Don’t mess with the classic panettone – the idea that everything has to be new saddens me


There are two things about the wave of adulterated panettones — with novelty flavors ranging from tiramisu to bellini to peach and even parmesan and black pepper — that I strongly detest. The classic recipe and its original ingredients – flour, butter, raisins and candied citrus fruits among others – were intended to make the cake last for a while. It was created to be easily transported and takes days to make, for the dough to rise, but can last for weeks. It’s pure.

Modern technology, which allows producers to pump just about anything into panettone, has led to a poorly formed cake with an ingredient list filled with additives that are far from beneficial to your health.

Second, the idea that everything has to be new, or reinvented with new flavors, saddens me. Sure, food – and our attitude towards it – changes through the ages, but sometimes in life we ​​just have to stop and enjoy something that’s been around for centuries. If something still excites our senses and makes our heart sing after so long, we have to ask ourselves why.

Panettone has been a Christmas tradition all my life. We didn’t have a lot of money when I was young and we didn’t have an oven that could make one, but we bought one – it was our treat, a Christmas cake that was only sold at Christmas. I loved the airy texture, the generous amount of sultanas and bits of candied zest studded throughout, and would happily remove the sugar crystals from the top to eat, much to my mom’s annoyance. She insisted that there had to be enough left over for everyone to enjoy.

Its flavors were perfect. These days they’ve been amped up so much that they taste plasticky, way too sweet. This deviates from what a large panettone should look like. I’ve even made some myself over the years, none of them have been very successful as it’s a difficult cake to make – just look at that batter, how light it is, the glorious holes. All the more reason to respect the know-how and specialized equipment of its expert bakers.

Treat panettone like you would a nice sourdough bread – you wouldn’t want to change anything about such brilliant bread. With breads – and with panettone – if you only change a few ingredients, the result won’t stand the test of time.

Definitely toast slices of panettone and spread them with butter or jam, or turn them into a pudding topped with custard or (my favorite) melted chocolate. But the panettone prosecco, salted caramel, salted cheese versions? These one-shot wonders will never rival the real deal.

Giancarlo Caldesi is a chef and restaurateur;

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