December 27, 2015


In my home, we always spaced out the food for Christmas across the Advent Season, literally starting around December 18th till January 3rd.  It can be a bit earlier or a day or two later depending on the day the date falls and the ravenousness of everyone else as well as guests.  This way we can enjoy and pace our calorie count.  We do want to look trim and fit at those parties.

Actually as early as the first week of December we had stollen.  Although stollen can last for weeks – we couldn’t wait as it was fresh off the plane from Germany.  A week later we had the traditional dense North American fruitcake with marzipan icing.

On December 27th, we had Panettone.  It was 50% off on sale, direct from Italy, so how can we resist.  I bought two brands among so many because of their quality packaging.  The second one will be for New Year’s Eve.
In Italian "panetto" mean a small loaf cake and with the suffix "-one" it changes the meaning to "large cake".   Tall (mine was about 5 inches in height – I’ve seen taller) and puffy, like a cupola or a dome or the ecclesiastical hat Pane Tone (another etymology), the shape and height of the panettone is achieved by its distinctive paper band or pirottino which hampers the dough from spreading itself out, but to go up.  This spongy humongous bread-cake originally from Milan is usually served during Christmas and New Year in Italy. 

The Italian Ministry of Industry is regulating the use of the terminology "panettone". It may be used only by bakers who meet certain standards, similar to the French wine regions that have exclusive use of certain names, such as Champagne. The several brands that qualify as authentic panettone, according to the Commission, include Alemagna-Motta, Perugina, Bauli, Flamigni, Le Tre Marie, Maina Panettoni and Valentino. What I got was a Bellino brand Panettone with Zabaione Cream (CAD$10.00 at 50% off).  

The double rising of natural yeasts and the addition of enzymes (how? – email me) insures panettone's long shelf-life - the reason we can enjoy a cake made months ago for several weeks more (mine says till March 2016).  

The double rising allows more yeasts to gobble up sugar - the food source of bacteria. The enzymes specifically amylase breaks down the starch - a staling agent - into sugar which in turn is eaten up by the yeasts.  Some of the enzymes survive baking and continue acting while the bread is in the store but by then the gluten structure has tightened meaning less air holes and less oxygen for new bacteria.  Fascinating ...

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