The origins of the Panettone

Since we are in the period of Christmas holiday, I thought I would write an article about the origin of panettone, a sweet bread loaf typically Italian.

1392233924829.jpgIn Italy ,the panettone comes with an often varied history, but one that invariably states that its birthplace is in Milan. The word “panettone” derives from the Italian word “panetto“, a small loaf cake. The augmentative Italian suffix “-one” changes the meaning to “large cake“.

The origins of this cake appear to be ancient, dating back to the Roman Empire, when ancient Romans sweetened a type of leavened cake with honey. Throughout the ages this “tall, leavened fruitcake” makes cameo appearances in the arts: It is shown in a sixteenth-century painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder and is possibly mentioned in a conimage001temporary recipe book written by Bartolomeo Scappi, personal chef to popes and emperors during the time of Charles V. The first recorded association of panettone with Christmas can be found in the writings of 18th century illuminist Pietro Verri. He refers to it as “Pane di Tono” (luxury cake).

On the other hand there are also legends about the origins of panettone..

Though the etymology of the word ‘panettone’ is rather mundane, three more complex and fanciful folk etymologies have arisen.It is also thought that one of the ecclesiastical brothers, Fr. Antonio, who always wore the proper hat, was fond of this Pane. The ecclesiastical hat Pane Tone was later adopted as the shape, which gave rise to Panettone. This derivation received credence and acceptability at the turn of the century, and is likely to be the foreunner of the more recent Christmas cake.

Gianrian Carli in “Il Caffe” makes passing reference to Panettone in 1850 in discussion with Pietro Verri and alludes to a clerical hat. Prof. S Reynders. Dipartimento di Scienze del Linguaggio, Università Ca’Foscari (1987).One suggests that the word derives from the Milanese, “pan del ton”, meaning “cake of luxury”.

Another states Pala_Sforzesca_-_detail_01that a 15th-century legend from Milan gives the invention to the nobleman falconer Ughetto Atellani, who loved Adalgisa, the daughter of a poor baker named Toni. To help her, the nobleman disguised himself as a baker and invented a rich cake to which he added flour and yeast, butter, eggs, dried raisins, and candied lemon and orange peel.

The duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro Sforza (1452–1508), agreed to the marriage, which was held in the presence of Leonardo da Vinci, and encouraged the launch of the new bread-like cake: Pan de Toni (or Toni’s cake).

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