The Story of Panettone: Part Two
This is the part two of our blog The Story of Panettone. If you haven’t read the first part we suggest you go and catch up with it first! Just follow this link!
Baking for the Duke
The next story is actually about the fear of losing your job and almost ruining your chances of surviving the holidays with dignity. Meaning, it’s pretty relatable even nowadays.
The story begins sometimes in the late Middle Ages and at the beginning of the Renaissance period in Italy. The setting is the grand palace of the Duke of Milan Ludovico Sforza. The more precise time: the Christmas day, of course.
The atmosphere on the court of the Milanese Duke Ludovico Sforza was pretty hectic around Christmas, to put it mildly. All the cooks, help, maids, battlers, and various court officials are running around like crazy, making sure that every tiny bit is perfectly prepared, cleaned, set and polished for the big Christmas celebration dinner. The Duke is certainly not an easy man and demands perfection when he gives orders. To put this in perspective, let’s just say that this is the same Duke who commissioned The Last Supper from Leonardo Da Vinci and became his patron. You get the picture. The man wants nothing but the absolute best. Naturally, this puts a lot of pressure on the staff, especially the cooks who understand perfectly that if something on the dinner table fails to impress, they will spend a very cold and poor Christmas along with their families. The kitchen starts to resemble a beehive, buzzing with cooks and steaming with many pots and pans over the fire. But somehow everybody has forgotten about the oven where a cake for dessert is being slowly burnt beyond recognition. When the main chef realized that the dessert was lost, the desperation ensued and everybody feared what will happen when the duke finds out that there would be no dessert on the table. However, one young fellow decided to try to save the day by collecting all the leftovers that he could find: a bit of butter, some eggs, raisins and tried to put it all together and bake something that resembled a sweet loaf. Soon, the Duke called for the dessert to be served and having no other option, the main chef presented the young cook’s sweet bread, fearfully and without hope that it could save the situation. The Duke tasted the dessert and asked “What is this cake called?”. The chef nervously tried to think of what to say and remembered that the young cook’s name was Toni, so he said “Oh it’s Panettoni! (The bread of Toni in Italian)”. The Duke congratulated the chef and Toni on their wonderful dessert and the sweet Christmas tradition was born.
Now, don’t go anywhere, we have one more Panettone story to tell!
Baking The Troubles Away
The third Panettone story is the religious one.
It was the time before Christmas in a poor Italian monastery. Sister Ughetta (yes, the name persists) saw how the nuns were very much under the weather and losing faith because of the poor conditions, the cold, hunger and lack of donations that could keep the monastery running. She decided to go through all the cupboards and stashes of the monastery kitchen to try to find some ingredients and bake a cake in order to lift the spirits of the nuns. After searching through every drawer and pantry, sister Ughetta found some yeast, flour, candied citrus, a few eggs and butter. She made the dough and blessed it with cutting the crucifix shape with a knife on top before putting it in the oven. The loaf came out tall, golden, and the cross on top made a nice decorative shape on the cupola. The nuns were delighted and praised the cake of sister Ughetta and offered some of it to the rare visitors that came for Christmas. They were very impressed by the cake and the word quickly spread. Many people came to try the cake and left the donation. The monastery was saved and Panettone became the cake that restored the spirit of Christmas and faith back into the hearts of people.
Which of these stories do you find most believable? Which one do you like the most?
Whatever your answer may be, we are sure that you will remember at least one of them the next time you taste this sweet Italian delicacy!
Another thing to remember is that Italians consider it bad luck to eat Panettone by yourself, it should always be shared with friends and family!