When Jews Eat Christmas Bread
Photo by Rabbi Deborah Prinz
Those fruity, domed, panettone breads that appeared on grocery store shelves in recent weeks signal a longtime Christmas tradition.
Surprisingly, Edda Servi Machlin included panettone in her Classic Dolci of the Italian Jews: A World of Jewish Desserts. In this, as in her other cookbooks, Machlin introduced Italian Jewish specialties to those outside of her observant childhood community of Pitigliano, Italy. Yes, this descendant of several rabbis, who died in September, proposes the iconic panettone as a “nutritious breakfast cake.”
In The New York Times obituary, she was quoted: “While adapting the dishes of their host country to their kosher laws, the Jews in Italy, as in the rest of the world, enriched the local cuisine with their ancestral culinary customs.” Panettone has been identified with Christmas since the 1470s. So, when Machlin shared a pareve option for panettone, she serves up a perfect example.
One could not question Machlin’s Jewish credentials. Not only did her books focus on Jewish foods, in them, she recalls a youth infused with positive Jewish experiences in her observant upbringing in Europe. She, along with some of her siblings, escaped arrest and deportation during World War II by hiding among Italian partisans, though her parents and brother were incarcerated in Northern Italy. Ultimately, she made her way to New York.
In honor of this season of Jewish celebration and sharing, and in respectful memory of a Jewish hero, here is Machlin’s recipe (slightly modified):
Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz lectures about chocolate and Judaism around the world based on her book, On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao (second edition, Turner Publishing). She co-curated the exhibit “Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate” for Temple Emanu-El’s Herbert and Eileen Bernard Museum, New York City, now available to travel to your community. Most recently she has launched the chocolatebabkaproject, an exploration of celebratory breads.