If you want to do as Italians do, don’t buy fruitcake. While Americans are sawing into dark, thick brandied cake full of candied fruit, Italians are savoring their holiday bread called panettone. This light and slightly sweet bread is so delicious you’ll be coming back for seconds and thirds. Sometimes made with pine nuts and raisins or other candied fruit, panettone looks exactly like a chef’s hat the true origin of the cake can be found in the Middle Ages when people used to celebrate Christmas with a bread richer than the one ate every day.

A manuscript of late fifteenth-century written by George Valagussa, tutor for Sforza family, reports the tradition of celebrating the so-called “rito del ciocco”. On Christmas Eve a large piece of wood was placed in the fireplace and three wheat bread were served on the table. Wheat was a precious ingredient at that time. The head of the family served a slice to all guests, and a slice was kept aside for the following year as sign of continuity.

Commonly made in French baking papers, it’s a stunner on the holiday table and makes the perfect hostess gift for gluten-tolerant entertaining. If you have extra time to try your hand at a panettone recipe, consider trying this one from Brown Eyed Baker. Otherwise, there are plenty of online sources for that last minute menu planning.

 

 

Photo image: BrownEyedBaker