Thursday, December 27, 2012

Daring Bakers: Panettone

The December 2012 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by the talented Marcellina of Marcellina in Cucina.  Marcellina challenged us to create our own custom Panettone, a traditional Italian holiday bread!

I was really excited to take on the challenge of making a Panettone.  It is one of those baked goods that has always intrigued me.  Before this challenge, I had actually never eaten one before, only seen them in stores in their pretty, tall boxes.  As someone with Italian heritage however, I felt I would have to make a Panettone sooner or later!

Some history about the Panettone, anyone??  Evidently there are a variety of stories and legends about Panettone, but the hostess of this recipe favors the recipe and story that follows:  Once upon a time, a young Milanese noble fell in love with the daughter of a poor baker whose name was Tony (Antonio).  The nobleman wanted to marry the baker's daughter, so he made sure that the baker had the very best ingredients at his disposal - eggs, butter, flour, candied orange peel, citron and golden raisins.  The baker then created a wonderful bread that became known as "pan di Tonio", Tony's bread.  The baker found his fame and fortune with this bread, and the nobleman honorably married the baker's daughter!  Though this story is sweet and romantic, others claim that this could not possibly be true as Italians don't shorten any name to be "Tony", this is something English-speakers do.  However, most do agree that the Panettone comes from Milan, and the word Panettone has a base in two Italian words:  "panetto", which means "small loaf cake", and the suffix "-one" which means "large cake".  I must admit, this cake comes out looking like a large loaf cake, so at the very least there is something to this etymology.

Though most Panettones are made with the ingredients mentioned above, I didn't actually have most of that on hand when I decided to make my Panettone.  Since the challenge was to make our own custom Panettone, I made mine with dried tart cherries, dried apricots, and blanched almonds.

The process of making panettone is very involved.  First, you made a sponge, as shown above.  A sponge is basically yeast, water and flour which is mixed together and allowed to ferment for 20-30 minutes.  When you use a sponge method for bread, there are many proofing sessions which each allow the acids and alcohols to develop in the bread and yields softer, sweeter, puffier breads.  Many French and Italian breads use this sort of method.  Once you have this gluey substance (the sponge, that is) you can start making the dough.

More yeast and water gets mixed and allowed to start to bloom.  Then add the sponge, eggs, flour, sugar and butter and allow to rise until double in size, about an hour.

Once the dough has doubled, start on step 2 (or 3 if you count the sponge) of the dough.  Add more eggs, egg yolks, sugar, honey, vanilla, extract and salt.  I was thrilled to see that this recipe called for 1 tablespoon vanilla extract.  A TABLESPOON!  I have never seen a recipe that calls for this much vanilla and I must say it made me pretty happy.  Since I was not using the same fruits and flavors as the original recipe, I altered the extracts for my bread.  The recipe called for lemon and orange extracts.  I used almond extract instead for both.  I did have some worries that the amount of almond would be too much as almond extract can be pretty potent, but after tasting the dough I knew I had done something marvelous!  Once all of the extracts are mixed into the dough, more butter is added, and then more flour.  The dough is more like cookie batter at this point and I admit some more worries here, but all was well.  I kneaded in enough flour so that the dough was less sticky (though not totally NON-sticky) and sort-of held it's shape.  At this point, I plopped the dough into a large oiled bowl and let it hang out on the counter for about 2-3 hours.  Then I put it in the refrigerator overnight so I didn't have to be up all night baking, yet again!

In the morning, I took out the dough and let it come to room temperature and finish rising to triple it's original size.  I failed to take a picture of this but let me assure you, the dough was gigantic at this point!  In the mean time, I soaked my dried fruit in water to rehydrate them a bit.  I seriously considered soaking them in Amaretto but since I had never made this before, I decided to err on the side of caution.  In hindsight, the Amaretto would have been amazing and I will definitely do that next time! 

The gigantic bowl of dough is split into two big blobs of dough so you can make 2 Panettone loaves.  I rolled the first into an oval, sprinkled 1/4 of the cherry/apricot/almond mixture on top, and then rolled up the dough starting from the short end.  Then I rolled the dough again into another oval, so all the lovely fruit was mushed into the inside of the dough, and spread another 1/4 of the fruit/nut mixture on top.  Again, I rolled it up from the shorter side, and sort of formed it into a ball to be placed in a Panettone wrapper.  Panettone wrappers are sort of hard to come by, but I happened to find them at Sur la Table for $1 each!  Yahoo!  I have some doubts that these were exactly the right size, but they didn't have any other size.  I just have doubts because as you can see from the photo on the very top, my Panettone burst out of the top and spilled a bit over the sides.  Maybe a bigger wrapper would not have allowed this to happen. 

The rolling, fruit spreading process was repeated for the second blob of dough, and then both dough balls were set out to rise (again) for another 2 hours or until doubled in size.  This was the point where I had some worries about the size of my Panettone wrappers!  The photo above was taking BEFORE the rise.  Once the rise was complete, the dough reached the top of the wrapper.  Yikes!

Before baking, the options are to plop a dab of butter on top of each Panettone or make an almond glaze.  I made the glaze for mine.  The glaze is made of ground almonds, powdered sugar, whole wheat flour, egg whites, olive oil and almond extract.  You are supposed to also put some crystal sugar on top but I missed that step!  Oops!  The golden crust on the top of these Panettone is actually the almond glaze.  And the dribbles you can see down the sides of the wrappers is from where the glaze spread out and over the sides.  Luckily, I anticipated this happening and set the Panettones on top of a parchment covered baking sheet in the oven so my oven would not be a sticky mess!

Since I had never had Panettone before, I wasn't actually sure how to serve it.  I finally decided to cut it like a cake and served it in tall wedges.  I now know that it is supposed to be served in tall slices, so my wedges were much more than a serving was supposed to be.  Oh well!  It was yummy!  Sort of like a happy wedding between a sweet bread and cake.  It was very moist and flavorful.  Italians probably serve it with some sort of sparkling wine, but since I am pregnant and not regularly indulging on those types of beverages (boo!) I had mine with hot tea.  I think it would also be good in the morning, toasted and lightly buttered, with some hot tea or coffee. 

I am thrilled with the results of my Panettone.  I hope the other bakers in the Daring Bakers group had success as well.  I can't wait to see what they have done!

adapted from Marcellina in Cucina
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

first dough
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 TB warm water
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

second dough
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3 TB honey
1 TB vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract (I used almond)
1 teaspoon orange extract (I used almond)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus up to 2/3 cup more for kneading

filling and final dough
1 1/2 cups golden raisins (I used dried cherries)
1/2 cup candied citron (I used dried apricots)
1/2 cup candied orange peel  (I used almonds)
Grated zest of 1 orange (I did not use)
Grated zest of 1 lemon (I did not use)
2-3 TB unbleached all-purpose flour

Mix the yeast and water in a small bowl and allow to stand for about 10 minutes until creamy.  Mix in the flour and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to double in size for 20-30 minutes.

First dough
In a mixer bowl, mix the water and yeast and allow to stand for about 10 minutes until creamy.  Using the paddle attachment, mix in the sponge, eggs, flour and sugar.  Add in the butter and mix for 3 minutes until the dough is smooth and even.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to double in size, about 1-1 1/4 hours.

Second dough
Mix in the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, honey, vanilla, extracts and salt with the paddle attachment.  Add the butter and mix until smooth.  Add the flour in small increments and slowly incorporate.  At this point the dough is very soft, like cookie dough.  Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook and knead on low speed for about 2 minutes.  Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until it sort of holds it's shape.  Do not add in too much flour, but you may need to add as much as 2/3 cup to get the dough to hold it's shape. 

First rise
Lightly oil a large bowl and plop in the dough.  Turn the dough over once so the top has a light coating of oil.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise until it has tripled in size.  You can do this by:
  •  let the dough rise in a warm spot for 2-4 hours
  • find a cool spot (64F-68F) and allow to rise overnight
  • rise for 2 hours in a warm spot and then place in the refrigerator overnight
Filling and final rise
Soak the raisins/assorted dried fruit in water 30 minutes before the end of the first rise.  Drain and pat dry with paper towels.  Divide the dough in half - you are making 2 Panettone.  Combine all filling ingredients and mix well.  Roll one portion of the dough into an oval shape and sprinkle 1/4 of the filling over the dough.  Roll the dough up into a log.  Press the dough out again into an oval and sprinkle another 1/4 of the filling over the dough.  Roll into a long shape again.  Shape into a ball and place into a Panettone paper.  Repeat with the second portion of dough.  Cut an X in the top of each Panettone and allow to double in size for about 2 hours.  This could take closer to 4 hours if the dough rose in the refrigerator overnight and did not get to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 400F and place oven rack towards the lower 1/3 of the oven.  You may:  carefully re-trace the X you cut on to the top of the Panettone and place a blob of butter on top OR top with almond glaze (recipe follows).  Place Panettone in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350F and bake for another 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 325 and bake for another 30 minutes, until the tops are brown and a skewer inserted into the middle of the Panettone comes out clean.  This took much longer than 30 minutes for my Panettone.  It was more like 45 minutes before my skewer came out clean. 

Lie your Panettone on their side cushioned with rolled up kitchen towels.  Turn gently as they cool.  Evidently you can also cool a Panettone by SUSPENDING it.  Yikes.  To do this, insert clean knitting needles into the bottom of the Panettone in an X shape.  Flip the Panettone over and support the knitting needles on the edges of a large saucepan.  I must admit that as a knitter, this method intrigued me... what a fun way to use knitting needles... but I did not use this method.

Almond Glaze
1 cup blanched almonds
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 TB whole wheat flour
3 large egg whites
3 TB good quality extra virgin olive oil
few drops almond extract, to taste
Pearl sugar, flaked almonds, or course crystal sugar to decorate

During final rise, prepare almond glaze.  Process almonds, sugar and flour in food processor until nuts are finely chopped and well blended.  Mix in the egg whites, oil and extract.  Process to combine.  It is meant to be thick and glue-like.  When Panettone are well risen, carefully spread half of the mixture over the top of each.  Don't worry about spreading it to the edges, as the glaze will melt and spread.  Bake as per the recipe above. 
Printable Recipe

Phew!  As I said, it is a pretty involved recipe.  But wow, is it good!  It was a labor of love!  The dough is really soft and puffy, and the fruit combination I created was delicious.  You could really choose any combination of things here - adding in maybe some white or dark chocolate, different kinds of nuts, candied fruit, whatever you like!    I am so excited to have made a Panettone.  I will definitely have to do another, using the candied orange peel and original ingredients the next time.  And maybe I'll try buying one at an Italian bakery (if I can find one) so I can see what they are "supposed" to taste like. 

Happy baking!


  1. Awesome job! Your panettone look fantastic, I love how tall they got! The fillings you chose sound delicious, too!

  2. Great job!
    I come from a very non-Italian family, so I didn't know about Panettone until much later in life - but it is such a lovely bread and I am jealous of people who grew up with it. Your filling choices sound great!

    1. Thank you! I can't believe I waited this long to try panettone for myself! What was I waiting for??

  3. Yum! Your panettone looks delicious! Nice step by step photos too. Better too tall than barely rising like mine did. Delicious nonetheless!

  4. Mmm, I could definitely go for a wedge of your panettone with my morning tea :) Great job!

    1. If you were nearby, you'd be welcome to come over for some!!

  5. Your panettone looks great! Love that you added almonds to the filling - nuts is a great idea, I wish I'd thought of that!

    1. Thanks! I liked the added crunch they provided! Give it a try next time!

  6. I'm so jealous that your panettone rose so high! But not jealous about a hot and humid holiday season. ;) Great choice of fillings!

    1. No, there is nothing to be jealous about with this weather. Glad it helped with my panettone but I'd trade it for WINTER any day!

  7. Your panettone is fantastic! I love the rise you were able to achieve! The texture inside is perfection - you nailed it! Thank you for accepting the challenge!

  8. The filling sounds so delicious! Great job on the challenge!

  9. Fantastic - cherries, apricots and almonds are a delicious sounding filling - mmmm!

    1. It turned out pretty tasty, I must admit! Thank you!


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