The art of panettone

“Panettone is an icon of free-from-hunger Milan. An angelic projection of bread, which had for too long been dressed with humble saliva alone”: the great Lombard journalist Gianni Brera (1919-1992) thus described the famous Italian sweet in an article he published a few years ago on the weekly “L’Espresso”.

Made with a mix of water, butter, flour and egg yolks, and sweetened with raisins, candied fruit, orange and lime rinds, panettone has a mysterious history with roots that likely drive deep into the Middle Ages. Legend has it that it was originally named “Pan de Toni”, meaning “Toni’s bread”, Toni being a servant to Ludovico Sforza, as well as the inventor of this traditional dessert-bread.

What is certain is that centuries later, several great illustrators were entrusted with creating the tempting advertisement posters you see below. Gino Boccasile, Lucien Bertaux, Federico Seneca, Michelangelo Cignetti, and many more worked for the Italian companies who made – and continue to make, in some cases – panettone.

Seeing the tall loaf brought to the table, some might quote Gianni Brera again: “Finally, a tureen brimming with cream announced the arrival of His Majesty the Panettone at the table. You looked at it with hatred, as if it were a woman who finally gave in after one too many pleas”.

December 30, 2014