Panettone – what a wonderful name! It is derived from the Italian word ‘panetto’ a small loaf cake; adding the ending changes the meaning to a large loaf cake. And they certainly are large – just as well because once you start eating one it’s very difficult to stop. I have heard of a school staff room in which a group of teachers demolished a whole panettone in well under fifteen minutes!
It hails from Milan, indeed another theory for the name suggests it came from ‘pan del ton’ which is Milanese for cake of luxury (another accurate description). So is it cake or bread? Rather like the French brioche, it is a bit of both, being sweet and containing dried and candied fruit but, like bread, the raising agent is yeast, albeit a sourdough type. It also comes in a chocolate version or just plain. Clearly an international success, it is now eaten in numerous countries around the world.
Another international happening, although very much more modest, is the cooking group which a friend of mine started up in the road I live in. When she moved into the area she had the neighbourly idea of gathering a few locals together to exchange recipes, share ideas, cook together, eat together and generally get to know each other better. The interesting thing was that, quite by chance, each member of the group was from a different country, culture and culinary background. That was in 2019 and we would meet in each other’s homes. The pandemic has meant we had to adapt and meet in gardens, and now we cook together virtually but it is still enormous fun and we have all learned so much.
The friend who started the group is Italian, she is a great baker and has experimented successfully with many yeast and sourdough recipes over the past few months. Christmas was on the horizon and, as panettone is traditionally eaten at Christmas, we naturally started discussing this seasonal delight. A sourdough yeast is used and the rising procedure is quite long and complicated in order to produce that unique moist, fluffy, texture.
The upshot of these discussions was that we developed our own method for producing panettone and it is now one of 7Marvels’ new offerings. International cooperation can have delicious results!