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Grana Padano

Panettone. Interview with Giorilli: “Leavening is the key”

The 17th step of La Vita è Dolce is dedicated again to Panettone, the highly seductive Italian dolce. “Panettone offers the palate the emotion of a warm shiver of pleasure and a profound trace of fragrance”, says Maestro Piergiorgio Giorilli, one of the most talented bread (and Panettone) makers in the world, in this exclusive interview realised by Elena Ruocco, the coordinator of La Vita è Dolce Tour.

Click here for history, curiosities and step by step recipe of panettone.

Piergiorgio Giorilli began working in his father bakery in 1959. He soon became a respected bread maker who devoted increasingly time to study techniques and to teach them. Giorilli is possibly the most charismatic educator in this field in Italy. Click here for a complete profile of Maestro Giorilli.

1. Panettone is one of the most world-famous of Italy’s sweetened breads. In your opinion, what is teh source of its seduction?
Panettone seduces because its characteristics are such that they make it the only sweet in the world that offers the palate the emotion of a warm shiver of pleasure and a profound trace of fragrance. Also being related to Christmas, panettone has a strong symbolic value within the Italian gastronomic culture.

2. Does panettone belong to the patrimony of confectionary or to that of bread making?
Panettone belongs to both the patrimonies of the confectionary and the bread making; it belongs to the category of the great leavened creations.

3. What tips can you give for obtaining a quality product?
In order to obtain a quality panettone it is necessary to use quality ingredients that have been selected and proportioned with know-how.

4. Do you remember any really bad panettone? What was wrong about them? And how many bad imitations have you come across in your career?
Unfortunately, even today it is all too easy to find really bad quality panettone that have obviously been placed on the market at low cost and are no more than poor imitations of panettone.

Mother Yeast

5. Leavening is fundamental for panettone. What is natural yeast, its preparation, its maturity, its preservation and the improvements that it contributes to the product?
Leavening is the foundation of success when making panettone! It is not possible to explain in just a few lines what natural yeast is. Treaties have been written about it but there is still plenty more to be understood about it. Natural yeast is nothing other than a piece of soured dough made out of flour and water and left to mature in an environment for a longer or shorter period. During this period of maturing, the microorganisms that are present it the flour, the water and the air reproduce and ferment. The main microorganisms are of the stocks Saccaromyces and Lactobacillus, from which the two types of this fermentation are derived: alcoholic and lactic. By using natural yeast for the production of panettone, we obtain the lengthening of its preservation by some months as well as a unique fluffiness of the product.

6. Which are the critical points for the preparation of panettone?
There are many critical points in the preparation of panettone. First and foremost, the mother yeast must be of optimum quality, the temperature of the dough, the correct leavening between the first and second kneading and the ingredients that during the second kneading must be added slowly, especially the sugar at the beginning of the second kneading.

7. It is obviously something else when natural yeast is used, but can a good panettone be obtained by using beer yeast?
Without a doubt it is possible to obtain a good panettone using beer yeast. However, it will not have the same preservability or the same taste as one prepared with mother yeast. Furthermore, in panettone prepared with beer yeast it is not possible to incorporate the same quantity of eggs and butter.

8. When you begin a panettone making course, what are first things you teach to your students?
When I start teaching a panettone making course, all the main notions usually have essentially to do with the treatment of the mother yeast.

Italian Spumante

9. Can a good panettone be made at home? And if so, how?
A good panettone can be made even at home. It is necessary to have a small table mixer at disposal and to follow the same rules as the baker and the confectioner.

10. What do you advise drinking with panettone?
An Italian spumante, of course.