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  • Panettone

    By Anthony Parente

    During the Christmas season panettone is a staple that you will find in any Italian home. Some refer to this as an Italian version of fruitcake, but if you were to ask me I would definitely tell you the Italian version is much better than a traditional fruitcake. Panettone originated in the town of Milan and is a symbol of the city. It has a cupola shaped top that extends from a cylindrical base and is generally around 12 - 15 cm in height. It should always be taller than it is wider. What gives this sweet bread its fluffy characteristic is the proofing process of the dough. Incorporated into the dough is candied orange, citron, lemon zest and sultanas. You can find different variations to this Milanese dessert. One popular variation is a chocolate panettone.

    Just like the variations of panettone you can get you will find that there are different reasons for how this Milanese dessert got its name. The one that I find most interesting is a legend that dates back to the 15th century. Ughetto, who was a nobleman and falconer, would sit under a tree as he waited for his falcons to return. The tree was near a poor baker's shop whose owner was Toni and he had a beautiful daughter named Adalgisa. Ughetto immediately fell in love with her. Ughetto's family would not allow him to marry a lowly woman, so one day he decided to disguise himself as a peasant and seek work at the baker's shop for free. As Christmas was nearing Ughetto wanted to create a dessert fitting for the season. He took the baker's bread mix and added items he was accustomed to as a nobleman and created a sweet bread infused with candied fruits and raisins. When word got out of this sweet bread the baker became extremely successful. Ughetto removed his disguise and revealed himself to Adalgisa asking Toni for his daughter's hand in marriage. The duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza arranged the wedding for the love birds in which Leonardo da Vinci was even in attendance. The duke insisted the cake like bread be served at the wedding and it became known as Pan de Toni (Toni's bread).

    This is not part of the legend, but who knows maybe this sweet bread was the inspiration that Da Vinci used in creating his masterpieces.

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