La Sosta in Swellendam is an iconic Italian restaurant located in Swellendam. With many of the truly wonderful traditional dishes of that country, it was with great delight that we discovered Panettone on the menu.
The word “panettone” derives from the Italian word “panetto”, a small loaf cake and recipes for this staple date back to the Roman Empire, when ancient Romans sweetened a type of leavened cake with honey.
In the first century AD, Apicius’ De re coquinaria included a recipe for a simple cake made with honey and leavened dough. As literary and archaeological evidence testifies, this was eaten throughout the ancient world and appears to have been something of a favourite at celebrations – especially among Christians.
The earliest panettone was, admittedly, much closer to bread than modern versions. Not only was it dense and coarse, but it also lacked many of the little ‘extras’ which make it so delicious.
The origin of the bread as we know it is said to be found in the Middle Ages when people used to celebrate Christmas with a bread richer than the one ate every day. A manuscript of late fifteenth-century written by George Valagussa, tutor for Sforza family, reports the tradition of celebrating the so-called “rito del ciocco”. On Christmas Eve a large piece of wood was placed in the fireplace and three wheat bread were served on the table. Wheat was a precious ingredient at that time. The head of the family served a slice to all guests, and a slice was kept aside for the following year as sign of continuity.
Italians consume an estimated two-and-a-half panettone per family per year, and its popularity is also growing beyond the Italian border, with seven to 10 percent of panettone produced now exported to France, Germany, the United States, Canada, Britain, Spain and South Africa. The giving of Panettone as a gift at Christmas is a tradition in Italy, but fortunately, we can enjoy it at any time of the year.
If you like this you may also like: RECIPE: Decadent carrot cake
- 250g strong bread or
- Manitoba flour, sifted
- 5g yeast
- 15g sugar
- 80ml milk
- 8g salt
- 60g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 large free-range eggs
- 100g red pepper, finely diced
- 100g Provolone cheese (or Edam as an alternative), finely diced
- 50g capers
In a standing mixer, add the flour, yeast, sugar and milk, and mix at a slow speed, increasing to medium when the flour has been absorbed. While the mixer is running, add the salt and butter in batches until the butter is completely absorbed into the dough.
Add the eggs one at a time and keep mixing on a high speed until the dough comes off the sides of the bowl and no longer sticks. Add red peppers, cheese and capers, mixing and folding it into the dough with your hands. Cover and leave the dough to rest for 15 minutes.
Place the dough in a 500g panettone mould, or any round, high-sided mould. Leave the dough to rise until it reaches the top of the mould. When it is fully risen, using a very sharp blade, make an X incision on the top of the panettone and pull back the flaps. In a preheated oven at 190˚C, cook the panettone for 35-40 minutes until brown on top and a cake skewer comes out clean.
Wine suggestion: Jacques Bruére Blanc de Blancs MCC