Pannetone is a Christmas treat sold all over the world. It is a holiday sweet bread, enriched with eggs and butter and studded with a variety of dried and candied fruits. It is usually on a dramatic display in the grocery store, in colorful, over-sized boxes to fit its unique shape. Here on the Connecticut shoreline, and even around New York and New Jersey, the dense population of Italian-American families and their demand for goods like these makes them readily available. Outside the area, you may need to search for an Italian import store if you’re looking for a taste of this treat.
Many people enjoy pannetone as a dessert item alongside sparkling prosecco or moscato wine. Some prefer to treat is as a cake and eat it alongside espresso or their favorite coffee. In my family, we like to pop slices of it under the broiler with salted butter. If you’re a fan of cinnamon raisin toast, I would suggest this method.
Although no one is quite sure how this delicious bread came to be, there are many fun origin legends. One legend is that a young bakery assistant named Toni had thrown together a sweet bread with leftover kitchen scraps, just to use them up. Some legends add that the unique domed shape came from Toni baking the bread in a flowerpot. On that same night, the head chef had burnt his dessert for a very important dinner and needed a replacement, so he served Toni’s bread out of pure necessity. Luckily, all the guests loved the bread, and the result was so amazing that they began to call the recipe il pan di Toni or “Toni’s bread.”
Another legend is that a young man named Ughetto fell in love with a young woman named Adalgisa, who was the daughter of the town baker. The baker did not approve of their romance, so Ughetto kept baking cakes in order to win the baker’s approval. As he continued to do this and the recipe improved, the baker finally agreed to let him court his daughter, and the two lived, as in many legends, happily ever after, with the pannetone to thank for their union.
Whichever legend you believe in, or if you think there were other origins entirely, this is still an undoubtedly delicious Christmas tradition. This year, my mother and I have vowed to turn this holiday bread into decadent French toast for breakfast on Christmas morning. Who knows, we may even have a totally new tradition on our hands!
-Anna, Assistant Marketing Manager -Content