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The Panettone

Discover which is the best Panettone in Barcelona

The panettone is in vogue; undoubtedly, this cherished and renowned sweet has gained immense importance in recent years, even surpassing our traditional Roscón de Reyes as the star sweet of Christmas. The finest bakeries in the country strive to produce the best product. In this post, we unveil a bit more about its history, tricks, and secrets, and, above all, reveal which, for us, is the best panettone in Spain.

Panettone History: Legends and Truths

The Panettone, that delicious Italian sweet bread, has its roots shrouded in historical uncertainty, with various legends circulating about its origin. One of the most popular stories suggests that it was created by Toni, a kitchen assistant in the court of the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, on Christmas Eve in 1495. Supposedly, after a mistake in the kitchen, Toni transformed a dough intended for Christmas bread into a mixture of flour, eggs, sugar, raisins, and candied fruits, giving rise to the Panettone. However, this story lacks historical backing, and its veracity has not been proven.

Although the Panettone lacks a clear inventor or an exact date of birth, its popularity grew in the early 20th century thanks to innovative bakers like Angelo Motta. In 1919, Motta introduced key changes to the recipe, such as adding yeast and using a special parchment paper that gave it its characteristic domed shape. The competition between Motta and another baker, Gioacchino Alemagna, marked the beginning of industrial production of the Panettone, eventually making it an essential element on Italian tables during the festive season.

While the Panettone’s undeniable connection with Milan, its popularity spread throughout the European country, solidifying its status as a symbolic dessert during the Christmas season. The evolution of its recipe and the competition among visionary bakers contributed to transforming the Panettone into the delicious and traditional delight that we know today.

Panettone bonito

The panettone in Spain: From unknown to star product

Fifteen years ago, approximately 80% of customers entering a bakery in Spain didn’t know what panettone was or had never tasted it. However, according to the Barcelona Pastry Guild, its consumption has multiplied by ten since 2014. Currently, panettone is considered a gourmet product with high added value on Christmas tables in Spain.

Paco Torreblanca, a prominent Spanish pastry chef, shared in an interview given by his son Jacob Torreblanca to El País newspaper: “We had to give away the first ones we made because nobody wanted them, but that was because the product was not known. Nevertheless, my father trusted that over time people would like it. And it has happened because now everyone makes and consumes them.” In their workshop, they sell more than 35,000 per year. This phenomenon is not exclusive to Spain. Christian Gonzalez from L’Atelier bakery reveals that it is a global boom. Latin America, the United States, Europe, Japan, and South Korea are experiencing a similar surge to what is happening in Spain currently. Panettone has gone from being unknown to becoming an internationally appreciated delicacy. Although Spain and Japan are the countries that come closest to Italy in terms of the final product’s quality.

Types of Panettone

A good panettone should start with a base sourdough, which is fed and refreshed over several days to achieve optimal development. Subsequently, this sourdough is mixed with a dough similar to brioche, featuring a generous amount of butter and a notable quantity of egg yolks. Quality vanilla is then added for flavoring, imparting that distinctive taste.

From this point, diversity takes center stage. First, there’s the classic version with fruits, traditionally incorporating raisins and citrus. Then, there’s the chocolate variety, which has gained increasing popularity. Lastly, there are those that don’t fit into either of the previous categories, considered more innovative panettones. The list can be endless and may include options like toffee, pistachio, walnuts, strawberries, hazelnuts, nougat, and even savory-inspired choices like ham with tomato, representing our country in international competitions. Another notable example is the creation by Eric Ortuño and his partner Ximena Pastor from L’Atelier pastry shop, designed for Vilaviniteca and rooftop smokehouse with Comté cheese. In conclusion, it seems that the world of panettone is filled with boundless creativity and innovation.

mini panettone

Barcelona's Best Panettone

...And probably in Spain.

After trying numerous panettones and considering our love for chocolate, for us, the best panettone in Barcelona is from L’Atelier, a bakery that won the 2022 award for the best artisan Panettone in Spain in the chocolate category. From the moment you pick it up, you realize you’re dealing with a product of the highest quality: the shine, the weight, and a vanilla-scented aroma, with milky notes and the characteristic smell of great bakeries with yeast and fermenting agents, are clear indicators of this.

Upon opening it, we are greeted by intensified aromas, along with cocoa notes and large cavities that evidence a well-worked fermentation. This has resulted in a fluffy and light yet consistent dough. However, the pinnacle comes when you taste it, as it is outrageously delicious; it is not cloying at all, and the chocolate never becomes heavy, as is the case with other chocolate panettones we have tried. The juiciness of this dough along with the flavors of butter, vanilla, and cocoa make it impossible for us to settle for just one piece.

As if the quality of the product weren’t reason enough to buy it, they tell us that this year, 10% of the profits from its sale will be allocated to contribute hours of research at the Vall d’Hebron Oncology Institute. In this way, it becomes a charitable panettone, adding extra value to this delicious experience.

Panetone de chocolate cortado

The Secrets of the Best Panettone in Barcelona

According to Christian Gonzalez, who possesses absolute knowledge about panettone at L’Atelier, the only secret lies in the methodology and discipline of following the steps established by Eric Ortuño, after many years of studying this laborious sweet. They explain that the L’Atelier Panettone team is always the same, and when they take a break, no panettone is produced. From the workshop, they mention that this is the only way to achieve a perfect product by following the guidelines that the entire designated team knows as the Ten Commandments.

The process can have many red lights, which light up as alerts, and we may not notice them until we have the final result. Factors such as the controlled temperature and humidity of the sourdough, achieving the correct pH, having the butter at a soft consistency with a high percentage of fat content, are essential to avoid failures such as the dough collapsing during baking or the dome detaching when flipped.

In addition to well-standardized processes, they have emphasized the importance of letting the dough speak, listening to it, and above all, understanding it. The quality of the ingredients is crucial to achieving a product of this quality. They use Petra flour, specially created for panettone that favors long fermentation, Belgian Corman butter, and Valrhona cocoa, the favorite of many pastry chefs. These high-quality restoration ingredients contribute to creating a high-quality pastry product.

huevo mantequilla harina

How to Differentiate a High-Quality Panettone from an Industrial One

There are several indicators that signal the presence of an artisanal product, without additives or accelerators that shorten the process and exponentially increase ingredient yields. One of these indicators is weight; a panettone should have consistency, feeling solid when picked up. If you grab a panettone that you can barely hold with both hands and it feels excessively light, it’s a bad sign. The aromas should be of genuine vanilla, not industrial essences, and the difference is noticeable. You should also perceive acidic aromas, characteristic of a long-fermentation dough, a blend of lactic and apple-like scents.

When you open the panettone, it should present large holes or alveoli that seem to have been stretched by the domed crust during the process; this elongation in the form of a fossilized bubble in the dough is an important indicator. The dough should be slightly moist, with a subtly greasy texture, a sign that it contains the necessary amount of butter for the preparation and of the required quality.

Above all, it should taste good: light, pleasant, not overly sweet. In the case of fruit panettones, the fruit should also be of high quality and enjoyed separately; neither the chocolate nor the fruit should mask the great result of the dough but rather accompany and enhance it.

 

 

How to Preserve Panettone and for How Long

According to what they tell us at L’Atelier, a panettone of these characteristics, without additives or preservatives, can last for months without being opened, according to confessions from some of their customers. However, they recommend consuming it within a maximum of one month after purchase, as beyond that date, the organoleptic qualities of the product are negatively affected. It’s not that it cannot be consumed, but it won’t be at its optimal point. In this case, it should be stored during that time in the original packaging, in a dry place, at a constant temperature, away from heat sources, and direct light.

Once opened, the panettone should be consumed within 2 or 3 days, although if well preserved, it could last up to a week in good condition. To preserve it, the ideal is to place it in containers that absorb moisture, such as those that cookie companies used to give away when you purchased their products (although the custom of receiving these tins as a gift may not be as common now). If you don’t have this type of container, rewrapping it in its original packaging can be the best option, either with cellophane or using the cardboard box. This way, you can isolate the panettone as much as possible from its main enemies: light, oxygen, temperature, and humidity. Although, honestly, who could resist having this delicacy at home without opening it for a whole month?

“Pleasure is the beginning and the end of a happy life”

Epicurus of Samos

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