Crafted as bread, lighter than cake, and ethereally delicious, the panettone is a Christmas tradition with roots in Milan. The enormous amount of technique it takes to yield a rich loaf that’s lighter than cake and kissed with the ephemeral tang of sourdough makes it an immensely challenging bake. Yet when all goes well, the baker (and eater) is rewarded with a confection of diaphanous texture, bejewelled with spirit-plumped and candied fruit. Herewith, a worthy selection for your Christmas table.
01 Dolce & Gabbana and Fiasconaro Panettone
Yes, you can have your Dolce & Gabbana and eat it too. Created in collaboration with Sicilian pastry maestros Fiasconaro and housed in colourful D&G-designed tins, these are panettone for gifting. The sweet loaves are suffused with the warmth of saffron and spiked with the brightness of candied Sicilian lemons, oranges and Mandarins.
$48 from Jupiter 57 at 40 Carpenter Street
02 Bonifanti Panettone
Steadfastly traditional, this sweet buttery bread is crafted with flour and fresh barn eggs, and flavoured with the likes of sultanas, crystallised citron rinds, cocoa butter and Madagascan vanilla berries.
$40 from Culina at COMO Dempsey, 15 Dempsey Road
03 Da Paolo Panettone Excellente
As its name suggests, only the finest ingredients go into this festive loaf: Italian-milled Manitoba flour, French butter, organic Italian eggs, dates from Egypt’s Siwa oasis, vanilla from Chinantla in Mexico and citrus fruit from Italy’s Gargano region.
$68 from Da Paolo Gastronomia
(Related: For Christmas this year: consider the pigeon)
Setting the night on fire
Dust off those dessert recipes from the 1960s — the tableside flambe is just the thing you need for your holiday table. Long before the criteria for good cooking included dramatic visual appeal specifically for social media, there was flambeing. Chefs from the 1800s, such as Escoffier, understood the value of a dessert that offered tableside spectacle. Hence the likes of baked Alaska (centre), cherries Jubilee and crepe Suzette (top). Bring back some pomp and show at dinner this festive season by setting your desserts on fire, tableside of course.
Protect your eyebrows with these tips, courtesy of the good folks at The White Rabbit, who serve a fabulous and dramatic crepe Suzette and baked Alaska.
• Never pour alcohol straight from the bottle into a hot pan.
• Decant a small amount of alcohol into a cup or bowl with a pouring lip, so that you can pour the alcohol safely and gently into the pan.
• Use a cigar lighter or long match to set the flame. The flame output on a long match or cigar lighter is lower. Lower flame, less room for error.
• Have a lid close by. If your flame gets out of control, you can set the lid on the pan to smother the blaze. Make sure you use a lid that fits neatly on top of your pan.
The proof in the pudding
While it is easy to set alcohol vapours coming off a hot pan alight, directly igniting liquor – like for baked Alaska – takes something above 40 per cent ABV. Ideally though, you’d want spirits at about 50 per cent ABV – try overproof rum, or for a right treat, cask-strength whisky or cognac.
(Related: How to put together a show-stopping festive dinner: drinks and appetisers)