What is Panettone?

This sweet bread loaf is a popular Italian Christmas treat
Wikimedia Commons

Panettone is a light, eggy sweet bread enjoyed at Christmastime.

Come Christmastime, an increasing number of supermarkets and specialty shops around the world are stocking what’s called panettone, and even though its origins are in Italy, it just might become your new favorite Christmas dinner tradition.

Panettone (which translates roughly to “large loaf cake”) has its origins in the ancient Roman Empire, but today it’s largely recognized as a Milanese specialty. In 1919, renowned baker Angelo Motta created and began to market the panettone as we now know it, and largely due to his efforts it’s enjoyed around the world today.

But what is a panettone, exactly? It starts with a very eggy, sweet dough, similar to brioche, that’s studded with raisins,candied orange, citron, and lemon zest. It’s allowed to rise three times for a total of nearly 20 hours, giving it a supremely light, fluffy texture.

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To serve, it’s typically cut into wedges, and eaten with crema di mascarpone (a combination of mascarpone, eggs, candied fruit, and sweet liqueur) or zabaglione (a light custard made with egg yolks, sugar, and sweet wine). A nice glass of Moscato d’Asti on the side doesn’t hurt, either.