Germany vs Italy: Round 2 (A Christmas Special)

With Christmas around the corner, like many I’ve been busy with preparations. Predominately hitting the gym. Googling sweet delicacies to make. And then there is the great deal of time spent thinking of presents. Like any good Italian, my relatives have found an easy out on the present front to leave more time to focus on the food. It is simple- give a Panettone: the give that keeps on giving. Why? Because it is a well-known fact that most Panettone are regifted at least five times before they find their other half, their owner. If that happens to be our family, it’s life is then significantly cut short.

My year 11 Italian teacher, Beryl, explained the origins of the name “Panetonne”, a delicious hybrid of cake and bread. According to Beryl, the name comes from the inventor of the dish, Antonio (Tonne), who made his own type of bread (pane, in Italian) for the festive season. Though I’d never trust a lady with the name Beryl for anything Italian-related (and whilst this story does appear on Wiki, it is under the “Legends” section), Panetonne is so scrumptious that it is brought out not once but twice a year, for Christmas and Easter. Usually it is bought from the shops, and although these days there are all sorts of fancy flavours like choc chip and limoncello, nothing beats the traditional sultana and candied peel.  For some reason, despite many Italians (including my Nonna) liking to make everything that is stocked in the pantry and fridge, they seem content with buying (or passing along received) panetonne... so let’s go one better and make one! There are a huge range of recipes; some take days and require making a starter dough, so naturally I found one that is quite simple yet tastes as Chritsmasy as candy cane covered mince pies resting on a gingerbread house. No doubt the bottom of this one won’t need to be marked to see if it comes back...

Across a border or two in Germany, a very similar cake is enjoyed at Christmas: Stollen. It has a similar basis of yeast, flour, candied/ dried fruit, though this one is often slathered with melted unsalted butter and rolled in sugar as soon as it comes out of the oven, keeping it nice and moist. It can have a marzipan log in the centre, which my part-German housemate claims is the way it’s done. Less like a cake, more like a dense bread, the recipe itself is quite similar, though has the addition of cinnamon and cardamon. So again, let’s battle it out between the Germans and the Italians (a win-win battle, as by the end we will have two delicious cakes to enjoy... a much nicer ending to battle than the one between the two countries back in the 1940s...). A Merry Christmas to all, may the season be filled with the most delicious food and (the dietitian in me can't help herself), may the turkey be the only one who's stuffed- moderation, baby!