Panettone, an Italian holiday classic, gets a fresh twist
Head baker Mirko D'Agata is also making a Quebec version with cranberries and maple syrup
For Italian families (and lovers of all things Italian) the holidays are synonymous with panettone, the tangy, airy, fruit-studded bread loaf.
They are easily recognizable in stores, with their glossy packaging, and are known to stay soft and moist for months on end.
Normally Montreal shoppers' choices are limited to imported, factory-made panettone.
But a recent Italian immigrant to Montreal has introduced an unexpected twist to the classic: fresh panettone.
After two years of selling his loaves through other shops in Montreal, Mirko D'Agata recently opened his own bakery near the Gay Village.
"We normally eat it at Christmas time but we decided to start this because there was nobody that makes panettone from scratch in Montreal," said D'Agata, head baker at Arte e Farina on Ontario Street East.
D'Agata imports the fruit from Italy but he says all the other ingredients are local. The recipe is complicated and takes a long time to make.
He starts with sourdough yeast, which he jokingly calls "bébé."
"It's really like a kid, we have to give it something to eat. So we give him flour and water and it becomes strong and this helps us to have a nice and strong dough to absorb all the batter that we put inside," he said.
Next, butter, eggs and sugar are added. Then the mix goes into a machine called a proofer, which helps the dough rise.
"After 12 hours, we grow it again, give it more butter, sugar and some eggs."
The final and most complicated step is the addition of candied fruit and chocolate that makes it a real panettone.
And an extra special twist on D'Agata's creation — this year he's making a Quebec version of the panettone, flavoured with cranberries and maple syrup.