In order to comprehend the history of Panettone we have to go back to the 14th century, in Milan. The city of Milan, at the time, was one of the most powerful cities in Europe and it was governed by Sforza Family, one of the most important family of the middle age.
At the top of the Sforza’s there was a man who enjoyed (a lot) parties, banquets and good food. His name was Ludovico Il Moro. Exactly During one of those massive feasts Panettone was invented. How? By mistake of course.
The legend says that the Head Chef put in the oven the dessert and, as the other chefs were all busy, ordered to the Kitchen porter, named Antonio (shortened as Toni) to keep an eye on it.
As we can imagine it was a busy service (let’s think of a modern 3 star Michelin restaurant during rush time of a Christmas Service) and obviously Antonio (Toni) forgot to take off the dessert from the oven.
A smell of burnt (and presumably desperation) invaded the kitchen. The dessert was compromised as the whole dinner.
Toni, in order to save the dinner (and himself!) proposed to bake his own dessert. A dough enriched with butter, eggs, orange zest and raisins, that he had prepared before to impress the head chef.
That improvised dessert was not so bad, indeed it was good, so they decided to serve it. It was a success and Toni became the hero of the night. So “Pan de Toni” – literally the Bread of Toni - was invented.
History or Legend, this is the most credible version of how Panettone was invented (We have also a legend of a noble in love with a baker’s daughter, but we will tell you another time).
It was a tradition at that time that the peasants were allowed to eat only bread made with millet. Christmas was the only exception when poor people could eat a bread made with wheat and enriched with butter, eggs and raisins. (see also the German version, stollenbread).
Nowadays with new machineries and with an evolved techniques Panettone is a much more sophisticated and refined product.