If you believe the legend, panettone was first invented by a young boy called Toni who accidentally burnt the Christmas Eve desserts destined for the table of the Duke of Milan. Strapped for time and inspiration, the desperate kitchen boy concocted an enriched dough delicacy that would soon become an Italian Christmas classic.
But not all panettones are created alike. (An Italian-American myself, I remember staring askance at the familiar box, watching as it was regifted throughout the Christmas season — and occasionally dusted off at Easter, too.)
But you may not even want to share the newest panettone creation from premier purveyor of Sicilian foods Bona Furtuna. Sold out three years in a row, this panettone is hand-crafted by a local artisan in Sicily’s Agrigento province, just up the road from the company’s estate.
Vincenzo Bonfissuto has been making panettone for 15 years, forever inspired to create new recipes, he says, thanks to “the love for our land, Sicily.” When asked what makes his panettone stand out, he has just one word in response: “Passion.”
He has crafted three different flavors of the Italian cake for the brand, including Lemon Cherry, made with organic candied lemons and dried cherries; Double Chocolate and Malvasia, with a chocolate base laced with sweet chocolate chips and an infusion of Malvasia dessert wine; and Olive Oil and Blood Orange, the brand’s 100% organic offering, made with candied Sicilian blood orange and Bona Furtuna’s award-winning Biancolilla olive oil.
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“In our opinion, it is the best we have ever tasted,” says Bonfissuto of the product. “An amazing oil!”
Brian Ralph, President and COO at Bona Furtuna, is just as thrilled with the collaboration.
“I knew we wanted to bring in panettone, as it is such an iconic Italian holiday item, so we set out looking for a great producer,” he says. “We happened to find Bonfissuto only a few hours away from the farm and began our first collaboration with them using our EVOO and organic Sicilian blood oranges to make an incredible panettone.”
This panettone, unlike classic iterations of the cake, feels “a little lighter,” according to Ralph.
“In addition,” he says, “we find there are subtleties of vegetal notes that come through.”
Bonfissuto is excited to continue developing panettone recipes for many years to come. In the future, however, the endeavor may pass onto the next generation: his young son.
“If he wants to follow in my footsteps I will be happy to teach him everything I know,” he says. “Only if he wants it.”
Given the beautiful flavors of these artisanal panettones, it seems unlikely there should be any leftovers. Should this come to pass, however, never fear. While Bonfissuto says any leftovers from the bakery are donated to the local church, at home, Ralph recommends using them to make a decadent French toast.
“I soak mine overnight, often with a little Frangelico, which adds a slight boozy nuttiness,” he says.
Boxing Day brunch, anyone?
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