This year has been all about the panettone. Initially, I tried to fight it. I saw these holiday cakes in stockpiles at my local grocery store in late November and began to rationalize that it was simply too early before Christmas to start eating them.
Why did I do this? Well, because, like a proper panettone lover, once I start eating them, I won’t stop. But eventually, I came to my senses and realized that I’d be a fool not to try as many panettoni as I could, given the fact that I’m currently living in Italy.
For those unaware, panettone is an Italian sweet bread originally from Milan that’s eaten during the Christmas season. The word translates literally as “large loaf cake” and typically has a rounded top with a cylindrical base, but it can also have a star-shape like in the case of pandoro. The curing and proofing process of the loaf is a lengthy one but that’s what ensures the fluffiest interior. Typically, panettone is crafted with candied orange zest and raisins, but there are many other varieties like the plain pandoro or panettone filled with creams or other mix-ins. Though panettone is not yet D.O.P. protected, efforts are being made to give this specialty cake recognition.
Interestingly, the origins of panettone dates back to the Roman Empire, when ancient Romans sweetened leavened cake with honey. As years have passed, there have been many fruitcake variations as mentioned by Italian chef to popes and emperors, Bartolomeo Scappi. Regardless of when this cake came to be, I’m glad that it’s here and I’m glad I can enjoy it!
Whether eaten with your morning cappuccino, enjoyed as a snack or served as an after dinner dessert served with a glass of Moscato d'Asti or some zabaglione to dunk, panettone is one of my favourite holiday indulgences. But, now that the panettone/pandoro season is starting to draw to a close I feel like I need to buy some of my fav cakes that I’ve tried in 2020.
It’s been a sweet and savory ride this year and I’ve both purchased and been gifted all sorts of cakes. I’ve tried cheaper panettoni and more expensive ones; commercial brands and bakery buys. Hell, I was even tempted to try making my own panettone! While that didn’t happen this year, I foresee it potentially happening in the new year, once I deplete my stash.
So what exactly have I eaten? Let me give you a brief summary and rating…
Panettone Gran Galup Tradizionale
Since 1922, Galup has been making panettone and other delicacies in Pinerolo, Piemonte. This panettone is made with fresh candied fruit and raisins and is topped with Galup’s signature hazelnut glaze made from Nocciole del Piemonte I.G.P., toasted almonds and granulated sugar. Deemed as innovative, Galup reinvented a Lombardian classic while setting a new Piemontese precedent for panettone and for that, I applaud this dolce. I found the crunchy nut topping an exciting addition to the traditionally-know panettone. The interior was super fluffy and the aroma was distinctly fruity and buttery. Overall, 7/10.
Panetteria Battaglino Pere e Cioccolato
From a nearby bakery down the street from my lil Bra apartment, this panettone blends two great flavours together to create a stellar cake. On the smaller side, this artisanal panettone was a bit more costly but made with the hands of bakery specialists. Though I enjoyed the flavours, for me the texture wasn’t as soft as some of the other panettones I’ve had the pleasure of sampling; for this reason, this panettone gets an 5/10 for me.
Il Golosone Tiramisù
This panettone was soaked in coffee and filled with a tiramisù cream. A very delicious version, the cream inside seemed to sink towards the bottom of the cake which made for some difficulty cutting and serving. That said, the panettone itself was very light and airy and had a beautiful crumb. This was one of my favourite panettoni so I’m giving this an 8/10.
Galup Panettone Amaretto, Cioccolato e Pesca
Completely unique, this panettone is inspired by the classic Piemontese dessert of stuffed peaches. Filled with candied peaches, dark chocolate morsels and their classic Galup hazelnut topping plus amaretti cookie crumbles, this really was a stellar panettone for me. Never have I seen a panettone like this before, I was impressed the second I laid eyes on it at the supermarket. I knew I had to give it a try and thank goodness I did! I’m giving this a 10/10!
I Deliziosi La Fattoria delle Cose Buone Pere e Cioccolato
Found at our local supermarket in gorgeous shiny wrapping, this pear and chocolate panettone was soft and had an overwhelming aroma. Though it was on the shorter side, it had subtle pear flavour and was a nice treat with a morning oat milk cappuccino. This ranks 6/10.
Fiasconaro in collaboration with Dolce & Gabbana: Panettone Candied Citrus and Saffron
I purchased this panettone last year in Canada and while it was delicious, the saffron-infused, candied-orange-filled D&G panettone here was even more impressive! I bought both a miniature version for both myself and my Secret Santa because the tin was so aesthetic. But, I also purchased a larger panettone that came with a glass bottle nebulizer of Vecchio Samperi (a dessert wine) to be spritzed on each slice of panettone. The delectable flavor of the Fiasconaro brand combined with the aesthetic Sicilian-inspired tin boxes, creates such a luxurious experience that can’t be denied. I eventually enjoyed this panettone on New Year’s Eve in the company of my friends from both the Food and Wine Master and everyone was completely in love with it! Though this was by far the most costly panettone (77 euros!), this panettone was definitely worth it. This gets a 9/10!
Panettone Gran Galup Pera e Cioccolato
Made with dark chocolate chips and candied pears, this was one of the better chocolate and pear varieties despite the fact that it is a mass-produced panettone and not an artisanal version. That said, it ranks 6/10 for me.
Lo Sfizio Di... Pandoro
This bakery serves amazing focaccia and biscotti, so naturally, my friends bought a pandoro which we had the pleasure of tasting. I’m definitely #teampanettone all the way, however, I will admit that this pandoro was out of this world. It was incredibly butter and rich and so soft it felt like I was taking a bite out a cloud. It’s hard for a pandoro to impress me since it can’t hide behind any fruits or nuts or toppings, but this was amazing. This scores an 8/10!
Maina Gran Chef Panettone Gastronomico
I freaked out when I saw this savoury panettone. Essentially like a panettone-shaped brioche, this is apparently something that many Italians buy over the holiday seasons. Acting as a show stopping aperitivo piece, it’s sliced in layers that are then filled with different meats, cheeses and spreads, and then reassembled into its form and served. I truly was obsessed with panettone gastronomico this season! Though poor planning and an abundance of other food meant that we didn’t get to assemble a proper version of this savoury brioche, we did still enjoy slices with aperitivo! I give this panettone a 9/10!
The suggested layers:
Peppers from Cuneo, anchovies, basil and extra virgin olive oil
Club sandwich (chicken breast, lettuce, mayo, boiled egg, tomato)
Mortadella di Bologna I.G.P, grilled eggplant slices, smoked provolone
Caviar and butter
Cream cheese, thyme, smoked salmon
Salami and stracchino
Bresaola, arugula, Parmigiano Reggiano D.O.P.
Mint, spring onions, fresh tomato
I Deliziosi La Fattoria delle Cose Buone Panettone al Moscato
Another interesting supermarket find, this panettone was exciting solely for the way it was marketed as having candied moscato grapes. Though the aroma of moscato was definitely present as I unwrapped the cake from its package, the flavour seemed to be lacking a bit. For me this gets a 5/10.
Vergani Panettone allo Sciroppo d’Acero e Noci Pecan
When I saw this panettone at the supermarket, my lil Canadian heart could barely handle it! I bought two out of sheer excitement and patriotism. Unfortunately, this wasn’t my absolute favourite panettone as it was a bit dry and lacked a fair amount of maple flavour. From Pasticceria Vergani, a bakery that’s been around since 1944, this panettone is just one of the many types of traditional cakes they make. With a dense yellow interior, this panettone was unfortunately a bit too dry and lackluster for me. I rank this a 3/10.
Chiostro di Saronno Panettone Artigianale
This was a cake that was gifted to me and it was easily one of the most artisanal-feeling panettoni I tried this season. It possessed a very unique flavour as the raisins and candied fruits were more on the bitter side and not all perfectly and uniformly diced. An authentic product, this panettone felt like it was made by someone’s nonna. The perfect balance of flour to milk, eggs to butter and candied fruit to yeast was spot on. I give this panettone an 7/10.
And that concludes my panettone tastings, however, I’d also love to share some others that I came across but didn’t get the pleasure of tasting.
Bottega Balocco’s pineapple, papaya, guava and jackfruit panettone that’s bursting with tropical island flavours
Massimo Bottura’s classic panettone for Gucci Osteria which is packaged in an aesthetic pink tin with a beautifully drawn eye
Mauro Morandin’s beer panettone, truffle panettone and even panettone with olives
Del Cambio’s Giandoro, which is essentially a gianduiotto-shaped pandoro covered in cocoa powder
Morandini de Castro’s Slow Food panettone made with certified D.O.P. ingredients and prepared according to the traditional rising times indicative of authentic panettone
Attilio Servi’s Panettoni del Contadino with semi-candied pears and 24-month-aged Parmigiano Reggiano Vacche Rosse or with sun-dried tomatoes, pecorino, guanciale and oregano and lastly, a cacio e pepe variation
Then there’s also many others made with activated charcoal or filled with creams (lemon, pistachio, hazelnut, chocolate, jams, etc.), or stuffed with different nuts or chocolates. It also isn’t bizarre to see gluten-free, lactose-free, sugar-free or even vegan panettone at different bakeries and markets. Every Italian is ensured the right to enjoy this seasonal wonder!
In doing some research, I even came across a very cool product: spreadable panettone cream. I’ll definitely have to try once I’m finished with #Veganuary. (Update: I bought two jars and I have to say that it smells like panettone but is super sweet to the point where it feels like you’re spreading buttercream frosting on a piece of bread!)
Since the possibilities are endless and that’s inspiring enough for me to want to make my own designer panettone. Maybe one with macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips or a savoury version with zucchini flower, scamorza and some saffron?
But, rather than crafting my own artisanal panettone, you’ll probably catch me instead in the kitchen repurposing my panettone into bread puddings using Jamie Oliver’s recipe which you can find here. My favourite thing to do with leftover cake is always the tried and true cake pop, which never seems to disappoint. But, you can also transform your panettone into french toast or even tear up some pieces and add to ice cream to make an Italian panettone gelato. But that's not all, you can even use leftover slices to layer inside a tiramisù in place of soaked ladyfingers!
Essentially, you don’t need to ever worry about buying too much panettone because you can do so many things with it and fall in love with its festive flavour anytime. Though I know that it’ll soon be Colomba season in a few months for Easter, I’m a panettone girl at heart and I’m thrilled that this year in Italy I was able to indulge in this vice properly!
. . .
What’s the best panettone you’ve ever eaten? Share a link below!