From Roy’s — Or The Story of the $50 Panettone

From Roy's dark chocolate panettone -- fit for a king or queen.

From Roy’s dark chocolate panettone — fit for a king or queen.

 

When I told my husband, who is notoriously frugal (he’d call himself, “cheap”), that I was writing a story about a pastry chef who makes a $50 panettone, he was beside himself.

He rolled his eyes, completely flabbergasted. Who in their right minds, he thought, would pay that much for an Italian Christmas bread that you can get for a song on the shelves at Cost Plus?

Then, I cut him a thick slab of the handmade dark chocolate panettone made by From Roy’s of Richmond. He put a forkful in his mouth. He let out a sigh. Then, he actually said, “OK, I can see paying $50 for this.”

One bite is all it takes to be a believer, when it comes to the panettone made by Roy Shvartzapel, a classically trained pastry chef who has worked at El Bulli in Spain, Pierre Herme in France, and Bouchon Bakery in Beverly Hills.

Last December, he started his mail-order panettone bakery, selling 500 in just 10 days. This Christmas? He expects to sell 5,000 of them.

The nifty box it comes in.

The nifty box it comes in.

It stand 8 inches tall.

It stand 8 inches tall.

That’s how much the world has fallen for his unabashedly buttery, feathery light panettones that he now sells year-round in a variety of inventive flavors.

Find out how he became obsessed with panettone and how his business has grown by leaps and bounds, in my story in this past Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle Food + Home section.

Also, here’s a short video I shot at his baking facility, showing the unique way he cools the panettones.

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16 comments

  • I can eat the entire panettone in a matter of days. This one is on my wish list! πŸ™‚

  • Sorry, just looking at the picture I’d say it’s probably $28. No matter the taste, I can’t imagine something being that amazing to warrant that hefty price tag. I’ve seen elaborate cakes that are much bigger and fancy going for the same price, but you get more for the money.

  • Ben: You’ll have to taste one to really see if it’s worth the price. After all, you can’t go on just looks alone. If that were the case, who would ever pay the big bucks for a black truffle, which looks basically like a clump of dirt?

  • Why does he cool it upside down?

  • Moe: He hangs them upside down so that they don’t collapse (like a souffle) after being pulled from the oven. The texture is so light, and you can also see the big air holes inside the panettone. It’s quite a challenge to keep something so lofty from sinking. It’s one of the many challenges of making panettone.

  • I just went to order a couple of them, and it says he’s sold out! Noooooo!!!!!!!!!

  • Bruce: The two Thanksgiving flavors sold out right after the Chronicle story published, as I guessed they might. However, it appears the chocolate flavor is still available. If you are a chocolate lover, it will definitely please.

  • Oh, you are just an enabler. After all how can I possibly send one to my in-laws for Christmas without trying it out first to see how good it is? Yep, tester loaf is on its way….

  • Marcella: Think of it as “research.” The very best kind. πŸ˜‰

  • By far the best panettone you’ve ever put in your mouth ! When you take bite you go to heaven with a big smile of heavenly joy!

  • I received a Roy’s chocolate panettone as a gift this holiday season and it is OUTRAGEOUSLY good. Like, I can’t believe how tasty and light it really is…although I’m terrified to know the fat/calories/carbs info on this. I sorta ate a quarter of one in a single sitting…and these are HUGE. What was I thinking? I guess I was thinking how delicious this is and took another bite. πŸ™‚ I do believe they are more than worth the price tag (and I was also initially shocked at the price). Thanks for this terrific article and video clip!

  • Ken: You are so welcome! It IS very hard to stop eating this. Believe me, I know. But what a way to treat yourself, right? I’m glad to hear you’re now a fan of this panettone, as well. Happy New Year!

  • I use to buy my Panettone with candied chestnuts from Williams-Sonoma every year and hated the price but it was only made once a year do I had no choice until last year when I decided I would make it or die. It is AWESOME, but I am still perfecting the crumb. Almost there. I would love to know how to do that. I think it is a matter of kneading it more? Yes, I can certainly tell you that Panettone is the greatest thing I ever had the pleasure of tasting and yes it’s worth every penny. Williams-Sonoma went up $3 this year but for the first time in all my life I didn’t buy one this year!! I love to read about the chef’s who have mastered this Italian delight!!

  • Bea: Wow, kudos to you for making your own panettone. That’s definitely not an easy endeavor. I don’t think Roy will let on about the secret to his incredibly ethereal yet buttery texture. But he says a lot of it does have to do with using wild yeast.

  • Finally got to taste the chocolate one and wholeheartedly agree! It’s the absolute best I have ever eaten. It’s also very large and keeps for a long time.

  • Amy: It freezes well, too. πŸ˜‰

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