An easy version of the classic Italian Christmas bread, Panettone. This impressive tall bread with the speckled interior will wow your family and friends.
Panettone is a sweet Italian bread usually made for Christmas or New Year. Most Panettone recipes require one or even two days of preparation because you have to make a starter and feed it every so often for the yeast to develop. This here is an easier recipe, one you can make in one day with minimum effort but maximum results. But be aware: the vanilla and citrus zest, combined with the buttery scent of the dough will make your kitchen smell amazing! And in case you want a second dessert for your Christmas table, you should definitely consider making this Xmas scented cake with fluffy vanilla buttercream 🙂
In Christianity, bread is one of the most powerful symbols. And in Italy, during the past, yeast was considered a very special ingredient, so it was only used to make bread for religious celebrations, like Christmas. Throughout the years this bread was enriched with raisins and candied citrus peel, butter, and eggs, and that’s how Panettone was born. It actually has a lot of similarities with a Greek traditional sweet bread (Tsoureki), even though Tsoureki is made during Easter.
The classic Panettone recipe uses two parts raisins, one part candied orange peel and one part candied lemon peel. But, since you are the maker of this bread you can deviate from the standard recipe and customize your panettone to your liking. My favorite combinations so far are:
- 1 cup chopped golden raisins and 2/3 cups dark chocolate chips
- 1 cup dried cranberries and 2/3 cups white chocolate chips
- 1/2 cups golden raisins and 1/2 cup dried cranberries
Some people like to soak the dried fruit with some brandy or water, but I don’t like the extra moisture soaking adds to the fruit so I use them plain.
To hung upside-down or not?
For the fluffiest sweet Italian Christmas bread, you should pierce the bottom of the Panettone with two large skewers and hung it upside-down until it cools completely. That will make it extra airy and fluffy.
However, since this is meant to be an easy recipe you can totally skip this step. I’ve actually measured the height of my panettone and it probably lost only 0.2 inches (0.5 cm) in height and remained soft, fluffy and airy.
- Normally, for a richer taste, only egg yolks are used, but for easiness and because I don’t like to waste egg whites (though they freeze nicely) I decided to use whole eggs instead.
- Butter can prohibit gluten formation, that’s why it is added after the first rise.
- Customize your Panettone by adding the dried fruit you prefer.
- Let the dough rise inside your oven, with only the oven light on. The light will provide enough warmth for the yeast to do its magic.
- The dough for this bread should be very soft, elastic, and somewhat sticky. That’s why you’ll have to use a stand mixer for the kneading. Kneading by hand will be difficult.
You may like these similar recipes:
- 4 cups (560 grams) bread flour
- 1 tablespoon (9 grams) dry yeast
- 1/2 cup (110 grams) white sugar
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) warm milk (not hot)
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- The zest from half orange, one lemon, and one mandarin orange
- 4 large eggs (about 240 grams)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2/3 cups (150 grams) soft butter (room temperature)
- 1/2 cup (75 grams) golden raisins, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup (75 grams) dried cranberries
- 2/3 cups (100 grams) dark or white chocolate chips (optional)
- 1 panettone mold or one 8-inch 20 cm round pan, lined with baking paper (see notes).
Preheat your oven to 104°F (40°C) and turn off the heat but leave the oven light on.
Transfer the yeast, one tablespoon of the flour and one tablespoon of the sugar to a small bowl and mix to combine. Add the warm milk, stir to combine and let it foam for 5-10 minutes.
In the bowl of your electric mixer add the rest of the flour, the sugar, the zest, and the salt and mix to combine. Add the eggs, the yeast mixture, and the vanilla and mix with the dough attachment until all of the flour is absorbed. Cover the bowl with cling film and let it rest in the oven until the dough is tripled in volume (2-4 hours).
Deflate the dough and knead with the dough attachment for 5 minutes. Start adding the butter gradually until incorporated. You may have to stop and scrape the bowl a few times. The dough will be very soft. Continue kneading until it becomes very elastic and smooth. Add the dried fruit (and the chocolate chips, if using) and knead for one more minute.
Oil your hands and your working surface (or rub them with some butter). Transfer the dough to your working surface and shape a ball. Transfer the ball to the Panettone mold, and score a cross with a sharp knife. Brush the surface with some milk or melted butter, cover with cling film and let it rest in the oven until tripled in volume (it is best to use a ruler and measure the height of the dough before and after the rise). It should take 2-3 hours.
When the Panettone is almost ready, take it out of the oven and remove the cling film. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean (it can take longer if you use a cake pan). Cover the surface with foil if you notice it browns too fast. Take it off the oven and let it cool on a rack. Slice and eat!
How to make the Panettone mold: Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20cm) round pan with baking paper. For the sides you will need a large piece of baking paper, 26 inches (65cm) in length and 15 inches (38cm) in height. Fold the paper in half lengthwise to form a long strip. Re-fold in the middle lengthwise to form a strip 26 inches (65cm) in length and 3.75 inches (9 cm) in height. Line the sides of the pan with the strip to form a tall mold. Secure it with metal paper clips.
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