Even when I lived in England, it was never Christmas until I’d watched “It’s A Wonderful Life” and opened my first panettone of the season.
Imagine my excitement when I found out there was a panettone festival just up the road in Milan! Naturally I had to get tickets for my wife and I as this was too good an opportunity to miss!
Milan is known, amongst other things, to be the home of panettone. The reason why I was excited about this event is that it brought together 25 different ‘masters’ for the event. They only use a mother dough (Acid Pasta) to raise the dough. This is made and maintained with only the use of flour and water, without starting additives, or dehydrated yeasts of any nature.
This means that each panettone is uniquely hand raised and not mass-produced and uniform like most of the panettone that you get in the UK. They also only use natural ingredients, without emulsifiers, preservatives or added flavours. Anyone who has made sourdough bread will understand the time and effort it takes to make it, but like with these, you get an altogether better tasting result.
The first thing that hit me when I walked in was the sweet, sweet small of panettone! We had already looked at the online site, so we had a good idea of what we were going to do when we arrived. Our first plan was to go round each stall for a tasting, as we wanted to buy two for Christmas. Each of the twenty five stalls had mountains of tasters available from each of the panettone they were selling at their stall. Now that I’ve been in Italy for a year, I have perfected my “jumble sale elbow” technique, and I was able to muscle in and taste each one.
We finally decided on two from different stalls. The first was a delicious combination of ginger and orange, and the second was flavoured with blueberries. They haven’t been opened yet, so I’ll report back later once they have been devoured!
There were also events each hour where different guest chefs demonstrated recipes using panettone. If I have any left after the festive season (unlikely!) I have new recipes in my armoury such as panattone rum baba, and panattone ice cream.
The organisers of the event had also turned a part of the building into a working factory. I like making sourdough bread, but have never felt brave enough to tackle a panettone, so this was like an Italian version of “Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory” for me!
There were different stations showing each stage of the process from mixing the mother dough to letting the finished panettone cool upside down to achieve its unique shape. When everyone is explaining it to you, the process seems simple, but this year I think I will leave it to the masters and maybe have a try next year!