Tag Archives: panettone

Last panettone of the season (but please don’t hold me to it)

Vergani panettone
Vergani panettone – half off at 5 euros!

Ha! Just when you thought those lovely golden brown italian xmas breads were long gone and done with. Not so on February 3rd, the feast day of San Biagio (Saint Blaise in english). Since time immemorial, in observation of italian custom and tradition, remaining panettone from last Christmas makes a comeback on this day. Why, exactly, is beyond me. San Biagio is not the patron saint of panettone bakers, but of wool carders and farm animals among other things. He is also the protector of nose and throat illnesses. A milanese proverb says:

“San Bias el benediss la gola e el nas” – [San Biagio blesses the throat and nose.]

Legends surrounding San Biagio’s miraculous powers are many, but my favorite is one that involves a child who swallows a fish bone and is choking to death. By invoking the saint, the child spits out the fish bone and is saved. Well, not to make light of the situation, but I can’t help thinking of all the stupid things that kids stick in their noses as well!

Vergani panettone tradizionale
Tonight: toasted panettone sandwiches stuffed with prosciutto and cheese.

Unfortunately we do not have anything really special planned for San Biagio’s feast day but elsewhere around the peninsula, he is honored in various ways. In Taranta Peligna, Abruzzo, the townsfolk make panicelle, a flat, squarish bread resembling four fingers representative of the saint’s hand. Here’s a snippet of the clip:

Panicelle
I was feeling creative so I made some using a basic milk bread recipe…

Not quite panicelle
…and then I thought, why not? Live long and prosper!

Well you must be a milanese!

Panettone stash 2014

During a dinner party at ours last night, a guest said exactly just that when I pointed out the stash of panettone and pandoro. As if they weren’t so obvious. Panettone, if you’ve never heard of it, is originally from Milan. Every winter holiday season we go overboard on these, justifying each purchase with the agreement that it’ll be the very last one. Right.

Loison panettone

We changed strategy this year and gave up the 25€/kilo, gotta-drive-far-to-get artisan breads for ones that cost half as much and are conveniently available at the supermarket. We liked G. Cova’s pear and dark chocolate chunk so much (the green box in the first photo) that we bought another one for ourselves and one for my father-in-law. We also tried Loison for the first time ever – a panettone with sweet chestnut puree swirled throughout – and deemed it pretty good for the price (11.90€ for a 750 gram loaf). I may be more of the non-traditional type, fancying gourmet fruit combos over the original candied citrus and raisins, but Natale ain’t Christmas without a whole load of panettone.

Panettone checklist

Ol Pastisser panettoni

Let’s see…five for us and 1 for the inlaws. Plus the one to come when MotH’s employer gives out the annual panettone for the holidays. That sounds about right, although there’s always the risk of succumbing to the 1/2 price sales come February. How many of these do you really need anyway?, is what the westie is probably wondering. She sat in to give an idea of what a half kilo (top) and 1 kilo bread (below) looks like, but these babies can be up to 5x larger and even more.

La Focaccia of Tabiano

Our #1 favorite panettone continues to be from Ol Pastisser in Clusone (Bergamo), followed by Pasticceria Tabiano in Tabiano Terme (Parma). The fruit in the latter are bite-size chunks (as seen below), and the texture is soooo soft and soooo light that it feels like eating a slice of panettone cloud.
La Focaccia