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Cossetta’s Will Represent the U.S. at the World Cup of Panettone in 2024

Since they arrived in St. Paul in the 1800s and settled on the Levee, started their renowned food business with a tiny food market called Cossetta’s, which drew customers from far and wide who appreciated their quality foods and genuine hospitality, the Cossettas believed that “Good food is the Quality of Life” and this remains Cossetta’s motto: “Qualita di Vita. Cibo Buono.”

A Decade of Passion and Perseverance

Making a commitment to excellence is something we all have chances to do in different aspects of our lives. With such motivation, we soon learn the complexities and demands that go with that commitment.

In 2013, Dave Cossetta, already in charge of a complex and successful St. Paul business, decided to add a quest to his and his team’s agenda: “To Master the Art of Panettone and Pan d’Oro.” The team involved in bakery and pastry production spent the time needed to plan, learn, gather resources, and produce Cossetta Panettone, the traditional Italian sweet-dough Christmas cake. Its tradition of more than 500 years originated in passion, and continues today with a passion for quality that this team holds close.

Sometimes, starting from zero is your first commitment — it helps you discover just how challenging the pursuit of excellence can be. The development process involved the entire team, led by Jaime Martinez, Executive Chef of Bakery and Pastry Production, now 25 years at Cossetta’s. Cossetta already understood the kinds of support required for learning such a complex task — Panettone is considered to be one of the most difficult of baking projects — the help and support of experts would be essential. Marco Failla, a Pastry Maestro from Catagna, Sicily, was brought here for a year as a consultant to assist with the Panettone/ Pan d’Oro project. He had assisted the world-renowned Iginio Massari at his school, Cast Alimenti in Brescia, when discovered by the Cossetta team, who were there to learn as much as they could about Panettone. 

Dave Cossetta with world renowned Italian Pastry Chef Maestro Iginio Massara and co-founder of the Coppa del Mondo (World Cup of Panettone) Giuseppi Pifaretti.

I would like to give recognition to my teachers, Maestro Guiseppi Pifaretti and Maestro and dear friend Biagio Settipane for all their knowledge and support in this Quest of Mastering Panettone.

Dave Cossetta

The process involved developing the recipe, sourcing the best ingredients and a lot of experimentation. Making a yeasted sweet cake involves developing the “mother” dough — the “Madre.” It must have the right acidity and moisture content. Cossetta brought a 100-year-old Madre from Italy which is still working.

The first mix develops the structure of the gluten, proofs the yeast and develops flavor. Second and third feedings, restings and risings, occur before the precisely measured dough can go into baking molds. An hour in the oven followed by three to six hours cooling. The entire process takes almost 60 hours with continual inspection.

Cossetta paid serious attention to the quality of equipment and ingredients and has arrived at the point where the entire operation is integrated. Special Panettone flour comes from Italy; the candied fruit is from Sicily. Special mixers that do not heat the dough are in place. A proof box used only for the Panettone helps to regulate the temperature to minimize fluctuation and a new rack allows the baked Panettone to be turned upside-down smoothly for the four-to-five-hour cooling period necessary to prevent the cakes from collapsing.

On the World Stage

Pastry Chef Guiseppi Settipane, Maestro Biagio Settipane, Dave Cossetta, Cossetta Pastry Chef Jaime Martinez and Cossetta Culinary Director Fillipo Caffari.

It has taken the Cossetta team a decade of passion and perseverance to create the Panettone they hoped for, and in 2022 they were invited to compete at the North American trials, for an invitation to the Third Coppa del Monde del Panettone — the World Cup of Panettone — held in Milano in November of that year.

The team returned to New York this year, and again placed first among all US contestants — far enough ahead to become the only team certified to compete at the Coppa del Monde in Milano, 2024.

The long preparation process for the competition will mean starting a set of eighteen Panettoni in the fall, timed to be ready for the early November Coppa del Mondo. Each batch of six will be evaluated for height, texture, smell, color, crumb profile, structure and taste to determine which best represents their craft. 

At the heart of the team is Jaime Martinez. For more than 10 years, Jaime studied with a multitude of Maestros, worked with many co-workers, experienced many, many failures and experimented with different techniques and ingredients. He has shown an endless, indomitable spirit on this quest for the best Panettone. This is science at its very finest, but with no formula that fits all seasons. Adjust, adjust, adjust is a must. Jaime has worked endlessly at all hours and days and has proven to exhibit the true definition of a professional. Champions exist for one primary reason. They practice, practice, practice. As Jaime Martinez has said, “We all work together. We may not be able to master Panettone, but this will never stop us from trying.”

Dave Cossetta has shared some of the things he has learned during this long effort: “It has become evident to me that to make this thing called Panettone is incredibly complicated, not only because of possible differences in technique, but also the need to source the best ingredients and equipment. Panettone was born in Italy over 500 years ago, so the expectations for taste, look, and style have been set for a long time. The challenge is to make something with such strict guidelines.”

This year’s Cossetta Panettone — traditional and chocolate — and Pandoro, are featured for the holidays in December.

Cossetta’s, 211 West 7th Street. 651-222-3476.

“Qualita di Vita. Cibo Buono.”

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