Panettone: the fruitcake that keeps on givingJanuary 5, 2014
Another festive season has come and gone, but something still lingers on, and on, and on …
The whiff of the Christmas panettone is still in the air long after column inches have been devoted to it and radio hosts have expressed their opinions. Never before have I seen so much discussion about the humble Italian celebratory fruitcake from Milan.
TheGuardian.com journalist Julie Bindel called it “a monstrosity” and 702ABC Radio presenter James Valentine made no secret of his dislike for it and couldn’t be convinced otherwise despite listeners’ serving suggestions. Old traditions die hard, James.
My 89–year-old mother and her 84-year-old friend exchange panettoni every Christmas and until one of them has the courage to say “basta!” (enough) they will continue to feign surprise for many years.
I quite like it and prefer it toasted, spread with thick slabs of butter. But after a fortnight, the novelty wears off. My mother receives many panettoni each year and thrusts great portions at me when I visit. Hasn’t she heard of re-gifting? By mid January, even sandwiching it with sweet ricotta topped with berry sauce brings on an urge to donate the lot to charity.
A straw poll on the online Friends of Italy group suggested most of the those who responded to my “Do you like panettone” question were big fans. And they like it unadulterated. Only a few preferred pan d’oro. (Must be that nasty mass-produced citrus peel in panettone – causes angst every time!)
Italy still loves them and sales in 2013 were expected to better those of previous years. Despite the country’s longest recession in 60 years, cash-strapped Italians refused to give up their expensive cakes baked in upmarket pasticcerie. I guess they have to keep buying it to justify the annual film industry namesake ‘Cinepanettoni’ – Italian movies made specifically for the festive season and derided by critics as plotless, vulgar comedies rich with sexual innuendo. (Damn … so many years of working at the Sydney Film Festival … so many lost opportunities in suggesting these films be programmed.)
It seems Australians can’t get enough either. A delicatessen in Sydney’s inner-west has a panettone display that gets bolder each year. The handful on sale in early December swells to a pre-Christmas Wall of Panettoni, where a heady choice of brands is stacked like concrete blocks, dwarfing all other food aisles.
I don’t remember eating panettone as a child. My mother and her friends baked traditional north-eastern Italian festive cakes, filled with raisins, nuts and chocolate and rolled up strudel-style. It’s only in the last 15 or so years that my family embraced the panettone, the long hours of preparation and baking becoming less attractive to my mother.
So, with panettone ennui fast approaching, I’m happy to have found a clever way of disguising it. After sampling some lovely panettone gelato at Cremeria De Luca in Sydney last week I tried a recipe for ‘no-churn’ panettone gelato adapting it to include my own candied citron and Mandarinetto liqueur (included in previous posts). I look forward to a new tradition. Happy 2014!
No-churn Panettone Gelato (translated from the original Italian recipe) http://www.flickr.com/photos/plumdumplings/11768965403/
Candied citron peel – http://tinyurl.com/mq2t6fg
Mandarinetto liqueur – http://tinyurl.com/k2redeq