What is panettone, the best panettone to buy for Christmas a buyers guide

This celebration bread is the king of Italian bakes, and is a wonderful centrepiece in the middle of the table. The perfect panettone is light as air, golden in colour and packed with heady citrus flavour. 

Here’s our guide to everything you need to know about panettone, including how to eat it, how it’s made and – if you're in a rush – scroll straight down to the bottom for which panettone to buy.

We take panettone very seriously at Sous Chef and we believe we hold the best selection of brands in the UK, and perhaps even in Europe. 


Best Panettone

We’re really proud of our collection of panettone at Sous Chef. We carefully select each product, and are looking for the best quality ingredients and authentic baking methods.

Take a look at our top selection below, or browse the full collection at our page of panettone and pandoro breads.

Which panettone brand? 

At Sous Chef we only have top quality panettone, and so really the first decision is the design aesthetic you prefer. If you're looking for something classic, you'll prefer designs from Flamigni and Loison (Loison they have a number of ranges, but we only stock their 'Top Line' with the highest quality ingredients). And if you're looking for something brighter, colourful and more contemporary you'd choose Muzzi and Fiasconaro.

After that, of course it's the flavours you'll need to decide between. Traditionally panettones are studded with raisins and candied fruit, which is the classic choice. However, there are now amazing flavours to suit everybody - even dried fruit haters! Choose from marrons glacés, fruit and chocolate, pistachio and even salted caramel.


What makes a good panettone?

There are a couple of things to look out for when looking for a good panettone:

  1. Origin: Make sure your panettone comes from Italy. This is the first indicator of quality. Cheap panettone can be made across Europe, and in the U.S., the majority are produced in Brazil. There have been many efforts made to obtain Protected Designation of Origin and Denominazione di Origine Controllata, like Parmesan and balsamic vinegar, but as yet, nothing has occurred.
  2. Weight: Good quality panettone is usually heavier than its cheaper counterparts. This is down to it containing more ingredients and moisture within the dough. Inferior panettone can often be drier and crumblier.
  3. Aroma: The smell from your panettone should hit you as soon as you cut into it. This will be down to using good quality ingredients like Madagascan vanilla and local citrus fruit.
  4. Taste: Good panettone will be rich and buttery, with a great golden colour to match.
  5. Texture: When you buy a good panettone, you’ll notice that it tears in large strips – almost like a mozzarella. Cheap panettone will have a more bread-like structure.

what makes a good panettone?


What is panettone?

  1. Panettone has a long Italian history and there are panettone recipes dating back to 200AD. Its birthplace is widely agreed as Milan. Over the years, the panettone has resembled focaccia, contained pumpkin, and made leaven with honey. The version we know now is a 20th-century creation, its loftiness created by chef Angelo Motta.
  2. The name panettone was copyrighted in July 2005 and refers to a cake made with a slow-risen sourdough yeast (usually over several days), rich in butter. The usual ingredients are flour, sugar, egg yolk, butter, raisins, zest and candied citrus fruit. 

What is pandoro?

Pandoro is slightly different, and it comes from Verona.

Like panettone, it is sweet and eaten around Christmas, but its main ingredients are just flour, sugar, eggs and butter – there is no fruit added to the dough. The texture is much more cake-like with a finer crumb. It is also dusted with vanilla sugar in tribute to the snowy Alps and their snowy peaks around Christmas time.

Pandoro dusted with icing sugar


How do you eat panettone?

Traditionally, Italians eat a slice of panettone at breakfast. Slice yourself a pillowy piece of panettone and enjoy with a strong espresso first thing, for the true Italian experience. 

However, its versatility has led to various adaptations, including using it as a base for desserts. Its transformation into luxurious bread and butter puddings or serving slices with a scoop of gelato has solidified its place on the dessert table.

Choosing the best panettone boils down to a mix of personal preference, brand reputation, and a keen eye for quality. Whether you're enjoying a slice from Italy's finest bakeries or experimenting with supermarket brands, the journey to find your perfect panettone is bound to be delicious.

So, next time you're faced with the vast selection, remember: it's more than just bread; it's a slice of Italian heritage.

READ MORE: How to eat panettone

Here are some other ways to serve panettone:

  1. Our favourite is a simple slice on a plate with double cream to serve.
  2. Toast a slice of panettone and serve it with cheese at the end of a meal. The buttery sweetness is fantastic with tangy, crumbly cheese like a premium mature Cheddar.
  3. Warm your panettone in the oven, then cut into individual portions and serve with a dash of double cream and a dollop of stewed fruit for a real winter warmer.
  4. Spread a rich and smooth nut butter over your panettone for a very special afternoon treat. Coffee cream and pistachio cream from Fiasconaro are just the thing.
  5. Dip hunks of warm panettone into a bowl of hot chocolate for a pre-bed snack.
  6. Enjoy a glass of marsala wine with your panettone at the end of dinner.

Is panettone a bread or cake?

Panettone is a leavened bread, but the way we eat it is more like a cake. The sourdough base is incredibly rich, fortified with eggs, sugar, butter and dried fruit. It can also be flavoured with chocolate drops, while some even have a whole layer of melted chocolate over the top.


How is panettone made?

It’s not easy to make a panettone, it requires skill and time to get the perfect results. Essentially, the recipe all hinges on the yeast. Panettone is made with a mother yeast, like a sourdough bread. Many panettone companies have carefully tended their ‘mother’ yeast for decades.

The Italian bakers at Flagmini explain: “The essential ingredient which gives the Flamigni panettone dough its distinct flavour is the mother yeast. ‘Born’ in the 1930s, our mother yeast is the one and only leavening agent used in the manufacturing process. It gives each panettone its freshness, its unique aroma and flavour.”

And the panettone team at Muzzi agree: “Our mother yeast is considered one of our company’s treasures: its distinctive features characterize our product, giving it a unique softnesss and aroma.”

BROWSE OUR COLLECTION OF PANETTONE HERE


hoe to make panettone at home

How to make panettone at home

  1. To make panettone, combine sourdough starter with yeast, milk and sugar; then add butter and eggs to create the enriched base. 
  2. Combine this wet mix with flour to make a kneadable dough. Leave for the first prove – crucial for developing those rich and complex flavours. 
  3. Once the dough has doubled in size, knock it back and incorporate soaked dried fruit or chocolate chips. Shape and leave to prove for a second time – which will now dictate the shape and texture of your dough.
  4. Once your panettone has risen and looks suitably majestic, put it in the oven
  5. Finally, while your panettone cools you should hang it upside down to preserve that perfect rise you’ve achieved, and prevent any sagging!

How long will panettone keep?

Panettone keeps far longer than other breads or cakes. For a classic panettone the shelf life might well be 4-6 months. However, panettone with flavoured creams are usually shorter, perhaps 2-3 months. Just check the best before date on the pack. 

And if you forget to put your panettone back in its plastic bag between cutting a portions, it will start to harden. However there are lots of brilliant ways to use up stale panettone…

How to use stale panettone

  1. One of the best recipes for panettone that’s past its best is in bread and butter pudding. Layer up big slices of the bread, cover in custard and bake for a fruity, rich gorgeous pud.
  2. Panettone croutons add texture and flavour to winter salads – of your bread has gone stale, simply lightly gril and scatter over your salad leaves with fresh figs, blue cheese and a glug of good dressing.
  3. Try layering up your panettone in a tiramisu or trifle. The bread is particularly tasty soaked in brandy, masala or other sweet wines.
  4. For a twist on a classic French breakfast, use your panettone to make panettone french toast.
  5. Try using your panettone to make breadcrumbs and incorporate into a custard to make a delicious and unexpected ice cream flavour.
  6. Or finally try using it to make a treacle tart, perfect as a last minute Christmas dessert.

Why is panettone expensive?

Panettone tends to be a little more expensive than most other baked goods, mainly due to the amount of time that goes into making each one. A traditional panettone is usually a lengthy procedure, however, a cheap mass-produced alternative will take shortcuts in the baking process which will be reflected in its taste.

With its sourdough base, it normally takes around three days for the dough to prove, and after its spell in the oven, it is hung upside down to stretch which also gives it its familiar dome top.

Each artisan panettone is individually hand-wrapped and packaged up in paper, and filled with an endless variety of flavours, with orange, pistachio, Amarena cherries and salted caramel being popular additions. They make fabulous gifts.

What if I don't like raisins or dried fruit but still want to try a panettone?

Then a flavoured panettone is a great option. I'd recommend Flamigni's spritz or cappucino panettone. Or treat yourself to a Pandoro instead. 


Shop 2024 Panettone at Sous Chef


Sous Chef Milano Panettone, 1kg

We sample hundreds of panettone every year - and we finally found one we're happy to put our name on! This year we hosted a panettone tasting party and of the 27+ on the table to try, the Sous Chef Milano panettone was one of the vert best-rated by our tasters. Don't miss your chance to try it!


https://www.souschef.co.uk/products/fiasconaro-traditional-hand-wrapped-panettone

Fiasconaro add a dash of Marsala and Zibibbo wines for an extra festive touch. Serve a slice of the traditional panettone with tea or coffee, or enjoy as a lighter alternative to Christmas pudding after dinner.


https://www.souschef.co.uk/products/fabbri-amarena-cherry-panettone-1kg

Tear into a golden panettone dough, studded with Fabbri's iconic Amarena cherries. These intensely fruity gems are the perfect pairing with right buttery panettone. Serve with a spoon of mascarpone cream or pistachio for the ultimate Italian Christmas dessert.


https://www.souschef.co.uk/products/fiasconaro-x-dolce-gabbana-citrus-saffron-panettone-100g

These mini panettone are the perfect thing for special stocking filler, or for taking to friends and family as a last minute gift.


https://www.souschef.co.uk/products/muzzi-black-cherry-chocolate-chip-panettone-500g

An incredible pairing of dark cherry and sweet chocolate chips - this is a decadent panettone packed with flavour.


https://www.souschef.co.uk/products/loison-classic-panettone-in-tin

A panettone in a tin is a special thing, and this classic form Loison is one we look forward to every year.


https://www.souschef.co.uk/products/muzzi-traditional-panettone-1kg

For a seriously good slice of Italian panettone, you can’t beat the Muzzi Traditional Panettone. The golden, buttery dough is light as air, and just melts away. This traditional panettone is fantastic with a cup of tea of coffee for breakfast, or after dinner with a glass of marsala wine.


https://www.souschef.co.uk/products/fiasconaro-x-dolce-gabbana-citrus-saffron-panettone

Fiasconaro was founded in Castelbuono, Sicily in 1953 by Mario Fiasconaro. Mario started out as an ice-cream maker and pastry chef, and his first great masterpieces were mountains of profiteroles. His three sons, Fausto, Nicola and Martino, began learning the art of pastry when they were children. Today, the three brothers still lead the company. Nicola is the production manager and an award-winning pastry chef. You’ll taste his expertise in every bite of Fiasconaro’s luxurious panettones and torrone.  


https://www.souschef.co.uk/products/fiasconaro-x-dolce-gabbana-hazelnut-panettone-with-manna-cream-1kg

What a beautiful tin! Manna is a natural syrup, harvested from the ash trees of Sicily. It is used here to sweeten the golden panettone dough, along with Sicilian honey.

The panettone is topped with sugar crystals and whole roasted hazelnuts. And inside the tin, you’ll find manna cream for spreading over your panettone. The cream has a chocolate hazelnut flavour – fantastic with a morning espresso. Plus, there's a small golden panettone knife included, for spreading your manna cream.

Browse the full range of Sous Chef panettone and pandoro here, and discover our best Christmas gifts for bakers.



10 comments

  • Each slice was a perfect balance of flavors, making it an irresistible treat with a cup of coffee

    Shaheen on

  • Unable to find the Milano panettone on your website, especially made for you, as described in your online video, on rereading the article this is from last year. Are you making this available this year?

    Penny Ward on

  • Thank you! I love to learn the history of a product and this is fascinating. I have considered panettone a cake more than a bread before reading this article! I shall ‘taste’ and eat it differently from now on and certainly be more discerning.

    Wendy Wilkinson on

  • Thank you! I love to learn the history of a product and this is fascinating. I have considered panettone a cake more than a bread before reading this article! I shall ‘taste’ and eat it differently from now on and certainly be more discerning.

    Wendy Wilkinson on

  • Thanks Adel, great to hear you enjoyed the feature!

    Holly at Sous Chef on

  • What an excellent article. I had never heard or seen the brands you recommended. Will definitely order next year. I got mine at TJ Max. I can only imagine what a gourmet experience it would be to taste the ones you’ve recommended. I have definitely been educated. Thank You!
    Adel in Texas

    Adel Fuentes on

  • I’ll tell you where NOT to buy a panettone – and that’s Morrissons! Absolutely not worth the calories.

    June on

  • I really loved this informative article. And shelagh, what an ingenious idea. Turkey and panettone, yes! I’m going to do this 🙂

    Emma Assad on

  • can’t wait until Christmas comes round again!

    adam kulik on

  • Thank you Sous Chef for this really helpful article about choosing the right Panetonne.
    I have bought a couple of disastrous ones and value the information here.
    Can’t wait for Boxing Day now, Turkey sandwich made with Panetonne?
    Wow!
    Be still my beating gourmande heart 🎁🎄💕

    Shelagh on

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