panettone (pan-eh-toh-nee; Italian pah-net-taw-ne) noun
Panettone is a sweet Italian yeast bread with an iconic, dome-top cylindrical shape traditionally eaten by the Milanese at Christmastime. Many Italian panettone breads are made with naturally occurring yeast and most have a long shelf life due to the richness of the ingredients. 1 The bread is laden with eggs and butter and requires several rises, resulting in a light, airy bread that usually contains raisins, candied citrus peels and often candied red and green citron to signify the colors of the Italian flag.
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.”2 Other stories say the name became Pan di Tonio, named after the baker himself, Tony. 1
These days, panettone is popular all over America and Italy and while it can be found commercially throughout the year, it is still mostly purchased and served during the winter holidays. Panettone is often served for breakfast or a snack, with mascarpone or whipped cream. 1 A grander alternative is to cut off the top, hollow out the middle, fill with whipped cream and replace the top. Sliced wedges will make a very impressive presentation. 2
- The Italian Baker, by Carol Field (Harper & Row, 1985), pages 220 – 223.
- Panettone: The Story of Italian Christmas Cake by Giuliano Hazan