Panettone is a type of sweet bread loaf originally from Milan (in Milanese it is called panaton), usually prepared and enjoyed for Christmas and New Year in Italy, Malta, Brazil and Switzerland, and one of the symbols of the city of Milan. Maltese nationals are also traditionally associated with this sweet loaf. In Latin America, especially in Venezuela, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Peru, it is a Christmas dinner staple and in some places replaces roscón de reyes/bolo rei (King cake).Although panettone is quintessentially Milanese, it is more popular today in central and southern Italy.The origins of this cake appear to be ancient, dating back to the Roman Empire, when ancient Romans sweetened a type of leavened bread with honey.
Traditionally, it has a cupola shape; other bases may be used, such as an octagon, or a frustum with star section shape more common to pandoro. It is made during a long process that involves the curing of the dough, which is acidic, similar to sourdough; the proofing process alone takes several days, giving the cake its distinctive fluffy characteristics. It contains candied orange, citron, and lemon zest, as well as raisins, which are added dry and not soaked. Many other variations are available such as plain or with chocolate. It is served in slices, vertically cut, accompanied with sweet hot beverages or a sweet wine, such as Asti Spumante or Moscato d'Asti. In some regions of Italy, it is served with crema di mascarpone, a cream made from mascarpone, eggs, sometimes dried or candied fruits, and typically a sweet liqueur such as amaretto; if mascarpone cheese is unavailable, zabaglione is sometimes used as a substitute.
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Il Panettone Milanese -- Milanese Panettone, italianfood.about.com
Panettone recipes, www.bbc.co.uk