A familiar presence on Italian tables, in kitchens and on December must buy lists, Panettone is a sweet, crown shaped bread typically filled with candied citrus peels, dried raisins, and perhaps some nuts and a splash of the lemony liqueur limoncello, or brandy. It’s the Italian take on Christmas cake.
Family-owned Seggiano sources high quality Italian foods and drinks for its British customers from across Italy, and selects its panettone bakes from Lombardy – the two samples I was sent coming from artisanal bakeries in Brescia, and close to the Lake Garda in northern part of the country. The baker uses a creamy limoncello lemon marmalade made with Amalfi lemons but reckons it being naturally leavened with 40 year old mother yeast and 36-hours to prove, that gives the recipe its light, buttery, brioche-style touch.
Small batch baking
Baked for Seggiano in small batches during the run up to the Christmas season, the Classico Panettone is handbaked in Brescia, to the east of Milan, the spiritual home of panettone. It’s here were where the magic and inspiration is kept and nurtured.
Like many seasonal foods, panettone comes along with its own traditions. For example, one such custom encourages people to hold back a slice until the 3rd of February, have it blessed and eat it early in the morning in order to banish sickness away for the rest of the year!
Artists create quirky, eye-catching designs for the boxes which often form feature windows in bakeries and delis. Cardboard boxes, colourful paper wrappers, ribbons and bow all make a play for your attention.
Other varieties include chocolate chips, coffee, and roasted chestnuts, an orange and prosecco mix, or even with the super sweet Moscato wine.
Prosecco, hot chocolate or ice cream
How do you like yours … me, with a glass of Italian sparkling Prosecco, a cup of thick, sweet hot chocolate, perhaps a scoop of vanilla ice cream. A freshly cut slice is also a perfect foil for a morning espresso, or cappuccino. For the morning, panettone works well if slightly toasted.
Seggiano says the British palate is conditioned by oversweet, over moist industrial supermarket panettone. Eating a small batch baked variety is a far better option. Authentic, Italian panettone ‘should be drier – a softly fragrant, slightly moist, light, airy bread’.
Neither of the Seggiano panettones felt rubbery when I tore off of piece and ate it. It remained light and airy, and was soft in the mouth. It’s a good idea to mix up the textures as well. So bite into a bit of the honeycomb centre and some golden brown crust, which should definitely be unscorched.
Notice the difference in textures as cheap, mass produced industrial offerings have tiny air holes in the bake which slows its drying out, while artisan offerings are blistered with larger air pockets which gives your serving a breezy, flavourful bite.
And I disagree with the miserablists who says if panettone is so good, why aren’t we eating it across the year? Well, I believe in eating food seasonally for reasons of taste, allowing the foods to grow in their natural conditions and so foods such as Italy’s panettone or Germany’s stolen is worth waiting for to enjoy, remember and look forward to.
Also, buying a fresh, properly made artisanal panettone you’ll want to eat and share it over a couple of days won’t need to search recipes for such dishes as triffle, tiramisu or French toast … delicious as they may be!
To order a real panettone from Seggiano, importers of artisanal Italian food, drink and ingredients into the UK, click here.