Buon Natale! And how to avoid that sinking feeling…
Christmas: a time to eat, drink and…be heavier? One of the culprits, let’s face it, is a traditional British Christmas cake. Delicious though it can be, for some people it’s not a sweetmeat of choice after a large turkey dinner, and marzipan is one of those Marmite foodstuffs – love it or hate it!
Eliza Acton, revered nineteenth century cook, observed that “more illness is caused by habitual indulgence in rich and heavier kind of cakes than can easily be credited by persons who have given no attention to the subject.”
The good news is that here at Campania Food and Wine, we have the perfect alternative made in Campania – an Alberti Strega Panettone or its even lighter cousin, the Alberti Strega Pandoro.
The panettone is a sweet bread loaf, light and airy, beautifully studded with dried fruits and candied peel. It originated in Milan, in Northern Italy and there are many fanciful stories about why it’s called panettone.
The boring version, sadly the most credible, is that ‘panetto’ means ‘loaf’ in Italian and the addition of the suffix ‘-one’ is applied to something that’s large – so – panettone simply means large loaf.
It’s complicated to make a panettone, involving a proving process which takes several days. This allows the flavours to develop and enhances the distinctive fluffy texture. After precise baking, it’s hung upside-down to cool, which stretches it out to give the characteristic dome shape.
The pandoro (golden bread in translation) is more cake-like in texture, a soft sponge, rich with butter and eggs, and traditionally baked in an eight-pointed star shape.
Italians tend to buy their panettone and pandoro from the local pasticceria, to give as precious gifts for family and friends.
The Alberti Panettone and Pandoro are lovingly made in Campania using traditional artisan skills, based on 150 years of specialist cake-baking experience. Carefully-selected, top quality local ingredients are used, infused with Strega, a local liqueur, which gives a gorgeous saffron hue and a hint of peppermint and juniper flavours.
I can personally guarantee that both are absolutely delicious!
Here are a few words of warning, though: Caveat emptor – let the buyer beware!
The panettone is the festive feature of every household in Italy but is also one of the most copied Italian cakes around the world. You only have to look in a British supermarket at this time of year! There are aisles full of it, often mass-produced somewhere other than Italy, with cheap ingredients and a long shelf-life.
Don’t be tempted to purchase cheap imitation cakes and risk being disappointed like that!
Buy a beautiful Alberti Strega Panettone or Pandoro from Campania Foods and Wine, and…
Have yourself a merry little lighter Christmas!
Buon natale e felice anno nuovo!