Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"Panettone an Italian Fruit Cake?

Panettone the Italian version of the Fruit Cake?

clip_image002You know the holidays are around the corner when you see the pyramid of panettone boxes stacked in the local Italian market.
The cakes were baked and shipped months before they would be shared with family and friends at Christmas. Not as dense as the American version of a fruit cake, this Christmas cake has dried fruit and nuts mixed in.

Until I spent the weeks before Christmas in Italy I had never tried a FRESH panettone. It was moist with a rich taste and not many pieces of dried fruit. NOTHING like the panettone I found in New Jersey.

 Olga Stinga from Sorrento shared with me how panettone are brought as a gift when you visit family or friends. And often the family will receive a large number of panettone. So when they in turn go out and visit they will ‘re-gift’ one.     Re-gifting started in Italy.  According to Maria, an English teacher in Salerno, Panettone is a Christmas fruit cake which arrives in the shops at the end of October. “The cake shops make their own with fresh ingredients and have a shorter sell by date as they use no preservatives.” clip_image004 clip_image006

Italy does have a ‘fruit cake’, panaforte. I am told it is a specialty of Siena and is denser than panatone.  Il Mercato Italiano’s web site describes three versions of panaforete: “A flat, dense, round cake made with honey, hazelnuts, almonds, candied citron, citrus peel, cocoa, and spices. It contains a very small amount of flour, just enough to hold the cake together. After baking, panforte becomes firm and chewy”. (from http://www.ilmercatoitaliano.net/) clip_image008

Specialty Christmas cakes in Italy are works of art and are NOT inexpensive. While shopping for a thank you gift in Lecce, I purchased a panattone. The prices ranged from $20.00 to more than $50.00 and I am sure some of the gorgeously wrapped cakes were far more. Not your usual fruit cake.

Photos from google and the Italian Market site.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Cake Boss of Lecce

DSCN1059Special occasions and holidays always required a visit to the Italian bakery.

  The smell of fresh baked bread, the cookies with unpronounceable names waited in an endless glass case to be selected, it was too hard to choose a favorite. 
Until I visited Lecce in Puglia I had never tried a pasticciotta, a specialty of this Southern Italian region.


  Each pastry crust (cup) is filled with a sweet custard.    They can also be filled with a chocolate custard and frosted.      Pastricciotta are found in all the bars in Lecce and can be served warm with your favorite cafĂ©.  

     The ‘dolce boss’ of Lecce is undoubtedly  Luca Capilungo.    His shop is more desert boutique where seasonal displays create a fantasy world.   The cakes and gift platters become a part of the theme created.    This talented chef has posted the ingredients for pastricotta on his web site so that you can enjoy them this holiday.


The recipe for pastricotta

luca65855_323051497795734_743229227_nCake Pasticciotto Lecce                                                        
Ingredients for 15 people
- 500 grams of sugar
- 500 grams of lard
- 8 eggs
- 5 grams of ammonia for cakes  (baking powder)
- 1 kg of flour

- 400 grams of sugar
- 8 egg yolks
- 150 grams of flour
- 1 liter of milk
- Lemon peel q. b.
- Cherries q. b.

photos from Luca Capilungo's web page.   Video from my visit to be on line soon.