SHARE
COPY LINK

CHRISTMAS

Italy bakes world’s biggest Christmas cake panettone

Forget mistletoe, Christmas is not Christmas in Italy without a slice of panettone -- and festivities kicked off in Milan on Sunday with free slices of the biggest Italian candied cake in the world.

Italy bakes world's biggest Christmas cake panettone
The giant panettone cake at the Victor Emmanuel II shopping gallery. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Weighing in at 140 kilogrammes (308 pounds), the two-metre (over six foot) high marvel was sliced up into 1,200 pieces for sweet-toothed tourists and locals at the Victor Emmanuel II shopping gallery near the city's Gothic cathedral.

“Panettone is the Christmas dessert par excellence. Fashions may change, but panettone remains an unshakable tradition,” Angelo Bernasconi, owner of the San Gregorio patisserie behind the giant dome-shaped delight, told AFP.

The Milanese factory makes the traditional cake with its candied fruits and raisins not just for Italy but around the world, with some 200 of the golden buns headed to a New York caterer alone each week.

In the run-up to Christmas “we never stop,” says Bernasconi's partner Savino Moretti, who is retired but comes twice a week to pass on his 50 years of experience to the pastry team.

The pair, aged 67 and 68, say the secret to their success lies in the mother dough, which they inherited along with the shop from the master baker, who made it — so legend has it — by adding a dash of horse urine to the mix for acidity.

It takes 36 hours to turn out a panettone, with raisins and candied peel added to the mix of water, sugar, flour, eggs, butter and vanilla. Once baked, the cakes are hung upside down for 10 hours to allow the butter to drop.

The giant version had to be cooked in a special oven and was baked “a lot longer and more slowly,” Bernasconi says.

“It tastes good, but a little different from usual. It's a little dry, otherwise it would collapse,” he added.

According to the Italian agricultural association Coldiretti, three quarters of Italians will have a slice of panettone at some point over the Christmas holidays — perhaps with a dollop of mascarpone cream or washed down with a sweet liqueur.

By Céline Cornu

WEATHER

Will anywhere in France get a white Christmas this year?

A white Christmas might be at the top of many people's festive wish list but will it actually come true for anyone in France this year?

Haut-Koenigsbourg castle in Orschwiller, eastern France.
Haut-Koenigsbourg castle in Orschwiller, eastern France. Non-mountainous parts of the country will not see snow this year. (Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP)

If you’re in France and have been dreaming of a white Christmas, you are probably out of luck. 

It has been freezing in recent days with temperatures falling to a low of -33.4C in Jura on Wednesday morning, but the cold spell isn’t going to last. 

Temperatures across the country will hover around the 10C level in most of France by the afternoon on December 25th according to Météo France, with parts of the country including Brittany and some parts of eastern France experiencing rainfall. 

By the afternoon on Christmas Day, the chances of snow look extremely limited. Source: www.meteofrance.com

On Saturday, there will be some snowfall, but only if you are high in the mountains at an altitude of 1,800-2,000m. On Sunday, places above 1,500m could also see snow – but this rules out the vast majority of the country. 

Roughly half the country will see sunshine over the weekend. The French weather channel said that this Christmas could be among the top five or six warmest since 1947. 

Last year, Météo France cautioned: “While we often associate snow with Christmas in the popular imagination, the probability of having snow in the plains [ie not in the mountains] during this period is weak in reality.”

One of the last great Christmas snowfalls, outside of France’s mountainous areas, came in 2010 when 3-10 cm of snow fell in Lille, Rouen and Paris. In Strasbourg, 26cm fell. 

On Christmas Day in 1996, 12 cm of snow fell in Angers – ironically, this was also the day that the film, Y’aura t’il de la neige à Noël? (Will there never be snow at Christmas?) was released. It had been ten years since France had seen such snowfall outside of the Alps and Pyrenees. 

Météo France directly attributes declining rates of Christmas snowfall to climate change. Compared to 50 years ago, even the Alps receives the equivalent one less month of snowfall per year. 

SHOW COMMENTS