Mention fruitcake to anyone and you're sure to get a wrinkled nose or gagging sounds. Let's face it. No one likes a leaden loaf fill with fruit that looks like it was picked during the Neolithic era. However leave it to the Italians to save this culinary reject and turn it into something chic and class. Panettone is the perfect holiday fruitcake. It can be served with everything from breakfast coffee to after dinner wine.
Panettone is a true Milanese invention. The name itself means "large loaf" in Italian but legend has it it was either named for the baker Toni, it or for the an assistant who helped bake it.Legend also has it that it was first served at the wedding of noted Milanse nobleman and falconer , Ughetto Atellani to for Toni's daughter Adalgisa. There's also the Christmas legend that a cook had nothing to give out for the holy day so he concocted a bread full of candied fruit and raisins. Not wanting to take credit he said his assistant Toni made it, hence pan de Toni or panettone. A few centuries later, Angelo Motta , a Milanese baker produced it fro the masses in 1919. Another baker , Gioacchino Alamagna did the same and a rivalry broke out. Motta is credited with giving the bread its' modern look, He let the dough rise to three times the normal height for bread during a period of twenty hours. (usually most bread is left to rise for only twelve. hours before baking). The average panettone is about ten inches high and almost impossible to toast in a toast in a toaster. Every slice has to be halved to have it warmed.
How to eat panettone? My one cousin in Piedmonte's Val Susa, Pat, scoops out the middle and fills it with a sweetened form of marscapone cheese. Sabayon is also used . It is then served as a fancy dessert with after dinner coffee. In the US my family an d I like it plain with butter slathered on the slices, usually for dessert. You can make French toast with any leftover panettone but go easy on the syrup afterwards. It's also a delicious base for bread pudding too.
This Christmas don't settle for the usual fruitcake. Get a panettone for yourself. It'll be the best X-mas gift ever!