Panettone is an Italian type of sweet bread.
The classic panettone weighs about 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) and is about 12–15 cm (4.7-5.9 in) high.
It has usually a cupola shape, which extends from a cylindrical base.
It is made during a long process that involves curing the dough, which is acidic, similar to sourdough. The proofing process alone takes several days, giving the cake its distinctive fluffy characteristics.
Panettone is served in wedge shapes, vertically cut, accompanied with sweet hot beverages or a sweet wine.
The origins of this cake appear to be ancient, dating back to the Roman Empire, when ancient Romans sweetened a type of leavened cake with honey.
Panettone appeared in northern Italy around the 15th century. It probably originated in Milan, since this naturally leavened bread has always been closely associated with the city, the capital of Lombardy.
There are many legends about the history of panettone.
Some believe the name of the bread harkens back to a story of a Milanese nobleman in the 15th century who fell in love with a poor baker’s daughter. He provided the baker with resources to create bread that became known far and wide due to its delectable ingredients, flavor and texture. He won the daughter’s heart and hand and the cake-like bread became known as Pan de Ton, which in local dialect means “the bread of luxury.” Two other stories say the name became Pan di Tonio, named after the baker himself, Toni.
According to another story, Toni, lowly scullion at the service of Ludovico il Moro, was the inventor of panattone. On Christmas Eve, the chef of the Sforza burned the cake prepared for the feast. Toni decided to offer the mother yeast that he had kept aside for himself for Christmas. He kneaded it several times with flour, eggs, sugar, raisins and candied fruit, until obtaining a soft and leavened dough. The result was a great success and Ludovico il Moro called it Pan de Toni to honor its inventor.
It wasn’t until the 20th century that commercial bakers decided to make panettone in large-scale batches, thus driving down the prices and increasing panettone’s popularity as a Christmas gift.
The most famous producers were Motta, Alemagna and Le tre Marie; at the beginning of 20th century, the name Motta was synonymous with panettone.
It was Motta who revolutionised the traditional panettone by giving it its tall domed shape by making the dough rise three times, for almost 20 hours, before cooking, giving it its now-familiar light texture.
By the end of World War II, panettone was cheap enough for anyone and soon became the country’s leading Christmas sweet.
The word “panettone” derives from the Italian word “panetto”, a small loaf cake. The augmentative Italian suffix “-one” changes the meaning to “large cake”.
Italian food manufacturing companies and bakeries produce 117 million panettone and pandoro cakes every Christmas, collectively worth 579 million euros.
The world most expensive panettone worth 80,000 euros ($90,000) and was made by Italian pastry chef for a billionaire Russian businessman. This panettone is so costly because it is decorated with golden leaves and diamonds.
The world’s largest panettone, weighing in at a hefty 332,20 kilograms (732 lb) and towering 1.5 meters tall. It was prepared by master chocolatier Davide Comaschi and a team of six from the Chocolate Academy Centre. The Guinness World Records certified that this panettone as the largest ever made.