Panettone: A Holiday Treat from Italy

Michela Luoni, who lives near Milan, Italy, went to a fair bit of effort to find THE best version of this recipe to share with fellow readers. She mentioned that there are many variations, and that the traditional preparation of Panettone involves three phases of leavening. She compared her recipe with others in order to provide a version with “flavours and fillings that could be found in every general supermarket (chocolate, pistachio, lemon, fruits and so on).”  Michela was also thoughtful of translation into English, and credits this version to renowned baker and patisserie master Iginio Massari.

Panettone is said to date back to the days of the Roman Empire, when leavened cakes were sweetened with honey. Over the centuries, it came to incorporate fruits and chocolate. Known as a “cake of luxury”, it is a high, bread-like cake. You’ll want to read the recipe through before beginning, and note that there’s no last-minute preparation with this treat. You will want to allow two days for preparation (day one involves soaking and draining sultanas), and a minimum of three days for the cake to set after baking and being inverted for at least six hours.

Ingredients: First Dough

  • 60 g fresh natural yeast, cooled for 3 hours
  • 75 g sugar  ( in both doughs, try to use a fine grain sugar, or alternatively normal sugar lightly ground in a coffee mill)
  • 90 g water
  • 60 g egg yolks
  • 85 g butter
  • 240 g panettone flour (if you don’t find the specific one, use a plain wheat flour)Using a whisk from a mixer, mix the flour, the sugar dissolved into the water, the softened butter and a third of the egg yolks to make a soft dough.Add the live yeast in small amounts, and then add the remaining egg yolks a little at a time. Beat them before adding them to the mixture drop by drop, much like adding oil to mayonnaise.

Work the dough until it’s smooth but not too shiny. At this stage, check the temperature to bring it to 260 degrees, but never higher than 260. This will help the yeast when left to rise.

Put the dough to rise at 26/28°C (approximately 75° F)  until it has tripled in size. Soak the sultanas in boiling  water for 15 minutes and allow them to drain overnight.

Once the dough has tripled, and only having made sure this has happened, go to the second dough. If the dough has not risen sufficiently it will slow the second, taking three times the length of time it should require in the first stage.

Panettone - photo contributed

Ingredients: Second Dough

  • All of the first dough – which you will set aside for a while at a low temperature; Michela’s notes show that it could be put outside at 4 degrees while you assemble the other ingredients for the second dough
  • 60 g flour , the same type as before
  • 4 g salt
  • 15 g honey
  • 60 g  semolated sugar
  • 80 g egg yolks
  • 65 g soft butter kept at room temperature
  • 20 g melted butter
  • 40 g water
  • 120 g  sultanas
  • 60 g candied orange cubes
  • 30 g candied citron cubes

Re-knead the risen dough, and add the flour and honey. Work the mixture until the dough is soft and smooth.

Dissolve the sugar into a third of the egg yolk and whisk lightly. Add the sugar mixture to the dough, being careful to keep the mixture smooth.

Whisk another third of the egg yolks and add this, along with the salt, to the dough.

When the dough is once again elastic, add the remaining egg yolk (which you will whisk before adding), and the softened butter.

Add a drop of water, and knead the dough.

Once the melted butter has cooled to room temperature, add it to the mixture along with the fruit.

Knead the dough very slowly, until all the fruit is evenly distributed.

Panettone 2 - photo contributed


Preparing to Bake

Turn the dough onto a greased work surface and leave it to prove for around an hour; this helps with the formation of the “skin”. Turn and gently shape the dough until it is rounded. Then leave it to rest again, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Repeat this process three times.

After following the process above, place the dough in the unlit (turned off) oven to rise, accompanied by a pot of water – which you will want to replenish regularly – to ensure a high level of humidity.

Once the dough has reached a cm from the top, move it to room temperature  for 30 minutes. This helps the exterior to dry out.

If you have a heat resistant stone, place that in the oven before placing inserting the dough on its pan. The photo below shows the shape you want to achieve.

Panettone complete - photo contributed

Baking the Panettone

  • Just before putting it in the oven,  make a cross on the top and pop a knob of butter in the centre.
  • Turn the oven on to 190 ° C (375 ° F)  and bake the dough for 10 minutes at this temperature before reducing the oven heat to 170° C (338 ° F).
  • You want to bake the panettone until it reaches 90 – 92 degrees (194-197° F) in the centre; you can check this with a cooking thermometer.


After Baking

  • Remove the panettone from the oven and insert skewers (or knitting needles) on each side, in order to suspend it upside down for at least six hours.
  • Place the panettone in a plastic bag and ignore it for a minimum of three days.


The Final Step

Enjoy and, as Michela says, “Merry Christmas!” – or  “Buon Natale!”





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