Ask any person of Italian descent and panettone will be a fixture in their home over the holidays.
Like most things in Italy, panettone has a rich, long history and tradition. Some say it dates back to Milan as far as the 1200s, others the 1400s – either way, it’s been around for a while. And its origin story is similarly hazy, with multiple renditions of panettone’s invention. One popular legend involves a Milanese nobleman with the hots for a baker’s daughter posing as a baker to win her over. He brought in fancy rich-people ingredients and inadvertently made panettone.
Panettone swiftly became the king of Italian bakes. Originally eaten by the wealthy over the holidays, competition between two bakehouses after WWI allowed prices to drop enough for everyone to enjoy. It was so firmly embedded as a status symbol in Italian culture that even emigrating Italians took panettone with them abroad to their new lives.
And here’s the thing: it’s notoriously difficult to bake. This is why it matters where you buy your panettone from. Made from a sourdough starter and needing to rise at least three times (this is why it’s so light textured), panettone has even become Everest for amateur home bakers, both their obsession and arch nemesis.
How to cut and serve Panettone
The biggest mistake you can make is serving a dry-ass slice of panettone to a guest. Our Nonna will be personally offended if you do this.
Traditionally, you cut it into slices like you would a cake and enjoy it with a glass of bubbles. Prominent pasticcerias believes you should warm up your panettone in the oven on low (40 degrees) for 30 minutes before serving to ensure a soft, beautiful result.
How to serve panettone
The other game changer is a custard or cream. If you’re worried about your panettone being dry, get some zabaglione on that bad boy (actually, do it even if you’re not worried). NB: Zabaglione is a heavenly custard-like dessert made by whisking together egg yolks, wine/champagne/marsala and sugar.
Other people toast their slices and slather it with butter or nutella. Anything goes in the privacy of your own home. Get creative.