A friend sent us a loaf of Canova Panettone a couple of weeks ago, knowing how much we love all things Italian.
Sweet and loaded with candied fruit and raisins, this breadish-cake (or is it a cake-ish bread?) from Canova Pasticceria was made from scratch in Edmonton, Canada and unlike so many other commercial versions, their version is fresh and soft and delicious.
Time-consuming, too. The team at Canova makes 5,000 panettone each Christmas, and it's quite the process. Using a starter they call "Baby Tony," they spend 36 hours on each batch, from start to finish, and then they sell them across Canada.
But even if you've never tried a Canova Panettone, you've probably seen variations of this big, puffy cake/breads, which pop up in fancy paper packages at grocery stores and Italian supermarkets everywhere around this time of year. Originally from Milan, in Italy's Northwest region, it has been made for generations as a way to celebrate Christmas. One of the earliest references to it is in a 16th century painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder.
These days, more than 117 million panettone are made in Italy every year, and a prize is given out annually to the country's finest version. (Last year, one Giuseppe Zippo was the winner.)
Should you find yourself coming across a Canova Panettone this holiday season — or any other good-quality panettone — slice it up. Maybe toast it lightly, or at least give it a few minutes to warm up in the oven before serving.
And then pick your pairing.
- Coffee. Dig out your moka pot and make yourself a decent Italian-style black coffee. The bitterness of the coffee is a fantastic foil for the sweetness of this cake-like bread.
- Or pair with a beautiful latte. Either way, a coffee and a slice of panettone are a match made in culinary heaven.
- Moscato. This light, effervescent sparkling wine is found in many parts of the world now, but it originally hails from Northwestern Italy. Asti is a hilltop town in Piedmont, where it's made. Relatively low in alcohol and very fragrant with floral and green grape notes, a fine, cold Moscato d’Asti will pair perfectly with a slice of fresh Canova Panettone.
- Love the sweet-on-sweet combo? Find a bottle of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise. From France’s Southern Rhone region, these wines are light yet sweet, with notes of candied oranges and other tropical fruits — similar to the stuff you’ll find in the panettone itself. Serve the wine chilled and the bread warm. Mmmm.
- For some, amaretto — a sweet almond liqueur from Italy — is key to a truly decadent panettone-eating experience.
- Others prefer a late-harvest wine or an icewine from Canada. The fruit notes and the high sugar content may seem a little much for some, but a well-balanced icewine has enough acidity to handle this sweet match. There are many fine producers, but some of my favourites include those from Niagara’s Cave Spring Cellars and British Columbia’s Mission Hill Family Estate. Serve the wine chilled, in little glasses. And if you’re looking to guild the lily, add an espresso, too.