Today was our first field trip. We had an orientation to study trips, a long break and then boarded a bus for our first field trip. There are two important events that I need to mention before getting into the field trip. The first, for all of you Minnesotans out there, is that it is Spring here. It was about 16 degrees C today (in the 60s) and sunny. The vegetation is beginning to look like this.
The other thing is that although I packed a nice lunch for myself today, I never took it out of my backpack. Luca, the only Italian in our class, returned from his weekend home and brought 5 different kinds of cheese with him to share with our class. His family has a small farm and produce cheese. And what wonderful cheese it is! Some of the class had gone to the bakery and bought bread and we all enjoyed the fresh, raw cow’s milk cheeses Luca provided. I still can taste them. Here are a couple of photos (with my iPhone…when will I start remembering to bring my good camera?).
After the cheese I had time to enjoy an espresso and then we boarded a bus to go to Maina (http://www.mainapanettoni.com/). Maina is a family owned company that was started in 1964 in Turin.
They are Italy and the world’s primary producer of panetonne. Panetonne is a cake that is most popular during the Christmas holidays but served for other special events as well. It is a protected by law and must contain 100% natural yeast, 100% pure butter, fresh eggs and egg yolks and have the traditional shape. They also make pandoro (also protected by law) and a couple other products. The sell all over the world. Their U.S. customers include Trader Joe’s, Target and Costco. Their sales last year were €375 million or 100 million pieces. They have an interesting sales cycle in that 65% of their year’s production is sold in the 3 weeks around Christmas. Other pressure they face is the increasing cost of materials. The price of butter from 2009 to 2010 increased 100%, fruits increased 50%, sugar increased 50%, flour increased 30% and eggs increased 30%. They buy most of their flour from Canada as they require the hard wheat flour that is grown there. Their production process is interesting. Their natural mother yeast takes 48 hours of skilled processing to develop to make a unique taste, texture and aroma that is consistent. After baking the cakes have 10 hours of natural cooling, much of that time spent upside down so that the cake crumb doesn’t collapse. It then takes 8 hours to make the handmade hazelnut frosting. To prevent spoilage and to extend shelf life, when the cakes are placed in their plastic bags a small amount of ethyl alcohol is sprayed in to sterilize the bag and preserve the cake. (I’m wondering if before opening one should push a straw through the plastic bag and inhale…no, that probably wouldn’t work.) The tour was great and the aroma in the plant was amazing. Afterward we tasted two of their cakes and had the opportunity to shop in their “seconds” shop with an additonal discount because we were students at UNISG. They are a strategic partner with our school. I took home a cake and shared with June. It is very good. Not too sweet, with a great light texture and flavor. They said that in some places it is used to make French toast so June and I are going to try that tomorrow.
And with visions of cheese and cake dancing through my head, I’ll say…