Italian Panettone Bread History and Legends article contributed by Liz Krause, publisher of the Italian cooking website featuring Simple Italian Cooking, a resource for Italian recipes and Italian Christmas gifts related to food.
Italian Panettone Bread is also known as Panettone di Milan and Italian Christmas Bread, this famous Italian bread has its beginnings in Milan, Italy. That we do know. We also know a few legends which surround the history of this sweet holiday bread.
Today, this bread is often used a part of the Christmas gift giving season, and is found in nearly every Italian kitchen. In some families, this includes Easter as well. The bread is very buttery and does not stale easily. It is often accompanied by coffee or liqueur. It is a labor intensive bread to make which can take between 13 to 20 hours. This is mostly in part to the multiple risings which must take place. It is often prepared the day prior to serving.
Legends of Panettone Bread:
The most popular legend is the story of a nobleman named Ughetto who fell in love with the daughter of a baker. Her name was Adalgisa, and she was very beautiful. However the family of Ughetto was not pleased to learn of his affection towards the bakers daughter, and they refused to allow the two to marry. Therefore Ughetto and Adalgisa would meet under the moonlight sky in secret.
It so happened that the bakery boy at Adalgisa’s father’s bakery had fallen ill, thus causing Adalgisa to work even more hours than she was already putting in. Soon, it became near impossible for the two love birds to find the time to meet. Ughetto, frustrated that he could not spend time with his love, decided to work at the bakery incognito as a replacement for the bakery boy who had falling ill. Unfortunately however, the bakery had hit some hard times as another bakery had opened nearby and was taking away customers. As a result, they sold less bread and was making very little money. Things were not looking so good.
Ughetto ,in his creativity, took it upon himself to make some changes to the bread by adding more butter and sugar. However, there was no money to buy the needed butter so he sold some of his hawks. (He was the hawk breeder of the Duke Ludovico Maria Sforza). With the money he received, he was able to buy the necessary butter and sugar. The bread was a success and soon the business started gaining more customers.
Happy to see that Adalgisa was in better spirits, he added some candied citron and some eggs to the recipe. This too only enhanced the bread. During the upcoming Christmas season, he added some raisons to make it even more festive. Soon the bread was the talk of the town. He had not only invented a new popular and wildly tasteful bread which everyone in town praised, but as a result he and Adalgisa were soon able to be married and live happily ever after.
The name of the bread literally means, “bread of Toni”. The name originates from another legend during the same period of the Dule Ludovico in the 15th century.
The story takes place at a large banquet held for the Duke on Christmas night. The chef had a wonderful dessert prepared but it had burned and was a huge mess in the kitchen. He did not know what to do as everyone was demanding he serve the dessert.
A scullery boy named Toni approached the chef and explained that he had made his own bread using leftovers (such as egg and citron) for his family and friends. He offered it to the chef to use for the party. The chef, without any other option, accepted the generous offer . The dessert was a huge success, and when the Duke decided to congratulate the chef, the chef gave credit where credit was due. And hence, the bread was named after the scullery boy, Toni.