Panettone is an Italian dessert that is part of the country’s traditional Christmas fare. The sweet loaf is a buttery blend of bread, candied fruits, raisins, eggs, and sometimes honey that, as all appropriate Christmas customs must, has a legend attached to its origins.
The story begins in 15th-century Milan where falconiere Ughetto delgi Atellani fell in love with Adalgisa, the daughter of a baker named Toni. The two would often meet by moonlight to talk, laugh, dance, and share in each other’s company. Alas, Ughetto’s family was less than pleased to learn of the relationship. Toni was a poor man and his bakery barely scraped by. His daughter, they thought, was unworthy of Ughetto.
The couple’s problems got worse when the bakery boy Toni employed fell ill. Now short-staffed, Adalgisa was forced to work longer hours to make ends meet, further depriving her of her love. Ughetto, however, came up with an idea that solved both their problems. He disguised himself and came to work at the bakery. This allowed the couple to spend more time together and also helped ease the workload.
While working at the bakery, Ughetto saw that Adalgisa would always put her full heart and effort into the cakes she made, however, the coarse corn she had to work with was a poor medium for baking. Since the necessary flour and butter were expensive, Ughetto sold his hawks to pay for the ingredients. Adalgisa was able to use these to create a magnificent new loaf, with Ughetto adding sugar, candied citron, eggs, and raisins in the inspired spirit of the arriving Christmas season. The resulting creation was, simply put, delicious. It became the toast of the town and Toni’s bakery grew great and prosperous. Ughetto finally removed his disguise and publicly asked Adalgisa to marry him. She accepted, and the town rejoiced. The wonderful cake which had helped bring them together became known as “pan de ton,” which in the Milanese dialect means “bread of luxury.”
Regardless of whether or not this origin story is true, it is known that panettone really was a bread of luxury for a long time. The loaf is not easy to make and it commanded high prices as a result. This changed around the time of World War II, when rival Milanese bakers Angelo Motta and Gioacchino Alemagna began to fiercely compete with each other. The result of their competition was the development of new methods of baking panettone that allowed for large-scale industrial production. The dessert became widely affordable, to the delight of the people. Now considered Italy’s favourite Christmas treat, immigrants brought it over to Canada and the rest of the world.
We at MVR Cash and Carry are proud to be part of the Christmas traditions surrounding this wonderful dessert. We have a full stock of panettone, many coming to our shelves straight from Italy. Members can find them near the middle section of our store alongside chocolates, torrone, edible Santas, and more. For more information about this and our other products, you can visit our website or contact us at 416-739-8411.