Fluffy Panettone

published Nov 7, 2021
christmas
Panettone Recipe

Panettone is truly a labor a love sure to impress your loved ones this holiday season.

Serves8 to 10

Makes1 (7-inch) panettone

Prep30 minutes

Cook55 minutes

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Panettone  (Italian sweet bread). on a green plate with a slice cut out on the plate
Credit: Tara Holland

Panettone is a yeast-leavened cake studded with nuts and mixed dried fruits that have usually been soaked in liqueur. It is made with enriched dough, which means it has butter, sugar, and dairy and is formed into a cylindrical shape with a domed, lofty top.

This version has a touch of nutmeg as well as almond and orange extracts to add some additional flavor. Apologies in advance to any panettone purists or traditional Italians that do not agree with these tiny adaptations! You can easily omit them if you prefer. 

The Origin of Panettone

Panettone was created in Milan in the Lombard region and some say it dates back to the 15th century. One legend claims panettone was created by a scullery boy named Toni, who supposedly saved the day by making a quick backup dessert with leftover dough and fruits. The head court chef to Duke Ludovico had burned dessert, so Toni came to the rescue, hence, il pan de Toni. However, others believe the word is a basic translation in Milan dialect linked to a loaf of bread.

Another story is that it was created by a nobleman who wanted to win the heart of a baker’s (Toni) daughter, so he created the sweetened bread to woo her. And some believe a nun named Sister Ughetta made it for her sisterhood, and that’s where the cross on top comes from. 

Whatever the true story is, it’s a delicious fruit loaf that tastes like a cross between a fruit cake and a brioche. And although it’s a one- to two-day project, it’s worth it when you bite into the hard crust and pillowy center, with nuggets of plump dried fruits and crunchy toasted nuts.

What Pan Should I Use for Panettone?

Traditionally they are baked in paper molds which are readily available from kitchenware shops or online. This recipe will make either two (5.11-inch-wide) panettones or even three — they just won’t be as high or puffy. Or this amount of dough will make one large, very lofty 7-inch-wide panettone.

What Is Enriched Bread Dough?

There are two ways to make the enriched dough.

  • Straight enriched: This is similar to the dump method, where you dump everything in the stand mixer. It’s all in; you don’t even have to bloom the yeast. 
  • Sponge enriched: You make a sponge starter by mixing the yeast, some of the sugar, and a little flour, and you let it “start” to ferment on its own (for anything from one to three hours) before adding the rest of the ingredients. 

This recipe below is based on the straight enriched method to make things a little faster and easier. (It’s already a project, so I’m all about cutting corners if it doesn’t affect the crumb, flavor, or texture!).

Credit: Tara Holland

Does the Dough Need to Rise Overnight?

Panettone is a project! I’m not going to lie, but it’s worth all the effort. This recipe does have an overnight “cold ferment,” where you allow it to proof in the fridge for at least 12 hours and up to 24 or 48. The cold temperature is ideal. When yeast ferments at room temperature, the yeast and sugar work together fast. Hence, it exhausts the benefits quickly, so the maximum rise and flavor happen straight away. When it’s fermented in the fridge, it slows down the process, which allows it to create a superior structure and flavor.

Your Panettone Baking Timeline

  • The afternoon/evening before baking: Make the dough and transfer to the fridge to proof overnight (minimum of 12 hours, up to 24 hours).
  • Morning of baking: Remove dough from fridge, shape and put in molds. Allow to proof at room temperature for 3 hours.
  • Lunchtime: Bake for around 55 minutes. Allow to completely cool for 3 hours.
  • Evening: It’s ready to serve!

If you are in a bind and need to complete the recipe in one day, you can skip that overnight step and proof the dough at room temperature. The loaves will still have height and good flavor, although it won’t be as robust.

Once you transfer the dough to the large greased bowl (covered with a clean dish towel or cling wrap) proof at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, then shape into balls and transfer to greased paper molds. Then do the second proof at room temperature (covered) for one more hour and continue the recipe as instructed.

How to Slice Panettone and What to Serve with It

You can slice panettone into thin wedges, and if you use the paper molds, you can cut right into it with a serrated knife. It is so tasty, served as is, or especially tasty with a slathering of butter. Less is more with panettone, but a thin smear of jam on top of the butter is also a great addition. Panettone is also delicious toasted and buttered, but be careful — it burns quickly due to all the butter in the dough! 

Panettone Recipe

Panettone is truly a labor a love sure to impress your loved ones this holiday season.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 55 minutes

Makes 1 (7-inch) panettone

Serves 8 to 10

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 sticks

    (10 ounces) unsalted butter, divided

  • 6

    large eggs, divided

  • 4 ounces

    candied orange peel

  • 2 cups

    mixed dried fruits, such as golden raisins, raisins, cranberries, or tart cherries (about 10 ounces)

  • 1/2 cup

    amaretto, Cointreau, limoncello, or dark rum

  • 2 ounces

    whole blanched almonds or blanched almond slivers (packed 1/3 cup)

  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 3/4 cup

    whole milk

  • 3 1/2 cups

    bread flour (preferably unbleached), plus more for dusting

  • 1/4 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 2 (1/4-ounce) packets

    rapid-rise or instant yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground nutmeg, plus more for dusting (optional)

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    almond extract

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    orange extract

  • Cooking spray

  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

Instructions

Make the dough:

  1. Cut 2 1/4 sticks of the unsalted butter into 18 (1-tablespoon) pieces (keep the remaining 2 tablespoons refrigerated). Place 5 of the large eggs on the counter and let both sit at room temperature until the butter is softened, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, soak the fruit, toast the nuts, and grate the lemon.

  2. Finely chop 4 ounces candied orange peel. Place the peel, 2 cups mixed dried fruit, and 1/2 cup amaretto or liquor of choice in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until warmed through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let the fruit soak and plump up for 1 hour.

  3. Place 2 ounces whole blanched almonds or blanched slivered almonds (packed 1/3 cup) in a small skillet. Toast over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside to cool. Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon (about 1 1/2 teaspoons).

  4. When the fruits are ready, strain through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the soaking liquid. Place 3/4 cup whole milk in a small saucepan and heat over low heat until warm to touch (about 110℉), about 1 minute. (Alternatively, microwave the milk until warm, about 15 seconds.)

  5. Pour the milk into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the 5 large eggs, lemon zest, 3 1/2 cups bread flour, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 (1/4-ounce) packets rapid-rise or instant yeast, 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 3/4 teaspoon almond extract, and 3/4 teaspoon orange extract.

  6. Mix with the dough hook attachment on low speed for 2 minutes, then increase the speed to medium and continue mixing, scraping down the sides occasionally, until a sticky, elastic dough forms, about 6 minutes.

  7. With the mixer still on medium speed, add the softened butter 1 tablespoon at a time, waiting until each piece is incorporated before adding the next. Continue mixing, stopping and scraping down the sides occasionally, until the dough is glossy and very soft, about 6 minutes. Add the soaked fruits and 2/3 of the almonds and mix on medium speed until combined, about 1 minute more. Reserve the remaining almonds.

  8. Coat a large bowl with cooking spray. Scrape the dough into the bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours.

Make the panettone:

  1. Have 1 (7-inch) or 2 (5-inch) pannettone molds or tins ready. If using panettone tin(s) (not paper molds), coat with cooking spray.

  2. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, it should be tacky and semi-firm. Punch a hole in the center of the dough. Transfer the dough onto a floured work surface. If using the smaller molds or tins, divide the dough in half. Place the dough seam-side down into the tin(s) or mold(s). Press the reserved almonds deep into the top of the panettone(s).

  3. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 3 hours. Meanwhile, beat the remaining 1 large egg in a small bowl and let sit on the counter to come to room temperature. About 30 minutes before dough is ready, arrange a rack in the low third of the oven and heat the oven to 350℉.

  4. Place the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small ramekin and place in the hot oven to melt, about 3 minutes. (Alternatively, melt in the microwave or on the stovetop.)

  5. When the dough is ready, slash a cross into the top of the panettone(s) with a sharp knife. (Or skip if you wish to have a full dome shape and a less rustic-looking panettone(s).) Brush the top(s) with the melted butter first, then with the beaten egg.

  6. Bake for 25 minutes. Rotate the tin or mold(s) and reduce the oven temperature to 300℉. Bake until the top is crisp and dark brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes more.

  7. Place the panettone(s) on a wire rack and let cool completely. If you are using a paper mold and wish to keep the height and the shape, thread a 12 to 14-inch metal skewer (or 2 wooden skewers) horizontally through the center of each pannettone, flip the pannettone upside down, and balance between 2 large canisters or over a deep saucepan or stockpot to cool instead.

  8. Just before serving, dust the top of the cooled panettone(s) with powdered sugar and ground nutmeg if desired.