Fall is well on its way, and that means one thing: it’s time to start thinking about Christmas. Italians are pretty serious about the festivity, especially when it comes to the main protagonist of it all: the food.
From Rome to Milan, chances are nonnas are currently planning their menus, bakeries are starting to put out their Christmas-themed treats, and everyone is counting the days to their first bite of torrone.
Ensuring your Yuletide table will be filled with the best of things should be a top priority right now – which is why, as of today, we’re beginning to take orders for our latest collaboration.
Let us introduce you to the ISSIMO x Soul Cake Panettone.
In case you’re wondering: Panettone is a must of the Italian Christmas canon. A sweet bread pudding whose origins date back to the 19th century, it is the undisputed king of the holidays, rivalled only by pandoro (the competition is fierce), and the only way to end any meal from December 24 to January 6. Really: Visit any Italian home during the festive period, and you’ll see a golden crown of panettone peeking from the pantry or under the Christmas tree. In the Bel Paese, no Natale is complete without it.
Its iconic status is linked not just to its taste – utterly delicious – but to how complex it is to make. Soft and airy, this domed-shaped cake takes hours to be prepped and baked, meaning it’s not just something you can easily whip up in an afternoon, but a real treat to be bought specifically for Christmas, and savoured with friends and family.
The ISSIMO x Soul Cake Panettone has been crafted with all that in mind. Artisanal and small batch, it’s a slice of indulgence to celebrate the season like a real Italian, and a really good sweet loaf to gift or bring to a Christmas party, dinner, or casual get-together.
To learn more about it, we spoke with Alessandro Masia, a master pasticciere, professor at ALMA cooking school (the Scuola Internazionale di Cucina Italiana) and consultant for Soul Cake – the boutique bakery we’ve teamed up with – on what makes it so moreish.
First things first: Are you team panettone or team pandoro?
That’s too difficult of a question. All I’ll say is that while it’s easier to buy a good pandoro in the supermarket, tasty industrial panettoni are much more difficult to find. Panettone requires special dedication – and an artisanal panettone can’t be beat.
Very impartial answer…What makes a good panettone?
The ingredients. At Soul Cake, we use only natural, premium ingredients, from the butter to the candied fruit. That makes all the difference when it comes to texture and taste. And then the production process, of course.
Let’s talk about that. Panettone is often called the ‘Everest’ of holiday baking, given how difficult it is to make…Could you guide us through it?
Panettone is indeed quite a complex bake. It requires a lot of time and technical steps, starting with ensuring you have an extremely lively yeast to work with. Without that, what you end up with is just a stale cake. Bakers have to control temperature, acidity, and the alcohol generated through fermentation, as well as go through a lengthy rising process [panettone’s dough is thrice risen] as they incorporate abundant egg yolk, sugar, butter, sultanas and candied fruit.
How long does it take to make a panettone?
Between 60 to 72 hours. That includes the 12 hours it has to rest upside down once it’s been baked and before it’s packaged. Panettone has a souffle-like tendency to collapse, so ensuring it’s cooled down is key. We do that when the panettone reaches 22 degrees Celsius. It’s all very precise.
Is the ISSIMO x Soul Cake a classic panettone?
Yes and no. The recipe and preparation are those of a traditional panettone. What we have added though are glazed sugar and almonds on top, which aren’t part of the classic Milanese-style panettone [panettone hails from Lombardy]. They bring in extra crunch and sweetness.
Besides the fact it’s artisanal and made in limited numbers, what else would you say gives it an edge over mass-produced panettoni?
The freshness. The ISSIMO x Soul Cake panettone and all the other panettoni we make at Soul Cake don’t contain any mono-diglycerides [preservatives used in industrial food manufacturing processes]. That means they have a shelf life of around 40 days, and just taste more genuine than any supermarket-bought ones.
As for Soul Cake, tell us a bit more about the bakery!
Soul Cake is a small, artisanal bakery in Chiavenna, in the heart of Valtellina. We’ve been collaborating for the past five years, and work closely on our panettone production. The name comes from Sting’s Soul Cake song – we actually sent him a panettone last year to thank him for the inspiration.
Hungry for panettone? Pre-order yours now.