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The proof is in the panettone for artisan pastry chef Luis Cavuoto

The Forager

Artisan panettone maker Luis Cavuoto has perfected his method of baking “the Mount Everest of pastry” with his soft, fluffy and aromatic panettones which are finding their way into fine food retailers across Adelaide.

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It’s only in the lead-up to Christmas that imported boxes of Italian panettone hit the shelves of supermarkets and food retailers across Adelaide.

For local pastry chef Luis Cavuoto, this annual Christmas influx of panettone never made sense.

“I just couldn’t understand that if you enjoy something, why only consume it once a year?” he says.

“When I went over to Italy, I learnt that the Italians make panettone all year, not just at Christmas, and it’s the Australians that import them once a year.”

It was that trip to Italy four years ago that inspired Cavuoto on a journey to learn the art of making artisan panettone and bring it to Adelaide. It has become a consuming passion that also stems back to his upbringing at Thebarton, where his nonna Ludovica would share stories of Italy over coffee and panettone.

“During my trip to Europe, it struck me that artisan panettone could be something I could bring back to Adelaide,” says Cavuoto.

“Here in Australia, people are familiar with imported panettone and most don’t know what an artisan one tastes like.”

Now, his brand Pasticcino is available at Tony & Marks, Bottega Gelateria and Marino Meat & Food Store at the Adelaide Central Market.

Cavuoto started working part-time in a bakery at the age of 14 and went on to become both a chef and pastry chef.

Panettone by Luis Cavuoto. Photo: Ben Kelly.

Still working full-time as a chef, he dedicates his weekends and spare time to meeting panettone orders, hoping to eventually take his business full-time.

It takes up to four days to make a batch, requiring specific equipment, techniques and knowledge, particularly how to maintain the mother yeast and how it reacts to seasonal changes.

“The Italian maestros call it the Mount Everest of pastry — it is one of the most difficult pastries to work with,” says Cavuoto.

“Although it has a lot of elements of bread and pastry-making, in my opinion, it’s more like the work of a food scientist. There are lots of points where it can go wrong and there’s no remedy to fix the dough or start a new batch.

“I’ve definitely had moments of frustration because of the money and time wasted from errors, but it’s allowed me to learn so I can prevent it from happening again.

“It is a labour of love and not for the faint-hearted.”

The chef says there are limited producers of panettone in Australia, particularly those of an artisan level.

He uses a 20-year-old mother yeast and makes his own candied sultanas and citrus fruit.

“An artisan panettone must be free from preservatives — in both the candied fruit and the dough itself — and have natural aromatics, flavours and colours, and is produced with a mother yeast, Lievito Madre,” he says.

“It’s fluffy and it should be soft; it shouldn’t be dry.

“The candied fruit is in there to help moisten it and give huge aromatic and flavour profiles.”

Cavuoto also produces the traditional easter cake colomba di pasqua and has started making bauletto – a year-round treat that is similar to panettone but in the shape of a loaf of bread.

Served outside of the Christmas period, bauletto has proven to be a popular item at Marino Meat & Food Store and Luis hopes it will catch on as it would mean year-round production.

He also hopes to expand his product range with pandoro, like panettone but baked into a star-shaped tin and without any fruit, the star shape representing the alps of Verona.

“At the beginning, I started approaching retailers and there was always someone willing to give me a go, being a local artisan.”

The chef’s goal is to break into the Melbourne and Sydney markets, and to turn his business into a full-time job — the capital investment being one of the biggest hurdles.

“Anyone that has said to me they don’t like panettone, I get them to try mine and they’re like, ‘Oh, I didn’t even know it tasted like this’.”

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