What is Panettone? (And it’s not!)
If you’re trying to find the answer to any of the following questions then this is the article you need to read: What is Panettone? How do you say it? How do you make it? What’s so special about it and what’s the big deal? The Panettone is hard to describe to someone who hasn't actually tried it. It’s not just a bread, it’s truly an experience. But I’ll do my best.
How to Pronounce It (Without Learning Italian.)
First off let’s learn how to pronounce it correctly. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I called it ‘pan-tone’ the majority of my adult life, until someone politely (and mercifully) pointed out that it’s actually four syllables and pronounced: pan-eh-tone-ay. Thanks kind smartass.
You can check out more on the history of the panettone but for now we’ll describe exactly what it is and why it’s so popular!
An Italian Cake Loaf
There are lots of different versions of Panettone but if you strip away all the extra ‘stuff’ surrounding this almost mythical bread what you’re left with is basically what the title implies, an Italian cake loaf. The secret to the Panettone isn’t necessarily what it is, but more about how it’s made.
How it’s made
First off it’s one of the lightest, fluffiest loaves of sweet bread you’ll ever have the pleasure of tasting. This is because above all, it’s extremely eggy and can take up to three days to prepare properly.
The Panettone is typically shaped in the cupola and the process of making it takes several days because the dough has to be cured Next, is the ‘proofing’. This is the part that takes so long. Three entire days. But this time is what makes the bread so fluffy! Usually the fruits in the bread are lemon zest, candied oranges, citron, and raisins that are all added dry rather than being soaked first There are many variations of the Panettone including the addition of cinnamon, and even icing to make it the perfect holiday treat.
So the downside is that it’s a chore to prepare. But hey, the journey is better than the destination right?
The upside for all that work is that it will stay moist and can be eaten for up to a month if you keep it wrapped well. We recommend either sealed paper shells, a bread bin or shrink wrap to keep the air out and keep it as moist as possible, for as long as possible.
Pro tip: This might not be common or agreed upon but we use our bread bin to keep the panettone moist and we can enjoy it for weeks and weeks without any parching or drying.
Not for beginners
Greatness comes with a price. This isn’t something just anyone can bake unfortunately. Your pantry probably won’t contain some of the most necessary ingredients. Ever heard of ‘diastatic malt powder’? Yeah. Neither had I. You need to create a starter stiffen it, making sure it’s perfectly hydrated, while trying to keep it at room temperature over the course of a few days.
But don’t worry! It’s not impossible. If you do the research and do the work you’ll be enjoying panettone in no time. The most important thing you’ll need to make this delicious sourdough is patience, perseverance and passion.
The Sweet Bread of Celebration
It is usually prepared during Christmas and New Year and can be difficult to find outside of the festive seasons. Unless of course you’re shopping at ThePanettone.com, in which case we carry this delicious bread all year round! It was originally linked to Christmas by a writer in the 1700s (Pietro Verri) who called it ‘pan de ton’, which translates roughly as ‘luxurious bread’. Nothing says holiday spirit like luxury!
However, don’t feel like you can only eat Panettone during the holidays! You can enjoy this traditional Italian bread whenever you want as long as you’re willing to put in the effort to make it yourself. Most stores and bakeries in North America and Europe won’t carry it year-round unless you can find a traditional Italian bakery.
Pair it up with something else!
It’s a scientific fact that food is always better together. Especially panettone. It really depends on what you prefer but you have tons of options when you’re eating your panettone.
Panettone is usually enjoyed with butter or mascarpone, but I’d recommend Nutella. Trust me, Nutella and Panettone are an incredible combination. It can be enjoyed during breakfast or as a snack in the afternoon. You can even dip it in sweet wine like some Italians do if you’re feeling adventurous!
You can serve it a bunch of different ways!
We’ve seen some pretty crazy panettone recipes in our time, but some of the best have been panettone french toast, panettone salad and even panettone pudding. Here’s our bread pudding recipe (link) if you’d like to try it out for yourself!