Panettone, the tall cake-like bread filled with raisins and candied orange and lemon peel, is not only Italy’s favorite Christmas dessert, it comes with a history as colorful as a fairy-tale.
A ritual surrounds this traditional bread: each family member takes a taste from each of the first three slices to ensure luck in the future.
SERVINGS Makes 1 large panettone or 6 small panettone loaves.
- 1 cup raisins (dark, golden or a combination)
- 1 cup mixed peel or other chopped dried fruit such as apricots, figs or cranberries
- 1/2 cup brandy
- 1 cup milk, room temperature
- 1 envelope (2 1/2 tsp/7grams) active dry yeast
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz/113g) butter, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 to 4 cups flour
- 2 tbsp. (1/4 stick/2 oz/28g) unsalted butter, melted
- Combine dried fruit and brandy.
- Cover and let fruit soak at least 8 hours or overnight.
- In a medium bowl, stir together milk and yeast until yeast starts to dissolve.
- Stir in the 3/4 cup flour until a sticky batter forms.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double in size, about 1 hour.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugar.
- Beat in eggs one by one, then beat in vanilla and salt. Beat for 5 minutes.
- Add yeast mixture and 1 cup flour and beat until a smooth mixture forms.
- Attach a dough hook to your mixer and begin beating in 2 1/2 cups remaining flour. If you don’t have a dough hook, mix in flour with your hands.
- Knead dough for 10 minutes. Add soaked fruit and continue to knead for another 3 minutes.
- Dough should be soft and slightly sticky.
- Shape the dough into a ball and place in a well buttered large bowl.
- Turn dough over so surface of dough is lightly greased.
- Cover with a clean tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until dough is doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
- Punch down dough and shape into a ball. Place in a well greased panettone pan or a deep 8, 9 or 10-inch round baking pan (I use a souffle dish).
- To make smaller loaves, divide dough into 6 portions and place in smaller souffle or cake pans.
- Brush with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Bake at 375 degrees F (190 C) for 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. For small loaves, bake 25 to 30 minutes.
- Brush with remaining melted butter and let cool 20 minutes before removing to cooling rack.