Panettone the Italian version of the Fruit Cake?
You know the holidays are around the corner when you see the pyramid of panettone boxes stacked in the local Italian market.
The cakes were baked and shipped months before they would be shared with family and friends at Christmas. Not as dense as the American version of a fruit cake, this Christmas cake has dried fruit and nuts mixed in.
Until I spent the weeks before Christmas in Italy I had never tried a FRESH panettone. It was moist with a rich taste and not many pieces of dried fruit. NOTHING like the panettone I found in New Jersey.
Olga Stinga from Sorrento shared with me how panettone are brought as a gift when you visit family or friends. And often the family will receive a large number of panettone. So when they in turn go out and visit they will ‘re-gift’ one. Re-gifting started in Italy. According to Maria, an English teacher in Salerno, Panettone is a Christmas fruit cake which arrives in the shops at the end of October. “The cake shops make their own with fresh ingredients and have a shorter sell by date as they use no preservatives.”
Italy does have a ‘fruit cake’, panaforte. I am told it is a specialty of Siena and is denser than panatone. Il Mercato Italiano’s web site describes three versions of panaforete: “A flat, dense, round cake made with honey, hazelnuts, almonds, candied citron, citrus peel, cocoa, and spices. It contains a very small amount of flour, just enough to hold the cake together. After baking, panforte becomes firm and chewy”. (from http://www.ilmercatoitaliano.net/)
Specialty Christmas cakes in Italy are works of art and are NOT inexpensive. While shopping for a thank you gift in Lecce, I purchased a panattone. The prices ranged from $20.00 to more than $50.00 and I am sure some of the gorgeously wrapped cakes were far more. Not your usual fruit cake.
Photos from google and the Italian Market site.