In America, chefs are making pilgrimages to grain labs and installing miniature mills in their kitchens, while bakers refine familiar staples like bagels and rye and introduce new favorites like kouign-amann. Temperamental and time-consuming, panettone fits perfectly within the larger artisan bread movement, and an increasing-every-Christmas cadre of cooks is tackling the challenge. James Beard Rising Star nominee Alex Bois of New York’s High Street on Hudson, bakes loaves studded with brandied cherries and scented with jasmine. Jillian Bartolome leavens hers with an Italian levain starter at Common Bond in Houston; both the traditional and chocolate versions—the latter is ribboned with caramelized hazelnut praline—will sell out in hours.
At Vetri Ristorante, Marc Vetri stuffs a cotton-candy-textured panettone with gelato and slices it tableside. His recipe comes from a friend’s osteria in Bergamo in Northern Italy, but the style harkens to Sicily, where locals eat their gelato stuffed in brioche rolls. Sicily is also where you’ll find panettone baked with a ring of oro verde pistachio cream inside. The ‘green gold’ is one of the regional twists you’ll find on panettone all across Italy. Here’s hoping Americans follow suit. Can you imagine: cherry panettone in Michigan, mango in Miami? Maybe not traditional, but definitely delicious.
WHERE TO BUY
Zingerman’s | The Ann Arbor deli-cum-specialty foods juggernaut begins importing three varieties of panettone (classic, chocolate-fig, and balsamic-swirled) from Italy this October.
DiBruno Bros. | The “Private Collection” Panettone from this Philadelphia-based family of specialty stores is baked at Pan Ducale bakery in Abruzzo, Italy.
Gustiamo | This Italian food retailer sources its panettone from Pasticceria Biasetto in Padova, where chef Luigi Biasetto crafts his bread with organic eggs, Sicilian citron, honey from the Italian Alps, and a 60-year-old sourdough starter.
Emporio Rulli | The panettones at Gary and Jeannie Rulli’s Bay Area-based shops and eateries are favorites of Giada DeLaurentiis and Martha Stewart.
DiCamillo | In business since 1920, this New York State bakery ships a hazelnut-and-almond-iced Piedmontese panettone all around the country.