Christmas (Natale) without “panettone” would be considered a sad Christmas for any Italian family. In the few weeks before Christmas, hundreds of millions of panettoni are sold all over Italy, and throughout Europe, as well as in North America. Panettone (literally, “big bread”) is a famous brightly colored box—oversized, festive and elegant—. Before industrialization, panettone was made in local bakeries or at home, and it was a laborious, time-consuming task. Traditionally, the father, or head of the household, would mark a cross at the top of the tall loaf of sweetened bread before it was placed in the oven, as a good omen for the coming year. And, still to this day, panettone retains a special aura, bringing a feeling of love, luck and joy whenever it is offered.
The classic panettone weighs about a kilo (that is, 2.2 lbs) and is about 8 inches high. The special dough, similar to sourdough, slowly ferments and rises for at least 12 hours, but the leavening process can last much longer. Panettone ingredients are usually flour, eggs, butter, yeast, dried raisins, candied oranges, citron and lemon zest. Panettone is eaten during the many days of Christmas celebrations—which last more than 10 days or so in Italy—and the New Year’s festivities. Traditionally, panettone is served after the enormous Christmas day feast or on Santo Stefano (that is, December 26th, a national holiday in Italy)—but also on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
In Torino, last week, at the newly restored Museo del Risorgimento a wonderful palace in the central, charming Piazza Carlo Alberto, I went to see a panettoni exhibition. This means the best of panettone prepared by the best pastries from all over Italy.
I was astonished by the beauty of some decorated panettonis and I felt confused by the taste of most of them.I think I have tried at least 20 different recipes and many good glasses of sweet wine Passito. The most particular was the decoration with glassa of some of them. Panettone was created in Milan but Torino invented the “covered” panettoni with coloured sugar ice. So nice, so sweet, so decorative.
I am very happy to be born in Italy. I love everything here. From food to fashion, from design to architecture I am in love with my country. And I am sure we’ll pass over the crisis thanks to our capacity to express beauty in everything we do.