Bakeries all across Italy are taking reservations for their Panettones and it’s no time to linger. You’ve got to hurry up, Christmas Eve is just weeks away and the best ones are running out. It has become a tradition at Bellina, and just like in Italy our market shelves are filled up with beautifully colored boxes coming directly from the most delicious Italian bakeries.

Panettone is a century old tradition: it’s a rich, fluffy, naturally leavened bread cake filled with candied fruits and raisins. The yeast is rigorously sour dough (Italians call it “madre”, mother, just to give you a vague idea of its importance…) and it is essential because it provides a very slow leavening, responsible for the above fluffiness, not to speak about the indescribable taste. Some bakers have kept the same starter for centuries, passing it on from generation to generation. There’s literally 200-year old sour doughs out there, providing some of the most incredible panettones.

“Pane” in Italian means bread and “panettone” literally translates as “large bread”. But there’s also an interesting legend saying that the inventor was a baker called Toni, and that the phrase “Pan de Toni” (bread of Toni) actually triggered the birth of the name.
Making it at home is no joke, the recipe isn’t that simple and as always ingredients are fundamental. First of all, having your own sour dough is not that common although it should, since eating home made bread can change your life…but that’s an argument for another post…Possibly a friendly neighbourhood baker might give you a piece, if you ask! You should use a strong flour, high in gluten, to help the leavening of the dough. Another trick is to let the cake cool upside down, so it doesn’t sink.

Christmas is not Christmas in Italy without his majesty the Panettone on the table. It’s so delicious and comforting that we actually go on eating it for breakfast (marmalade or chocolate spread, anyone?) during the whole month of December! And more. But don’t tell anyone…