Christmas without panettone would be like Ascona without its lakeside promenade – unimaginable! Every household in Ticino serves this sweet, airy bread loaf for dessert at Christmas.
Panettone, Ticino's quintessential loaf cake, comes in countless variations. It typically contains candied fruits, nuts and figs, but it can also feature chestnuts, tangerines, chocolate, apricot, wild berries and pineapple. It used to appear only at Christmas, but nowadays it's available almost all year round, bought by visitors as a souvenir of holidays in the south.
The production of panettone is complex and time-consuming: the process of kneading the dough, proving it, then baking and drying it can take 48 hours.
It starts with preparing a starter dough, which then must be allowed to rest for some time. After adding other ingredients, the dough is transferred into the typical panettone baking paper mould, in which it rests again before being placed in the oven. After baking, the now airy golden-brown panettone is hung upside down from a kind of rail and dried for some six hours. Why upside down? So that the loaf doesn't collapse under its own weight and lose its airy character. The making of the dough, the key to the taste, is every confectioner's closely guarded secret. Finally, the heavenly-smelling loaves are attractively packaged and displayed in the shops.
Panettone world championship:
The Ascona-Locarno region is a source of world-class panettoni: the panettone world championship in Lugano saw it secure two podium places.
Confectioners from the Ascona-Locarno region were ranked among the top three: Marzio Monaco (Pasticceria Dolce Monaco, Losone) came second, while Luca Poncini (Pasticceria Poncini, Maggia) came third. It takes time to make a panettone, as well as a great deal of experience. The ingredients are every manufacturer's unique selling point: each has his or her own secret blend. One of the ingredients that Marzio Monaco uses for his product is butter from the Vallemaggia's alps, where cows are grazed in the summer: the fresh herbs present in the grass imbue his products with a unique flavour.