Panettone is one of the most famous Italian Christmas desserts, well-beloved worldwide, from Europe to the Americas to Australia to Africa. It’s originally from Milan, and most theories agree that it was created sometime around the 15th century.
Classic Panettone bread has a cylindrical form and is around 4.5 to 6 inches high. The dough is made mainly with simple ingredients: flour, butter, eggs, and sugar. What sets it apart from other similar pastries is the characteristic fluffiness achieved through the prolonged leavening process that can take days.
Classic Panettone is plain, with the dough commonly containing candied citrus and raisins. However, varieties covered or filled with chocolate, nuts, and other ingredients have become popular in the last couple of decades. Most Italian bakeries adhere to strict guidelines when baking Panettone, which calls for at least 20% candied fruit, 16% butter, and eggs with at least 4% yolk.
The industrialization of Panettone is strongly associated with two Milanese bakers, Angelo Motta and Gioacchino Alemagna. Motta, specifically, is responsible for the current cupola shape and fluffy, light texture of the Panettone: to create his signature recipe, he made the dough rise three different times across almost 20 hours and three different times.
Since WWII, Panettone has become so popular worldwide that artisan bakeries and brands like Dolce & Gabbana have tried their hand at making their signature, decadent Panettones, once again giving it the luxury flair it had before the 20th century.