Panettone is a traditional Italian Christmas cake eaten on special occasions like New Year, Easter, or even weddings. Many Italians enjoy this very tasty cake for lunch with their families on Christmas day. I particularly love Panettone because its sweet taste comes from raisins, vanilla cream, and orange peel giving people an intense aroma when it is served hot from the oven. According to some experts, its rich flavor is due to the use of extra virgin olive oil which makes this food so scrumptious.
The word ‘panettone’ is derived from the Lombard word panetton, which means big bread. The cake’s traditional round shape is a reminder of the crown that the Three Wise Men wore when they visited Jesus.
The history of panettone
The history of panettone dates back to ancient times when Romans would give bakers sacks full of coins during holidays for them to make special cakes with honey, oil, and wine. These ingredients are very unusual because they are not customarily used in other types of cakes but somehow what these bakers created back then were excellent results. The word “Panis Quadratus” was named by Roman emperors because of its resemblance to the Roman shield. One of the most important ingredients used in making panettone is yeast which was initially derived from grapes. According to National Geographic, more than five hundred years ago, Italians were already using this unusual ingredient for their bread and cakes.
According to “The Encyclopedia of Italian food and Drink”, there are only four ingredients needed to make Panettones like candied orange peel, anisette liquor, raisins, and flour but according to my grandfather’s recipe contained seven key ingredients in addition to these namely eggs, sugar, salt, shortening, white wine, oil, and water.
A modern version of panettone was developed in Milan around 1925 by pastry chef Antonio Valvona. He substituted quality ingredients to replace costly ones when supplies were low after World War I and discovered that egg yolks produced a lighter cake than whole eggs. The resulting cake had an improved taste and finer texture thanks to its smaller bubbles. This recipe is still used today.