Panettone is a typical bread of Milan, usually prepared and
enjoyed for Christmas and New Year around Italy, and one of the symbols of the
city. Maltese nationals are also traditionally associated with this sweet bread.
In Latin America, especially in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile and Peru, it
is a Christmas dinner staple.
It has a cupola shape which extends from a cylindrical base
and is usually about 12-15 cm high for a 1 kg panettone. Other bases may be
used, such as an octagon. It is made during a long process which involves the
curing of the dough, which is acidic, similar to sourdough. The proofing process
alone takes several days, giving the cake its distinctive fluffy
characteristics. It contains candied orange, citron and lemon zest, as well as
raisins, which are added dry and not soaked. Manufacturers offer variations of
panettone stuffed with chocolate chips, figs, almonds, cream or even lemon
liqueur or limoncello.
It is served in slices, vertically cut, accompanied with
sweet hot beverages or a sweet wine, such as Asti Spumante or Moscato d'Asti. In
some regions of Italy, it is served with Crema di Mascarpone, a cream made from
mascarpone cheese, eggs, sometimes dried or candied fruits, and typically a
sweet liqueur such as Amaretto.
The origins of this cake appear to be ancient, dating back to the Roman Empire,
when ancient Romans sweetened a type of leavened bread with honey.
The word "panettone" derives from the Italian word "panetto",
a small loaf bread. The augmentative Italian suffix "-one" changes the meaning
to "large bread".