Panettone – Italian Christmas Bread

We all grow up with family traditions based around certain times of year – birthdays, special events, cultural holidays etc, but as an adult, you get to choose which traditions you carry on and share with your family or indeed which ones you choose to leave behind.

The creation of our own family traditions has been one of the best things about sharing Christmas with Kate and over the years we’ve developed a few which are unique to us, for instance, we have french onion soup for tea on Christmas Eve. Kate makes the soup and I make the bread croutons. We open our presents while sitting on the floor at the tree and we each give each other one silly present, like a onesie, just to have a giggle on Christmas morning.

There is one thing that Kate has been asking for all this time and we’ve never done though. Kate asks every year if I could make panetonne as she is a massive fan. I’ve never made it for her, because it always seemed terrifyingly complicated.

That will change as we add a new tradition this year, we will be having panettone and coffee for breakfast on Christmas morning.

I have really been learning about bread making over the last couple of years, and now, I’d say there is nothing complicated about panettone at all so I’m going to share the recipe I’ve come up with and my hints and tips so that you can make this too.

Makes 1 large or 18 small individual panettone

Treat additions
120g mixed dried fruits
120g candied lemon and orange peel (finely chopped)
200g of chocolate chips
4 tablespoons orange juice

For the Dough
1 1/2 tbsp fast action dry yeast
150ml warm milk
50g fine sugar
650g strong bread flour
1 tsp salt
6 free-range eggs (5 for the dough and 1 to glaze)
250g (1 pack) softened unsalted butter
zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange

Get prepared

Put all the dried fruits into a bowl and cover with the orange juice. I like to do this a good 5 or 6 hours ahead to give the fruit a chance to plump up. You could do this overnight.

Make the dough

TOP TIP – this is a wet dough, it’s much easier to work in a stand mixer than by hand.

Heat your milk to warm, but not hot and stir in the sugar until it dissolves, then add the yeast and leave it aside to let the yeast come to life a little.

Add your flour to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and sprinkle the salt in, let the dough hook mix this gentle for a few seconds before adding your yeast and milk, which hopefully is showing signs of life by now.

Keep the mixer on a slow speed and begin adding your other ingredients, first the Start by mixing on a slow speed to combine the ingredients. Add 5 beaten eggs slowly, letting them incorporate into the dough and then turn the mixer up to a medium speed to get things properly incorporated.  

Add the zest from the lemon and orange.

This is where my experience may be useful for first timers with enriched dough. This is a very wet and sticky dough, don’t worry, that’s why it ends up being so fluffy. Just keep going, I promise, it will all come together and make the most gorgeous, pillowy soft dough in the end. It just takes a bit longer.

Next, again top tip, don’t try to rush this. Add your butter about a tablespoon at a time and let it properly mix in before adding the next amount. It is going to take time to get that oily butter to properly mix in rather than just make the dough greasy, be patient.

When you first add it, you’ll see it smear all over the mixing bowl, just let the mixer do the work and suddenly just before you give up hope, it will vanish. That’s when you add the next bit of butter.

Now let the mixer knead away for at least 5-10 more minutes, this is when the dough becomes that pillow of softness I spoke about. Don’t worry about how soft and unmanagable it appears, remember this is all texture 🙂

Grease a large baking bowl and put your dough in there to let it prove. Cover it with cling film or put it in a baking bag to stop a skin forming on top. Leave your dough aside and be patient.

You want this to at least double in size, but ideally treble, so be patient.

Turn the dough into panettone

Ok so now that your dough is HUGE and you are a little worried it may eat you… time to add all your treaty bits and shape it.

Tip your dough out onto a floured worktop and gently spread it out with your fingertips. It will deflate but don’t worry, although try not to be overly heavy-handed.

Strain the soaked fruit and discard the juice. Mix with the choc chips and candied peel and spread about half of it out over the dough, and then fold the dough over the fruits and lightly roll the dough around to distribute the fruit evenly through the dough.

Do this again, spread the dough and repeat as before with the remaining fruit.

At this point, the dough is going to be an ugly, bumpy sod. Don’t worry about it, but look it over to make sure the fruit is as evenly distributed as possible.

Now you can choose to make one traditional panettone loaf or lots of smaller indiviudal ones.

For one big loaf, make the dough into a ball.

Grease a panettone tin or paper case. If you have don’t have any of these of these, use a regular cake tin, but line the base and sides with greaseproof paper standing at least 2 inches above the rim.

Drop the dough into the centre of the tin and cover loosely with a tea towel.

For lots of individual panettones

Roll the dough into a long sausage and cut into around 16 equal sized portions. Roll them into small bowls and drop into tulip muffin wrappers and then into a muffin tray and cover with a tea towel.  This acts as your panettone moulds.

Whichever method you chose, leave the dough aside until it rises again. You want the single loaf to be higher than the tin by maybe 2 inches and for the little individual ones, you want them to be just over half way up the muffin wrapper. It’s essential here to be patient. If you want that airy, fluffy texture the essential part is that the dough gets the chance to properly rise.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Once the oven is heated, make an eggwash by beating the remaining egg and brush over the surface of the panettone.

Bake the large loaf in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 160C or 150C for a fan oven and cook for a further 40 minutes. The panettone is ready when a skewer comes out clean.

For individual panettone, Bake for 30 minutes at 160C or 150C for a fan oven.

Let the cake cool for 5 minutes in the tin on a cooling rack, then remove and leave it to cool completely.

Serve and enjoy!

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