My passion for Italian confections, Part 2 – Panettone

Longo's Exquisite Offering
Longo’s Exquisite Offering

Panettone has a romantic and legendary history that dates back  to 15th century Milan.  Enjoyed at Christmastime, this light rich and buttery bread is one of the foods I look forward to most during the holidays.  If you’ve never had one, there’s still opportunity to find some in Italian grocers and delis. Look for them as well in major grocery stores at reduced prices now that the holidays are over.

So what is a panettone exactly?  It’s a raised dough confection that traditionally has sultana raisins or dried fruit, it’s light but quite rich given the butter and more like bread although some refer to it as a cake.  (which I really don’t agree with but, nevertheless)  You can also find many varieties of vanilla custard and chocolate filled. Panettone are fairly new to the traditional grocery stores, making their appearance in my area about six or seven years ago.

Each year I seek out new and different versions.  Panettone range in price from about seven dollars to fifty dollars for the most beautifully wrapped ones – which make excellent hostess or family gifts.

The most memorable one so far, was a gift from my mom.  As I remember it was chocolate and rum in a canister that looked like a drum. I lived in a long narrow house at the time and the kitchen was at the very back.  Once I cut into this panettone the unmistakable fragrance of rum filled the air all the way to the front entrance.  Every Christmas since, I try to find one that can top that. This Christmas I believe I did.

My quest begins early every season.  More and more stores are beginning to carry these.  Most come in very nice boxes. I am taken by the beauty of the presentation.  This year I found the ultimate panettone at Longo’s.  This panettone comes from Sicily and as you can see from the featured image,  is a white chocolate and pistachio topped panettone and included are pistachio cream and a spreading knife wrapped in a designer box.  It was my gift to my mom, who gets equally excited about these as I do.

After the picture was taken we dove in.  The pistachio cream added smoothness to an already rich bread – such heaven.  There was less than half of the wonderful domed bread left by the time we were done.  Panettone never makes it past three days at our house.

Although panettone should just be eaten by itself, it makes the best french toast  or a very rich bread pudding.  My hint, adding some Grand Marnier and a little orange rind to the custard of either the french toast or bread pudding will make your house smell wonderful.  Local grocery stores will have sales on the less expensive panettone that come packaged only in a plastic bags now.  They have a very long shelf life so don’t be afraid to buy one.

I hope you learn to enjoy these are much as I do,  In the meantime, happy eating!

Photo of gift wrapped panettone boxes by Michelle Little, The Italian Pantry (NDG Montreal)

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