To me, it never feels like Christmas is coming until I open the first panettone. In late November, the Italian delis around Sydney are filled with different varieties shipped from the big brand Italian bakeries – the more traditional with candied fruit or sultanas, or more recent varieties with flavours like limoncello cream and chocolate. I am a bit particular about the ones I buy, and that means mostly avoiding the ones you’ll find in the major supermarket chains. Among the mass produced ones, brands I like include Motta, Paluani and Bauli, which you’ll typically buy for $10-$15. Pay up and you’ll get something more bespoke or artisan.
There are lots of stories about the origin of panettone, including one that it was named after some bloke called Tony (“pane di toni”). In any case it is known that it originated in Milan and was always made for Christmas and New Year, with Angelo Motta becoming one of the early large producers back in 1919. Pandoro (“bread of gold”) on the other hand comes from Verona, and, as its name implies, is a golden fluffy sweet bread without any fruit. Typically made in a star formation, give it a shake in the bag with the provided icing sugar and it is meant to resemble snow falling down a mountain.
If you are ambitious, you could try and make some of your own, but its a three day proving process and a real labour of love. I’ll leave it to the experts thank you very much; but if you’re up for it, you’ll find a recipe in a book I have and really like, The Italian Baker.
I love my panettone and pandoro straight up with a good espresso. But there are plenty of other things you can do with it, starting with making it French toast for breakfast. Slice your pandoro or panettone to the desired thickness; in a bowl beat an egg, a little milk, a little icing sugar and some vanilla extract, dip your pandoro and fry in a pan with melted butter. Add some yoghurt and fresh fruit and dust with icing sugar. Buonissimo.
Then there are plenty of desserts, like this Amalfi lemon delicious with limoncello custard, recipe here.
Or this caramelised panettone with grilled peaches, recipe here
For a very rich and very extravagant dessert that will feed a crowd, try this blueberry, mango and praline trifle, recipe here
A family favourite is this Torta di Verona recipe.
How ever you have it, you can’t go too far wrong. Buon natale!