All day long, a flow of Milanese and tourists has streamed in to buy the dome-shaped, fluffy cake studded with raisins and candied citrus peel, Christmas would not be the same without star on the Italian Christmas table, the Panettone. The first signs of Christmas in Milan are the stacks of trapezoidal boxes, wrapped in blue, cream, white, gold and beige, that crowd the aisles and display windows of coffee shops, pastry shops and confectioners from early November to early January. A traditional Yuletide sweet bread, made with flour, eggs, leavening, butter, sugar, raisins and cedro (the candied rind of a large Sicilian lemon), Milan's panettone is a close cousin to Verona's star-shaped pandoro and Genoa's fennel-flavored pandolce. Unlike these, which are still primarily known locally, panettone has become, for many non-Italians, the symbol of Christmas in Italy.
Months before the panettone goes into the oven to be baked, experienced bakers begins their work in creating this richly sweet yeasted bread, which its taste lies within the secret from a natural yeast. Hop leaves are allowed to macerate and flour and water are gradually added. The mixture obtained is left to ferment for days and then more flour is added to create a dough. The last ingredient to be incorporated into the dough is the fresh mountain butter, plump natural raisins and citrus peels.
Differentiated from daily breads by their richness - and by the addition of fruits, nuts, spices or glazes as well as by shapes or decorations with symbolic references - all Christmas sweet breads are probably descended from the breads baked by ancient Romans as ritual offerings to their gods.
Many legends are associated with panettone. The best known tale links its origins to a 15th-century romance. Ughetto de la Tele, a young man of good family, fell in love with the a poor belle, the daughter of Milanese baker named Tonio. Fearing that his family would oppose the marriage, he supplied Tonio the finest eggs, flour, butter, sugar, raisins and candied peels in creating the bread that became an instant success, making Tonio rich and his daughter a suitable bride.
Despite the origin, there would be not doubts that the panettone is Milan's favorite Christmas dessert, usually eaten with zabaglione or with mascarpone. I have yet to attempt my own trial for this aggressive yet mesmerising flavoured treat from the bare ingredients, but using this luscious cake, my version of the Été Trifle was created; the sweet juicy berries and the lightness from the mascarpone crème will bring sunshine into our snow covered January.
Été Trifle - Summer Trifle
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup mascarpone - soften and whipped
1/2 cup sugar
Panattone - cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pint Blueberries
2 cup Frozen black cherries
2 tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup Toasted almond slices
1. Place frozen cherries in sauce pan with 1/4 cup sugar and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until simmer and reduced to 1/2 its volume. Remove from heat and cool completely. Refrigerate.
2. Whip heavy cream to medium peak with 1/4 cup sugar, fold into soften whipped mascarpone. Refrigerate.
3. Spoon 4 tbs of mascarpone crème mixture into each of the 8 martini glasses. Sprinkle fresh blueberries over the crème and cover the cream with panettone cubes.
4. Generously spoon chilled cherry sauce over the panettone layer. Repeat step 3 and 4 two more times.
5. Lastly, place one spoonful of mascarpone crème in the centre and garnish the trifle with a generous sprinkling of toasted almonds.