By Rita Turner
Translated by: Julio Soares de Carvalho
This week’s blog is filled with ideas for you to cook with your kids without them having to put their hands on raw dough. We are talking about panettone, a certain presence on the tables of Brazilian families this time of the year. After all, Christmas without panettone is like watching a movie without popcorn, Thanksgiving without turkey, etc..
Starting the holiday season: The first panettone that enters the house could be seen as the beginning of the holiday parties. But you have to think before buying. You can’t buy it too early in the season or else the fun is gone, or too late because you can’t appreciate it little by little. It doesn’t end up being a ceremony, but everyone understands that it is worth sitting down at the dinner table and sharing it with family.
Growing up, the first panettone that arrived was usually shared between my mom, grandma, and I – three generations of women united around this sweet bread that, like our family, has its origins in Milan, Italy. I always liked eating panettone with a nice fresh cup of coffee. Sometimes, I would put butter on the slice to feel the contrast between sweet and salty. If you never did this, try it, it might become your new routine!
In my adult life, I spent many Christmases away from home, in distant lands. When this happened, my mom would always send me a mini panettone through the mail – an act of generosity and love.
Panettone also becomes a currency in this time of the year. It can be a present to a teacher, secret santa at work, and there are those people who keep it at home for that unexpected visitor at the end of the year.
History of the panettone: To understand the origin of the panettone it is important to remember that the custom has always been to share the bread during celebrations as an act of communion because wheat is a very important ingredient in Christianity.
Documentation from the 15th century tells us that on Christmas eve, bread was divided among the guests, and a different piece was kept for the next year. Wheat was a sign of luxury and bakeries could only sell bread made with wheat during Christmas time. With time, this Christmas-bread started getting more elaborate, with the addition of eggs, butter, and, eventually, raisins. The fermentation also only came later. The original panettones were simple, like the common bread (therefore, if you embadum a recipe for panettone at home you can simply say that it is the ricetta originale.
Panetone de Milane: In Italy, the origin of the panettone is awarded to the city of Milan, in the region of Lombardia. In Brazil, at the beginning of the fifties, the Bauducco family, immigrants from Piemonte, brought the panettone to our lands with their own recipe which would dominate the Brazilian market to this day.
Pan di tone: Although there are legends about a baker called Toni who accidentally invented the panettone (this way creating the “pan di toni”), it is more likely however, that the name came from “pane di tono”, which means bread of luxury in the milanese dialect. The luxury in this case, is the use of a lot of butter, sugar, and eggs, as well as, of course, raisins, which symbolize fortune.
Highs and Lows: Panettoni wasn’t always a tall guy. Its first versions were short (like the one from Colomba Pascal), until a baker called Angelo Motta in the 20th century, decided to bake the dough in a tall cylindrical form and created the one we all know and love today. This tall format, with the appearance of a chef’s hat is the one we know best in Brazil, however, in Italy, we find tall and short, living together in perfect harmony in the shelves of supermarkets and bakeries. Pandoro is also very much appreciated in Italy, cousin of the Panettone but the difference is that it doesn’t contain fruit.
To make at home: Some foods are always better made at home. This is not the case of Panettone. I have made panettones at home and must confess that the effort was not worth it. Clearly, it’s an act of perfection by their bakery skills, but the best panettones are really on the shelves of supermarkets. To the purpose of this column, however, the panettone can create a fun group activity and even a fun new year’s tradition. All you need to do is use your favorite pre-made panettone and look into one of the ideas below, all easy but with delicious results.
Panettones are really good with fillings and toppings. Here are some ideas for you to make with your kids:
Rita Turner writes to various culinary blogs. She is a big fan of chef Alex Atala who frequently saus that food is the biggest social network in the world. She believes in the influence of cuisines on the formation of one’s identity and see it as a essential agent in the preservation of culture.
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