Flour, butter, sugar and eggs are simple ingredients that, when worked by expert hands, transform into the symbol of Ticino's confectionary tradition: the panettone. Numerous are the secrets and difficulties to make this sweet bread loaf. Born in Milan, where it has been produced for centuries especially during the Christmas season, it has become a symbolic “cake” year-round in Ticino. Every pastry shop jealously guards its homemade recipe. Yet, the magic in the panettone happens thanks to its mother dough, the main ingredient that determines the development of the dough and the flavours.
The most delicate part of the process to guarantee a successful result is the preparation of the so-called mother dough. It is made from an acid mixture of flour and water where yoghurt, apples, bran or honey can be added to accelerate the fermentation process. Three weeks are needed, during which, water and flour (refreshments) are added to the basic mixture in order to reach maturation of the mother dough, custodian of the typical aromas that distinguish the structure of the panettone. At this point the natural yeast must continue to be refreshed three times in one day before starting the actual production process.
Flour, water, butter, sugar and egg yolks are added to obtain a new mixture that after some ten hours will triple in volume. Afterwards, another dose of flour, water, butter, sugar and egg yolks is added, finally followed by candied fruit and natural aromas (honey, vanilla and citrus peels). You then obtain an elastic dough that, after resting another hour, can be divided into parts and set in the appropriate moulds, where it is left for at least another four hours before the leavening of the panettone is complete.
Before baking it, the top of the panettone is cut in the shape of a cross in order to create little protrusions that are pulled towards the exterior and in the centre of which a flake of butter is placed. Once it is baked for about 45 to 50 minutes for 1 kg, with the assistance of a special spiked tool, the panettone is hung upside-down until it is cold. This is to avoid it from drooping and to guarantee its signature shape.
Swiss-Italian confectioners, reunited in the Società Mastri Panettieri-Pasticceri e Confettieri (Master Baker-Confectioner Society), deliver their products to a tasting commission that issues a quality trademark to the products that meet the standards and were made following the tradition, using exclusively natural ingredients. There are also quality panettoni made by confectioners that do not join the association.