ingredients and their right amount.
Gattullo's interiors with panettoni, a traditional pastry shop in Milan that produces artisanal sweets since 1961.
Dolce&Gabbana this Christmas had a take on the original Milanese version and, with their usual love for tradition but also desire for transgression, they invented a Sicilian Panettone, dressed up with a Dolce&Gabbana total look.
Will it taste as good as the original one?
Actually, it doesn’t matter.
Because in the kitchen, just as for fashion, when it comes to good ingredients and creativity the resulting combination of both is always a winner.
Written by: Elisa della Barba
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