What’s in those Hat Boxes?

December 18, 2010

My first Christmas in Sicily. Things are low-key and I’m lovin’ it. The bar has dangled a few nonchalant stars; the barista wears a red tie . The (horse) butcher has lined his doorway with a handful of twinkle-lights. Poinsettias redden the piazza.

Things at the supermercato have reached a fever pitch, though. Christmas cakes in hat boxes—piled high on skids everywhere you look—teeter alarmingly, threatening to bury you alive under mounds of butter and lard. Friends tell me Sicilians start gobbling the cakes (called panettone or pan d’oro) at the end of November. By Christmas, they’re so bloated they can’t look at a hat box.

Christmas Panettone in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Which one to get?

Christmas Pan d'Oro in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Chocolate with orange nibs? Laced with Grand Marnier? Cointreau? Nuts? Truffles? A Mister Chocolate?

Christmas Panettone in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

How about a cake with a bottle of bubbly enclosed? My head spins.

Christmas Panettone in Sicily, Copyright Jann Huizenga

I finally close my eyes and point. I pick the classic—a spongey-eggy poof studded with oranges and raisins (OK, I’m boring). Wish I were sharing this monster with you!!

Christmas Panettone in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga


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22 comments to What’s in those Hat Boxes?

  • Dana–thanks for alerting me to the fact that bakeries make their own, too. Now I’ve looked, and you’re right! Yikes.

  • Carole DeSimone

    Oh I wish I was around at Christmas to enjoy this delightful dessert. My favorite is also the one you picked out.

  • I picked a regular Panettone too this year, no chocolate or champagne. I can’t wait to open it.

  • Lynn G

    Beautiful photos of panettone! Makes me want to climb right in and choose one………or two! You have to be adventurous and try other flavors, so you can tell us!!!!! Will you visit a Cathedral on Christmas Eve @ midnight? Very beautiful………..enjoy every minute.

    • Jann

      We would not miss the beauty of midnight Christmas mass in Sicily! (Will just have to keep from knocking back too much prosecco beforehand)…

  • Kelly

    I like to use it to make french toast. Yum! I am getting a freshly baked one this year from Sullivan Street Bakery in NYC. Theirs is supposed to be amazing. Here’s hoping! I tried to talk my mother into trying to bake one herself but she promptly declined.

  • As a child I was very disappointed to find that with panettone, the packaging was much more exciting than the contents. But when I see those boxes in the market, I’m still tempted to buy one. Maybe I should give it another try…

    • Jann

      I think maybe it’s sort of an acquired taste??? The more I eat, the more I like it. I’ve eaten half of mine and will use the rest for french toast, as kelly has suggested here.

  • catherine Billups

    It took me years to like panettone, now I am like the Italians. Merry Christmas and thanks for your wonderful posts about Sicily. I have never stayed for Christmas but after the bad weather in the North where I am now it seems to be a good idea.

    • Jann

      Thanks Catherine! Four days ago it felt like Siberia in Sicily, but today it’s so warm you don’t need a sweater….

  • Nur

    Hi Jann,
    I wish you and your husband a Merry Christmas and a very New Year!We bought the pink boxed cake here in Istanbul since my son loves to eat.It’s delicious.I don’t know if I mentioned you before he’s attending an Italian school here and used to eat it when he was in Italy for holidays.
    Lots of love from Istanbul.

  • joe girolamo

    We get to Modica middle of January, sure do hope there’s some left for lynn and I.

    Buon Natale

    Ps. Margo you’re so right Dunkin Donuts coffee and Panetonne, simply the best !!!!

  • Margo Chavez

    Me too, I wish you could share it with me. I love panetonne, and resort to buying whatever I can find here. I discovered this morning it’s great dunked in coffee.

    Have a marvelous holiday. It was wonderful to see you.

  • Wow. I’ve seen these in specialty stores but never knew what they were or what was inside the “hatbox”. Now, I’m going to have to find out, and it’s all your fault!

  • which “one” should you pick? What kind of a choice is that? The question should be how many of “each kind” you should get… (recommended dosage: at least one of each, with a two minimum if it contains any kind of chocolate)

  • These images have served to instigate the biggest Pannetone craving ever! Methinks a nice cup of coffee and a slice of this heavenly stuff and life would be complete! Oh, and throw in the bubbly and Nirvana here I come!

  • Just wondering . . . are they made in the pasticerria’s in Sicily? Here in the North (where most of the ones that line the grocery store shelves are made), almost every bakery makes its own as well, leaving us with So.Many.Choices.

    merry christmas

    • Jann

      Dana–thanks for alerting me to the fact that bakeries make their own, too. Now I’ve looked, and you’re right! Yikes.

  • Panettone! I bought my first one today- but I went for chocolate. Great pics! Buon natale!

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