Christmas in Italy demands panettone. By now this seasonal sweet bread has travelled round the world and can be found piled mountain-high in fine food shops and supermarkets everywhere. But my panettone is different from all of them. It's a present from Mirko Tognetti of Cremeria Opera Lucca, who teaches our gelato course.
If you have a gelateria in a climate with cold winters, the challenge is to find a winter product. An even bigger challenge for Mirko was to make a panettone that could hold its head up proudly in the company of his superlative natural gelato.
He started using lievito madre (sourdough starter) last year to make Sicilian brioche, the traditional accompaniment to granita. There’s a good historical case for making panettone solely with lievito madre. Legend attributes its invention to the Visconti court of Milan in the 1300s, long before yeast began to be manufactured industrially.
But it isn’t easy to achieve good results with lievito madre in the presence of eggs and sugar. On Friday 8 December, the last day of our gelato course, Mirko still wasn’t entirely satisfied with his trial panettoni. Production was to start on Tuesday the 12th. On Saturday morning he set off for Reggio Emilia at 5 am to spend three days with an expert at working with lievito madre to improve his skills at handling the starter dough. The results are dramatic.
I wish you could be here to share Mirko’s panettone and the love he’s put into his creation.
Details of our Gelato Course
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