The holiday season is a time for families to come together. It is a time for good food and drink. It is a time for family traditions.
My family is no exception. As an Italian family, there are a few traditions that we follow every Christmas without fail. We always put up the Christmas tree up on Thanksgiving and we always have the Feast of Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve (although with four family members the courses are quite small).
One of my favorite things about the holiday season is the food. The hot drinks, the seafood and all the cookies. Every year we bake and cook until the house is bursting with delicious morsels to eat.This year we started a new culinary tradition: making the Italian cake-bread hybrid panettone. Panettone is a yeast-based sweet bread filled with fruit and is traditionally eaten around Christmas and New Years.
The panettone encompasses everything special about the holiday season. Everyone works together to make it and everyone enjoys the final result together while telling stories of Christmases past.
One of my favorite stories to hear is about my Nonna, my grandfather's mother, teaching my grandmother how to make real tomato sauce. All day the two of them were making this sauce: chopping, stirring and tasting. In the end, Nonna said "if it doesn't taste right, just add a can of Ragu."
Baking with my family is something I look forward to every Christmas and this year was no exception. We make cookies, breads and cinnoman rolls for Christmas Day.
My sister, Emma, and I started the panettone process by making the yeast sponge. We donned our Christmas sweaters and mixed everything together. We made a sponge that rose overnight and was ready to be made into bread.
Having the whole family in the kitchen working together to make something delicious, to me, is what the holidays are all about. Everyone is taking a break from work and/or school, and focusing on being together.
I am going abroad next semester so I want to spend as much time with family as possible. This is why it is so important to me that we all made and kneaded the dough together.
Adding our candied fruits and raisins to the dough, we traded stories of the school year and work, what movies we had recently seen and what books we want to read.
We kneaded the dough again to mix in the fruit, let it rise again and then it was time for the actual baking.
Our final product is what a panettone should be: a hard and dark exterior, with a soft and sweet interior. It is perfect for enjoying with the family over a cup of coffee or tea, while spending time together. But if it doesn't work out, I'll copy my Nonna and buy one from the store.
I love the holiday season because it is a time where I can hang out with my sister, or watch Christmas movies with my parents (our personal favorite is Love Actually). It is always my favorite part of the year and it always goes by too quickly for my liking.
I'll savor every moment of winter break (and of this panettone) before this time of family traditions is over and we are all thrust back into reality. So, in the words of my Nonno, Buon Natale.