How few simple ingredients in the hands of expert pastry chefs turn into a mouthwatering masterpiece
In Italy, the holiday season means an abundance of traditional sweets and cakes to be shared on the festive table. The most popular of them is by far the Panettone. On average, every year, each Italian buys five of them and more than 100 million are produced in total. The ingredients are very simple: flour, egg yolks, butter, and water, candied orange and lemon peels, and raisins. But what makes it so unique are the multiple phases of its leavening and production.
The earliest mentions of the panettone date back to the Middle Ages. However, it was only during the 20th century that it reached its current popularity throughout Italy and the world. The traditional dome-shaped Milanese sweet bread made for the holidays must be prepared with uttermost attention. And, when perfectly made, it keeps for a very long time. It is so delicious that almost no one can resist long to its aroma. However, even after months, it can be pulled apart with no effort into feathery strands that dissolve in the mouth.
Pastry chefs work with extreme care, almost devotion, to create the mouthwatering masterpiece, for which each tiny detail is essential.
Every detail must be perfect.
Preparing the dough from the sourdough days in advance for it to be just right; extreme proofing – which takes several days to give the distinctive fluffy characteristics; the temperature of the butter – just a couple of degrees too warm and the dough turns to mush; the quantity of the butter – almost incredible; the cooking time – few minutes too short and the dough slips right out of its mold deflating; the pH of the yeast – a little too fermented and it becomes too acidic to work. Chefs describe the dough as sensitive and demanding, following its own logic and schedule, for which it cannot be rushed or made to wait. For pastry chefs there seem to be no bread that is more difficult to make, or more rewarding, to get right.
Ilona Catani Scarlett