Panettone is a common sight in stores around the world in December, and Canada is no different. While Italians still debate whether Panettone or Pandoro did it better, here’s the story of how a simple mistake turned into a tradition spanning over centuries and countless countries.
Panettone is the stuff that food dreams are made of. Soft, sweet, tasty. There is no Italian who doesn’t get that warm, fuzzy feeling upon hearing PUH-NAY-TTO-NAY. Pandoro is just as Italian and just as Christmas-y, but the shape is different and it’s more versatile “did anybody say Pandoro with layers of mascarpone cream?”. Pandoro however has not garnered much international fame as Panettone. Regardless of which cake you side with, there is no doubt that even in the melting pot of cultures we all live in today Panettone has a special spot in Canadian stores and in our hearts around Christmas time. It’s a time of shopping, sales and flashy ads trying to get our attention, but nothing says Christmas like a pyramid of elegant, colorful, gorgeous Panettone boxes. What an eye catcher!
While Panettone is slowly growing on Canadians of all cultures and descents, Italy has been in a long-term relationship with it since the 15th century, and it’s one of the single, most solid marriages out there. Panettones are in every Italian household this time of the year, they are the perfect end to a hefty meal or something to snack on while playing Christmas card games with the family. And if you are looking to impress, placing a more refined Panettone, maybe with a lemon or a liqueur filling, at the center of your table on a red and gold tablecloth will steal everybody’s attention. With so much history between Italy and Panettone, it really makes you wonder – how did they even meet? According to one of the legends, Panettone originated in Milan, in the 15th century. The Duke of Milan at the time, Ludovico Il Moro, was a hosting a banquet for his nobles, so he asked his cook to prepare a feast. The cook got carried away with excitement and the preparations and forgot to take his dessert out of the oven and burned it. Trembling with fear, the cook stood in the kitchen contemplating what to do. Toni, the kitchen boy, saw him and offered to help in the form of a sweet cake he has made for himself earlier, made with flour, butter, eggs, lime zest and raisins. With no other option available, the cook decided to serve Toni’s sweet cake to the Duke and the nobles, to their utter delight. When asked about the name of what he had served, the cook quickly replied that it was “Le pan de Toni”, meaning “Toni’s bread.” The name appears to have stuck and over time it evolved into what today we call Panettone. Thank you, Toni!
Many other stories surround the creation of Panettone, but this is the one I love because it’s the essence of the Christmas spirit. This year, remember little kitchen boy Toni, who baked a sweet cake for himself, but decided to give it away to help a friend. Remember Toni’s act of care and love while celebrating Christmas this season – share a Panettone with your family, give one to a friend, to a neighbor, or donate one to charity.
Show love this season the Italian way!