By Chef Gene Gonzalez
I love panettone and my only lament is that you can only get this old-fashioned yeast-raised baked product in the Philippines during the Christmas season. I did pick up a box at Terry’s. It was called Loison, a brand from Costa Bissara, Italy, and apparently, it’s been around since 1938. This was enough to convince me to try it. I was a bit happy seeing there were different modern variants in several sizes that are perfect for urban dwellers. Otherwise, you could get stuck with a lot of leftovers in the fridge.
Technically, this is the predecessor of the American coffee cake that was available from the ’40s to the ’60s. It is embellished with glazed fruit, spices, and honey. This extensive line of panettone transcends the usual orange and citron peel and raisins studding on a spice-rich, sweet bread base.
In one La Sallian activity, I got to talk to well-known actor Dranreb Belleza, who is a Cafe Ysabel regular. Later, I found out by coincidence that he happens to be the brand ambassador of Loison.
I have always enjoyed panettone because of its tasty, umami flavor. I researched the brand’s factory and the old school style of sourdough fermentation it still employs. I have always enjoyed a good Panettone Classico with its dough hinting of sweet wood spices, faint ginger, and fruit rinds in yeasty, well-fermented buttery dough. Its crumbs are bejeweled with orange and lemon citron peel, and raisins.
Espresso or tea usually improves the enjoyment during snack time, but panettone is also nice to pair with some fortified wines like Madeira, Muscatel, or Port. The leftovers can either be made into French toast or put in a toaster oven on gentle heat to dehydrate the bread and serve it with some blue or soft ripe cheeses.
Knowing I was a panettone buff, Dranreb obliged me with a tasting at Cafe Ysabel, so I wouldn’t be stuck on the Panettone Classico since other variants are now being offered. The new additions not only retain the traditional taste and texture, but also come in different sizes. Here are some tasting notes that were gathered from that afternoon. By the way, panettonewas also my breakfast the next day. I had a slice in the afternoon, too, with a small glass of mead.
Let me eat Loison Panettone
The 500- and 600-gram sizes are still the best for me as they contain a lot of crumbs, which you need for full flavor. There are smaller sizes, with 100 grams being the smallest.
As a traditional panettone enthusiast, I was surprised at the range of flavors of the variants. I was especially amazed that one of the mildest was Cherries and Raisins because normally, cherry is a strong flavor.
Those who prefer the traditional taste will be pleased with Pear, Raisin, and Cinnamon, which contain dried fruit and surprisingly, fresh fruit. Lemon with Lemon Cream gives full citron flavors, with moist streaks of creamy lemon filling. Apricot and Ginger is quite robust as its dried stone fruit taste is highlighted by the sharpness of dried ginger.
Marrons with Chestnut Cream
The two flavors I found quite outstanding and interesting are the Rose with Rose Cream, which exudes subtle floral notes that don’t veer away from classic flavors, as well as the Mandarin and Raisin, which captures the essence of mandarin peel and gives the bread a unique and pleasant aftertaste.
For those who like rich flavors, I would definitely recommend the Caramello Salato or Salted Caramel with Choco Chips. Each slice comes with a line of buttery salted caramel cones that is combined with mini dark chocolate chips. This is a true winner like the Marrons with Chestnut Cream. Too loaded with many slices of panettone, I decided to leave the other exciting flavors like Licorice and Saffron, plus the Five Citrus Medley, for next time. This is a great excuse for me to go on another panettone binge.
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