Panettone is a sweet cake typical of Milan. It is associated with the traditions of Christmas and it is now well-known not only in Milan, but also all around Italy.
The origins of panettone sometimes fade into legend. There are many different versions of this great legend.
One takes place in the 15th Century, at the time in which the Duke of Milan was Ludovico il Moro. It was just before Christmas when the cook, who was at the service of Duke, had to prepare a sumptuous dinner. Many nobles were invited to this fest. The food was excellent, but the dessert had been forgotten in the oven and it was almost carbonized. The cook was in despair.
Toni, a little kitchen boy, proposed to the chef he could bring the sweet cake he had made for himself in the morning using the rests he found into the kitchen: some flour, butter, eggs, lime zest and raisins, for him to serve it to the Duke’s guests.
The cook was afraid but he had no other solutions. So he agreed to offer it to the guests. Trembling they both stood behind the door to see the reactions of the guests.
Everybody loved it! When the Duke asked for the name of the delicious cake, the cook said “L’è ‘l pan de Toni”, in the dialect of Milan, that means it is the bread of Toni. From that “pan de Toni” derives the name “Panettone”
As we already told, Panettone comes often with a varied history, but all the legends state that the birthplace of Panettone is in Milan.
The ingredients for an artisanal Panettone are flour, water, salt, eggs, milk, butter, sugar, candied fruits (especially orange and citron), raisins, vanilla and mother yeast. The preparation is very long because the dough must rise for at least 24 hours, but in the meanwhile it must be kneaded several times. The pastry chef must carefully follow each step because the rising times may vary depending on several factors.
The tradition of Milan is to save a portion of the Panettone eaten during the Christmas lunch to eat later, on February the 3rd, in the occasion of the feast of Saint Blaise, San Biagio in Italian, who is consider to be the protector against a sore throat.
In some regions of Italy Panettone is served with “crema di mascarpone”, a cream made from mascarpone cheese, eggs, sugar and typically a sweet liqueur such as “Amaretto di Saronno”.
During Christmas time food manufacturing companies and bakeries produce more than 117 million Panettone and Pandoro cake.
If Panettone is the Christmas cake of Milan, then Pandoro is the typical cake of Verona. It is traditionally shaped like a frustum with an 8 pointed star section. To resemble the snowy peaks of the Italian Alps during Christmas, it is usually served dusted with vanilla scented icing sugar.
When you buy a Pandoro, you normally receive it with a sachet of powdered sugar that you can add just before eating the cake.
The first person who spoke about a cake similar to Pandoro was Pliny the elder, in the ancient Roman times of the 1st century.
Probably the recipe derives from the one of the “Pan d’oro”, that literally means golden bread, that was served around the XIII century on the tables of the nobles from Venice.
Anyways, the modern recipe dates back to the XIX century. In 1894, on October the 14th, Domenico Melegatti, deposited to the office a patent for the production of this sweet, soft cake with the characteristic form we have now. It was Angelo Dall'Oca Bianca, an impressionist painter, who invented this form with the 8 pointed star section.