Category Archives: Panettone

Making Panettone

Having baked so many darn things the past eleven years, I confess I get a little cynical about preparations that seem to closely resemble other things. I do a sort of lazy man’s mental math…let’s see…brioche + sugar + candied fruit = yeah, I think I know what that’s all about. I think that’s why I’ve put off making my own panettone for so long. That and the fact that I’ve tasted so many of the impressively-tall-yet-disappointingly-dry versions. You start to wonder what all the fuss is about. Having finally made my own, now I know — and this stuff is good.

A starter makes a world of difference with panettone. Sure, the crumb isn’t as perfectly even as the store-bought versions, but it’s tender, moist and delectable. Starter-raised panettone makes sublime toast. The day you set out to begin the process, make sure your starter is well fed, happy, and bubbles up like this within four hours of being refreshed:

It can be refrigerated for a day or two once it gets to that point if you wish. It may fall a little, but don’t worry, it’ll still be plenty active. Combine the starter with the flour and warm milk…

…and stir it together. It’ll be a little looser than your original starter was. Don’t let that worry you.

Let it rise for four hours until it’s at this point, then refrigerate it overnight:

Next mix up your fruit blend and leave that out on the counter overnight (covered or uncovered, it’s up to you).

The next day, make your dough. Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle (beater) and stir them to combine.

Next add the starter and eggs…

…and stir about a minute until everything’s wet.

Let the mixture sit about 20 minutes to hydrate, switch to the dough hook and knead about four minutes. If the dough isn’t taking up all the flour or seems stiff, add some of the water. When the dough is nice and smooth, knead in the butter a few tablespoons at a time.

When the butter is incorporated, knead in the fruit blend.

Then the slivered almonds.

When everything’s together, scrape the dough — it will be rather sticky — into a lightly oiled bowl.

Cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise for two hours, until it’s about twice its original size.

Divide the dough in half (each half will weigh just under two pounds), then form the dough into rounds.

Gently place the rounds in your forms. They’ll fill them up about half-way. As mentioned in the recipe below, smaller forms will work just fine.

Let the panettones rise about another two hours, meanwhile preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. At that point the centers should have risen to the height of the paper molds. Paint them with egg wash…

…and bake them for 1 1/2 hours. At about the one hour mark have a look-see inside the oven. If the tops are getting very brown, tent them with aluminum foil for the rest of the bake. Remove the breads to a cooling rack and cool completely.

Pannetone will keep perfectly well for a week or more, which makes them great for gift-giving. I’m not sure Mrs. Pastry will let either one of these get out of the house. But then she’s been awfully patient with me and my website shenanigans this year. She deserves all the panettone she can eat.

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Panettone Recipe

That’s “panettone” with two t’s. Profuse apologies to my few — and getting fewer — Italian readers. Panettone has near-sacred status among the Italian-Americans I know. These are people who know how to eat — but who are frequently disappointed by the panettone they find in most stores, both here and in Italy where (they say) mass-produced versions have largely replaced the artisanal kind. Even so, they fear making their own because of the time involved.

It’s true that some panettone recipes have more assembly steps than an Imaginarium Pirate Island Playset (forgive me, Christmas is coming), but between the quick-rise, easy-bake iterations and the slow-rising, multi-day religious ritual versions there is a happy medium. Peter Reinhart strikes it in his masterful book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. That recipe is classic Reinhart: starter-based but with a commercial yeast “spike” that delivers the best of both worlds: a voluminous light crumb and a deep, satisfying flavor. I did a little fiddling with the flavors (I found the Fiori di Sicilia in the original to be too much), but otherwise this recipe is quite close to the original.

For the Sponge

7 ounces (1 cup) active (i.e. revived and ready) bread starter
8 ounces (1 cup) warm milk
4.5 ounces (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour

For the Fruit Blend

6 ounces (1 cup) golden raisins
6 ounces (1 cup) candied fruit blend (or a mix of dried fruits if you prefer)
4 ounces (1/2 cup) brandy, rum or whiskey (optional, substitute 1 tbsp. bourbon extract of you can find it)
2 teaspoons orange or lemon extract
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 large orange, finely grated

For the Dough

13.5 ounces (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1.5 ounces (3 tablespoons) granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 large egg, room temperature
1 egg yolk
1-2 ounces (2 to 4 tablespoons) warm water
4 ounces (1/2 cup) soft butter
5 ounces (1 cup) blanched, slivered almonds

The day before baking, make the sponge. Stir the ingredients together just until the flour is wet. Cover and ferment at room temperature for 4 hours before putting it in the refrigerator for an overnight sit. Meanwhile mix the fruit blend ingredients together in a bowl. Cover the bowl and let the mixture sit out on the counter overnight.

The next day take the sponge out of the fridge and let it sit for an hour before beginning the dough. Put the dry dough ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle (beater) attached. Stir the ingredients together, then add the sponge, egg and egg yolk, plus as much of the water as you need to make a dough. Stop the machine and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Switch to the dough hook. Turn the mixer back on low and add the butter. When it’s incorporated add the fruit blend. Keep stirring until the fruit is evenly distributed, then knead an additional 2-4 minutes, steadily adding in the almonds. Knead until you have a soft dough that’s still slightly sticky. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise about 2 hours.

For two large 2-pound loaves, divide the dough in half and shape it into two large balls. Place them into panettone baking papers or six-inch-round pans. Press the dough down lightly. It should be about half way up the forms. Now then, you can make much smaller panettones if you wish. You can make shallower versions in parchment-lined cake layer pans (still excellent), even mini ones in muffin tins. Either way, proof them for 2 more hours. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and set a rack in the lower third of your oven.

Bake 2-pound loaves for 1 1/2 hours. Minis for 25-25 minutes and medium-sized versions for somewhere in between. If the tops are getting too brown, cover them with aluminum foil. Transfer the breads to a cooling rack (if they’re in papers leave those on, otherwise de-pan them first). They’ll keep at room temperature for up to two weeks. That can also be frozen for up to 3 months.

Filed under:  Panettone, Pastry | 53 Comments