The historic holiday Baj Panettone is made with a 100 year old mother yeast. Cesare Baj, the 7th generation owner of the Baj Panettone company, walked me through the company's history beginning back in 1768.
The history of panettone and the Baj Panettone
Panettone literally means big bread and it refers to the super soft and delicious holiday sweet raisin bread you find on every Italian table at Christmas.
The beginnings of this bread-like cake date back to the Roman empire, and the current day version of panettone is from the Lombardy region of northern Italy. The standard cupola-shaped panettone size is 1 kg but you can find everything from mono-portion sizes on up to more than 10 kg. Supposedly the ideal panettone size for texture and flavor is a 2 kg panettone.
Panettone are traditionally filled with raisins and candied citrus but these days you can find lots of variations. Often panettone are filled with chocolate and this year I found a delicious salted caramel panettone.
Part of the panettone tradition is the gorgeous packaging it comes in and it was this that inspired Cesare and his son Tomaso to bring Panettone Baj back to life in 2016 after 50 years of closure following rough economic times during the second world war.
Cesare Baj has a long professional history on the editorial side and was the CEO of a newspaper, and a science writer. He's also a passionate aviator and designs mathematical toys like Mathematicus.
Each and every Baj Panettone package reflects the gorgeous packaging the Company used back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Each package also comes with a booklet that tells the story of the company. So it's more than just a holiday cake, it's a slice of history.
Panettone Baj also makes pandoro, another Italian holiday Christmas cake.
Right now you won't find any panettone with this historic packaging because Baj is collaborating with Rotary international during the 2021 holiday season and the Baj packaging reflects this collaboration. For each panettone sold a donation goes to Rotary international's End Polio Now campaign.
Baj Panettone produces about 20,000 panettone per year, a very tiny percentage of the hundreds of millions produced annually.
Why is panettone only sold at Christmas?
This has become the firmly entrenched Italian holiday tradition but it's not the case in other countries worldwide. In Peru, for example, panettone is enjoyed year-round.
At Easter Italians enjoy an almost identical dessert cake, the Colomba di Pasqua, or Easter Dove. The Colomba shape is different and it's also topped with sugar and almonds.
Making your own panettone
Panettone is not as simple to make as might meet the eye. It's usually a several days project that requires many different risings. I don't make panettone every year but I've worked out a simple to follow a recipe and it's lots of fun to make.
You can purchase panettone online with all kinds of gorgeous packaging and different flavors like this apple and cinnamon panettone. Panettone make a great gift and they’re a delicious addition to your holiday table.
Panettone French toast
I don't think there’s a more delicious way to use leftover panettone than panettone French toast. I make it every holiday season and here's my recipe.
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