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Everlasting Panettone

November 04, 1998|RUSS PARSONS

Cooking teacher and author Giuliano Bugialli has a reputation for being a stickler for insisting on the purest, most correct way of doing things. He admits it; no, he revels in it.

So what was he doing at an Italian Trade Commission-sponsored lunch at Valentino restaurant Thursday afternoon, showing slides of the insides of a panettone factory, complete with assembly-line oven and house-size industrial mixers?

"Some people say I am difficult," he said. "When we opened my school in Florence, we didn't have electricity for months, and I told people to push on anyway. We did everything by hand.

"But there are some things that even I have to agree are better done by factories because they have the experience and the equipment and because, frankly, you couldn't make it as good at home no matter how much you try."

Traditionally served at Christmas, panetone--a yeast-raised, much-enriched golden cake studded with dried fruit--is now available year-round in Italy. In food stores there, panettone containers--which look something like pasteboard hat boxes--can be found stacked in corners even in the summer.

Bugialli claims these industrial cakes have a shelf life of six months. On the other hand, given their cottony texture and bland flavor, maybe that's necessary.

Perhaps somewhere there is a grand panettone, but for the most part it seems to be the Italian equivalent of fruitcake, exchanged as a gift and appreciated more for its symbolism than for its deliciousness.

When someone in the audience asked whether panettone could be frozen, Bugialli's reply was to the point:

"Why?"

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