When I was a kid, on the French Riviera, the day my grandmother arrived with her panettone started the countdown to Christmas. This brioche of Lombard origin with raisins and candied citrus fruits, whose invention dates back to the 15th century, was then confidential in the rest of France. She had also lost her splendor, largely disfigured by industry, and was often nothing more than a shadow of herself.
In no time, however, panettone reinvented itself. The obligatory holiday gift came in a thousand and one variations – chocolate, alcoholic, with almonds, with pistachios, etc. – which appealed to Italians beyond the holiday period, then it took on an unprecedented international aura with the renaissance of artisanal baking, the return to traditional sourdough and good wheat. Formerly of Meurice, Dalloyau and Bon Marché Rive Gauche, pastry chef Christophe Louie fell in love with panettone while training in the bakery, and followed the advice of maestro Mauro Morandin in Val d’Aosta to become a champion of this Italian brioche. “Social networks have undoubtedly amplified and accelerated the phenomenon, making people want to try artisanal panettone,” he explains.
A real challenge: “You need a very particular hard leaven, refreshed three times, at the base of a dough kneaded and leavened for around 12 hours,” begins Christophe Louie. When it has tripled without taking on acidity, we knead it a second time with again flour, butter, sugar, honey, candied fruit. Then we let it rest, put it in a mold and let it rise for another 6 to 8 hours. After 1 hour of cooking, the panettones must be pricked and cooled for 8 hours upside down so as not to collapse. »
Ideally, you should wait another three or four days before eating them, giving time for the flavors to diffuse to give the brioche a beautiful aromatic complexity. Good panettone is well rounded, with a loose crumb, a little cottony in the mouth but never dry, which can be enjoyed as is for dessert, at breakfast or even with foie gras during festive meals.
Panettone vs pandoro
A typical Christmas specialty of Lombardy, Piedmont and Ticino in Switzerland, panettone is a dome-shaped sourdough brioche, sweetened with honey, riddled with raisins and pieces of citron or candied orange peel. It does not contain egg whites and must be made with at least 20% butter. Its very airy crumb is pale yellow, and its thin, very brown crust evokes flaky, tender and delicate leather.
Originally from Verona, and also associated with Christmas, pandoro (photo) is also historically a sourdough brioche. Its much tighter crumb, however, gives it the appearance of a cake. Despite having many ingredients in common with panettone, pandoro contains egg whites, cocoa butter, a healthy dose of vanilla and traditionally no inclusions. It is shaped like an eight-pointed star, served covered with icing sugar.
The beautiful remains
In a hypothetical world where you would not have devoured all the panettone in one go, already know that you can take your time: “A good artisanal panettone will keep for three weeks in its packaging,” reassures Christophe Louie. “If it’s cold, keep it near a heat source because it is rich in butter and will tend to set. » When it starts to dry out, you can simply put the slices in the toaster or frying pan to make them soft again. And when it starts to go stale, it’s not over: it’s fabulous dipped in a mixture of milk, sugar and beaten eggs then browned in the pan, French toast style. “Hélène Darroze didn’t even wait for it to dry, she bought me panettone to make French toast directly,” laughs the pastry chef.
He also likes to use it to flavor dairy preparations: “Let a piece infuse in milk, it will take on the aromas of panettone. Filter and use in your cappuccinos, flans, dessert creams… » Finally, a genius idea for a festive breakfast: « Dehydrate your leftover panettone, make breadcrumbs and add it to the rest of the ingredients. a granola with Christmas spices,” suggests Christophe Louie.