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The best Milanese panettone is… Salentine Originally from Specchia, a charming village in Lower Salento, the master pastrycook Giuseppe Zippo won the title for “Italy’s Best Handmade Panettone 2016” in the National competitions in Milan and Turin.
In his pastryshop, “Le mille voglie”, he makes ten different kinds of handmade panettone.
Talent and enthusiasm and above all excellent ingredients are behind his success
by Giovanni De Benedictis
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Specchia (Lecce). Giuseppe Zippo's traditional handmade panettone

Tiny Specchia on the top of Italy. Specchia is the hometown, in fact, of the chef and master pastry cook Giuseppe Zippo, owner of the cake shop Le mille voglie, who won two prestigious national prizes: “Best Traditional Panettone 2016”, on 17 September in Milan, and “Best Traditional Handmade Panettone – Piedmontese School 2016”, on 20 November in Turin.

Christmas is approaching and Bridge Puglia USA could not miss the chance to interview maestro Giuseppe Zippo. His great passion has always made him, since childhood, prefer the art of baking to videogames and other youthful past-times; a choice that has rewarded him first of all with national and international experience (he has worked, among other places, at Domina Coral Bay in Sharm el-Sheikh and for Nannini in Firenze), and then with the extraordinary success he enjoys today.

The awards received in Lombardy and Piedmont are the maximum for a pastry cook from the South, who “away from home” has won with a northern specialty…

Leaving Puglia, knowing I was heading for Milan, the place the panettone was first created, was a challenge for me since I had to compete with masters who by tradition have always worked with the panettone mixture.

What did you think about on the way?

For the whole journey what accompanied me was doubt and tension at the thought of arriving in Milan and finding myself in front of the venerated Iginio Massari (according to Gambero Rosso, Italy’s best pastry cook from 2011 to 2015 ed), as well as the maestri Gino Fabbri and Sal De Riso, the elite of pastry cooking, who were going to examine my product in front of everybody.

How did you feel when you heard you’d come first?

During the awards, they announced only the top five out of twenty finalists, in ascending order. After the third place, I knew that I would have to go home with nothing. I had put my hat on the ground and was waiting to hear the name of the winner so I could congratulate him, and then I heard the name of my cake shop: I got up, incredulous, and I went to get the longed-for prize. Thrilled, and with tears in my eyes, I realized that maestro Iginio Massari and his jury, of all the candidates, had chosen my panettone.

What is the secret of the panettone that has just won the awards?

The recipe of my panettone uses top quality ingredients including flour, butter, candied fruit, honey and pure Bourbon vanilla to give the mixture a special flavor.

While we’re on the topic, what different kinds of panettone do you make?

Besides the traditional panettone, the variations that I’ve created, all starting from the same base, are chocolate panettone, triple chocolate, black cherry, apricot, orange, pear and chocolate, fig and walnut, five cereals, and the olive panettone with Celline olives instead of candied fruit. The olives, soaked and sweetened in sugar and water, give the panettone an unusual, unique flavor.

Christmas time, time for sweets: what are you going to make in the pastry shop in this period?

Panettone is always the Christmas cake par excellence. Following the Salentine tradition and the recipes handed down over the years by our grandmothers, in the Christmas period we love to make “cartellate”, typical fried, rose-shaped sweets with a strong aroma of cinnamon and orange, covered in honey and decorated with colored sprinkles. At Christmas time in our shop there are always Christmas logs and sweets made of almond paste.

The jewel of the deep south of Salento, for years Specchia has officially been one of “Italy’s prettiest villages”. How did your area contribute to your development as a person and a professional?

My area has always had a strong tradition in sweets. Colonized by various populations, Salento has managed to steal and preserve the recipes these people brought with them. A feature of the sweets in Salento is the simplicity of the ingredients, as well as the distinctive aromas of the Mediterranean.

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