By Tequila Minsky
It’s no wonder that the major religions bring candles, lights and sweetness into their holidays that fall on the darkest days of the year—they’re sensory ways of breaking up the dark.
Panettone, the sweet bread originally from Milan emerges full force around the winter season.
“In the session on holidays in my Italian class,” says Yolaine Milfort, “they talk about the tradition of eating panettone at Christmas.
Always a seasonal staple at Grandaisy Bakery, panettone is a cross between bread and cake says master baker Julio Gruarchaj at the Tribeca artisanal bake shop.
Gruarchaj explains the three-day process in creating the Christmas treat.
A starter with wild yeast called biga (which assists in a fluffy texture), flour and water cures for one day. On the second day, an equal amount mixture with flour, eggs, butter, candied-orange, citron, rum-soaked raisins is added and it rises for another 24 hours. Shaped and put into the paper forms on the third day, it rises another eight hours before baking for 55 minutes.
The cupola-shaped loaves are hung upside down to cool once out of the oven. “They would collapse, if they weren’t,” says Gruarchaj, adding that even in cooling they continue to bake from the hot, now upside-down, bottom.
The loaves are bagged and packed in festive gift boxes on the fourth day —ready for purchase or shipping.
Grandaisy owner Monica Von Thun Calderón beams in describing the delicate and sophisticated taste of her panettone, “It’s such a surprise. Everyone thinks of it as a fruit cake, but it’s not heavy.”
And she emphasizes how it’s all natural—no artificial preservatives and the fermentation of the starter keeps her panettone fresh for literally months.
None the less, she recommends, “It’s a great gift that is not cluttering a home. You eat it, enjoy it, and it’s gone.”
That being said, Tribeca neighbor, masked and bundled-up Nina Schwalbe and son Cy were spotted a recent afternoon in the bakery holding to buy the tell-tale red panettone Christmas box. Schwalbe informed me that this is the sixth one she’s purchased this year, “We’re buying these for all our relatives.”
Available to purchase in the bakery or on-line for pick-up or sent by UPS, the bakery has completed baking its last batch, which they will be selling and shipping through New Years’.