The classic Piedmontese panettone is low in shape, well-leavened, and topped with exquisite hazelnut icing decorated with whole almonds.
Panettone was born in 1564 as an offshoot of the various spiced breads that were being baked across Italy.
It was in that year, in fact, that Cristoforo da Messisburgo wrote down the recipe for the ‘breads of milk and sugar’ that may be considered the ancestors of the panettone as we know it today.
The basic elements were all there: well-leavened dough, round shape and ingredients such as flour, butter, sugar and eggs.
Of all the various versions, it was the pane dolce, or sweet bread, of Milan that eventually left the city’s boundaries to become the traditional Italian Christmas cake.
Until the end of the 19th century, panettone was not associated exclusively with Christmas.
It was originally eaten all year round by well-off Milanesi, who only subsequently began to give it as a gift during the festive season.
As the demand for the cake grew, so did artisan production in pastry shops whose names are now legendary: Cova, Marchesi, Biffi, Baj, Tre Marie.
It was in artisan bakeries that pastry chefs such as Angelo Motta, creator of the dome-shaped panettone and the paper crown still used to this day, and his competitor Gioacchino Alemagna began their brilliant careers.
It was in the early decades of the twentieth century that Piedmont came into its own in the world of panettone production.
In 1922 master pastry chef Pietro Ferrua turned out the first Galup panettone, low in shape with hazelnut icing, in Pinerolo, near Turin.
In 1927 another master, Francesco Antonio Balocco, opened his pastry shop in Fossano, in the province of Cuneo. In 1969, Maina, which had begun life five years earlier as a pastry workshop in Turin, also moved to Fossano.
Balocco and Maina have now become large companies.
In Piedmont there are still outstanding small producers, pastry chefs who, with great mastery and painstaking sourcing of ingredients, turn out panettoni of the highest quality for true connoisseurs.
Our panettone is made by one of them.
AREA OF PRODUCTION
Panettone is popular nationwide.
The regions in which it is produced the most are Lombardy and Piedmont, but it’s also possible to find excellent panettoni elsewhere in Italy.
Type 00 soft wheat flour, butter, sugar, cat. A fresh eggs, live sourdough starter, salt, vanilla pods, sultanas, candied orange zest.
Icing: sugar, cat. A fresh egg whites, hazelnuts, almonds, rice starch.
The Petra type 00 soft wheat flour of the Quaglia mill in Vighizzolo d’Este (Padua), which grinds 100% Italian soft wheat from sustainable farms practising integrated crop management.
‘Burro di Latteria Corman etichetta Premium’, a butter which in 2016 received the ‘Superior Taste Award’ from the International Taste & Quality Institute, an international leader in the tasting and promotion of superior quality foods and beverages.
Supplied by Italia Zuccheri, the only sugar company using 100% Italian sugar, the sugar beet being sowed, grown and processed exclusively in Italy by member farms and growers.
Category A untreated 0-kilometre fresh eggs from the Azienda Agricola Martina farm in Bagnolo Piemonte (Cuneo).
CANDIED ORANGE AND LIME
Supplied by Azienda Pariani farm in Givoletto (Turin), which collaborates with the Turin University Faculty of Agriculture.
A self-styled ‘diffuse farm that pursues excellence’, Azienda Pariani can count on numerous ‘human presidia’ in Piedmont, Veneto, Tuscany and Sicily, groups of farmers and technicians who work the orchards there, ensuring high-quality ingredients.
The Sicilian orange and lime zest is candied solely with sugar, without the addition of preservatives, colouring agents or artificial flavours.
Exclusively Australian 6 crown sultanas.
For blending into the dough, acacia honey supplied by a small apiculturist in Ceresole d’Alba in the Roero district of the province of Cuneo.
HAZELNUTS AND ALMONDS
For the icing, choice unpeeled almonds and Piedmontese hazelnuts.
The Piedmontese hazelnuts are supplied by a quality-conscious grower in the hills of the Alta Langa district.
If the particulars of some suppliers are missing in this list, it is because, given the high quality and limited production of the ingredients, the master pastry chef asked us not to divulge them.
Classic Piedmontese panettone is made by master pastry chef Marco Lusso at the Pasticceria Luciano pastry shop in Barge (Cuneo).
Marco is a young artisan with big ideas and an incredible talent for baking and confectionery.
Only 37, he holds bakery and confectionery courses for experts in the sector and colleagues, and his award-winning, strictly naturally-leavened Viennoiserie (croissants, brioches, pain au chocolat).
In addition to his everyday production work at the shop, Marco Lusso also takes part periodically in national competitions.
In 2016 he competed in the ‘Chococake Award’ organized by Belcolade-Puratos and was one of Italy’s 20 semi-finalists.
In 2017 he took part in the national competition organized by Goloasi.it, in which his was judged to be one of the 30 best artisan panettoni in Italy.
Conceived and realised by Marco, even the most classic cake assume unique forms, colours and flavours.
Marco Lusso’s amazing cakes and confectionery inspire a sense of marvel and incredulity, of disorientation for the unexpected.
First the sourdough starter is refreshed three times in the space of 12-13 hours.
The refreshing process consists basically of kneading the sourdough starter with flour and water to give it a perfect Ph and the right strength for use in subsequent doughs.
The sourdough starter used by Marco Lusso has a fascinating story behind it. It was given to him as a present by his friend Iginio Visetti of Volpiano, also a pastry chef, who, in turn, had received it from Attilio Servi, a master pastry chef in Pomezia, near Rome.
Using the dry storage technique, it has been preserved for years in a well-secured cloth.
When the starter is ready, the first rise is generated.
This involves kneading the egg yolks, butter, flour, sugar and sourdough starter for 40 minutes.
The dough is then left in a prover for 12-14 hours.
Once it has leavened, the second rise takes place.
Egg yolks, butter, flour, sugar, acacia honey are added to the dough, which is kneaded for about an hour.
It’s at this stage that the baker decides what kind of panettone to make.
For classic Piedmontese panettone, the dough is studded with candied orange and lime zest and sultanas and left to rest for an hour.
Marco Lusso likes to macerate the sultanas in dry Marsala for two or three weeks before using it in the dough.
The next step is to create the various sizes, shaping the dough, transferring it to the fluted paper crowns, and leaving it to rise for another five hours or so, until it has tripled in volume.
The icing is made with sugar, egg white, hazelnuts, almonds and rice starch.
Classic Piedmontese panettone is iced and baked in the oven for 55-60 minutes at 180°C (approximate time for a 1 kg panettone).
Once cooked, the panettoni are hung upside down to prevent residual moisture from causing them to sag.
After hanging for six hours, they are packaged.
PERIOD OF PRODUCTION
Classic Piedmontese panettone is a seasonal product available during the festive period from December to January.
Classic Piedmontese panettone, which is free from preservatives, has an average life of 30 days from its date of production (check the ‘best before’ date on the box).
It should be kept in a cool, dry place and, once opened, eaten within 48 hours.
Marco Lusso recommends waiting for two days from the production of date before eating the panettone in order to allow the mixture to reach just the right consistency and release all its fantastic aromas.
Classic Piedmontese panettone is a must on Christmas tables accompanied by an excellent Moscato d’Asti DOCG or a passito.
Remember that a wine should be paired with a sweet by concordance and not by contrast. So avoid uncorking a dry spumante with panettone.
Marco Lusso’s classic Piedmontese panettone is also exceptional by itself with all its own fragrances and aromas.
Compliments of the season!