Saturday, December 18, 2010


Panettone is a rich, buttery and eggy bread (like brioche or challah) with raisins, vanilla, and citrus. Sometimes it has other fruits or chestnuts. It's moist, flavorful, and has a somewhat feathery crumb that reminds me of cotton candy when I pull pieces off a slice.
It's very "Christmas" to me.

It's special, and made more so since you can normally only find it this time of year.
I suppose you can find it year-round... but it probably wouldn't be "great" panettone.

If you find a really good one, imported from exotic Italy in a nice red tin, it's usually fairly expensive. Part of the expense is undoubtedly the packaging and importation, but it also takes quite a bit of time to make it! I started the process one morning and baked it late the next morning.

I found a recipe a few years ago, and I re-discovered it a couple months ago. I've kept my eye on the wayward recipe (losing it a few times, of course), and just made it the other day as a trial run for Christmas.

If you want to make it, you're going to need two days for the project. Not that it requires attention the whole time, but it does require some semblance of attention.

Another thing I have to say is that I'm not a fan of candied citron (but I won't refuse to eat something with citron). I don't quite know why people put it in "holiday" baked goods such as fruitcake. Do people really love this stuff, or do they do it because it's "tradition" or because it's just the way things are? Can we have a good reason? I mean, I like citrus flavors, and sometimes I do like candied orange peel, but this is bitter!

Occasionally, I get excited and I seem to lack (or be completely devoid of) planning skills which suddenly leaves me scrambling to try to figure something out.

Long story short, when the bread comes out of the oven it needs to cool while hanging suspended upside-down (in a large pot, between two chairs) so that it doesn't deflate. Long metal skewers would be ideal, however if you unable to find yours it seems acceptable to double up on long wooden ones so they're strong enough to hold the bread without breaking.

Paper molds can be bought for baking the bread, and are ideal if you plan on giving the bread as gifts. The original recipe calls for a 6 by 4 1/2 inch panettone mold which caused the bread to mushroom out over the top of the mold when baked. I was able to find 7 inch paper molds at Sur La Table, which turned out to be just fine... it just happened to contain the bread a bit better.

Panettone is very nice warmed or toasted, served with coffee, tea, wine, hot chocolate, cider... and it makes excellent french toast if lasts long enough to get a little stale.

The original recipe was found in a December, 2008 issue of Gourmet and came from Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York. My adaptation loses the candied citron, increases the amount of lemon zest and adds orange zest.

makes 1 large loaf
active time: about 20 minutes, start to finish: 2 days

1 c raisins
2 T light rum
2 T hot water
2/3 c tepid water
3 3/4 c flour
2/3 c sugar
1/2 t salt
1/2 t active dry yeast
zests of 2 lemons
zests of 2 oranges
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 T mild honey
12 1/2 T unsalted butter (10 1/2 T cut into tablespoons and softened; 1 T melted butter; 1 T chilled)

Soak the raisins in rum and 2 T hot water at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until the raisins are plump and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 8 hours or overnight.
Mix the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, zests, and vanilla bean in a mixer on low speed until combined. Whisk together the eggs, tepid water, and honey in a bowl. With the mixer on low speed, pour the egg mixture slowly into the flour mixture. Increase the speed to medium-low and mix to combine. Add 10 1/2 T of softened butter, 1 T at a time, mixing until incorporated before adding more. Increase the speed to medium-high and mix the dough until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
Drain the raisins, discarding the remaining liquid, and mix with 1 T melted butter. By hand, stir the raisins into the dough. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a cold oven with the door closed. Let the dough rise 12-15 hours, or until nearly tripled in volume.
Discard the vanilla bean, then sprinkle the dough lightly with flour. Scrape dough out onto a lightly floured surface and sprinkle a bit more flour onto the dough. Fold edges of the dough into the center, and place the dough, seam side down, into a 6-7 inch paper panettone mold (being careful not to tear the paper). Place on a sheet pan and cover with a damp kitchen towel (not terrycloth) and place in a draft- free, warm room temperature location until the dough is risen (it should rise above the top edge in a smaller mold), 3-5 hours.
Preheat the oven to 370 degrees F with a rack set in the lower 1/3 of the oven.
Use a sharp knife to score an "X" across the entire surface of the risen dough, about 1/2 inch deep. Place 1 T chilled butter in the center of the "X", and bake until a wooden skewer inserted near the center comes out slightly moist, but not wet, 1-1 1/4 hours (the top of the bread will be very dark).
Pierce skewers all the way through the panettone, including the paper) about 4 inches apart and 1 inch from the bottom so that skewers are parallel. Hang the panettone upside-down in a large stockpot or between two objects of equal height. Cool completely before cutting.
Panettone will keep wrapped tightly in foil and sealed in a plastic bag at room temperature for about a week.


  1. This was *so* good! I wasn't expecting it to be much better than a store bought panetone. I was so surprised! It was DELICIOUS!

  2. Genius! Happy Birthday to you!

  3. Dear Natalie,
    I always thought that those $40.00 panettones in the darling red cans must be something to throw your money away on.
    Couldn't imagine how bread with a few green
    fruits and raisins could be worth the price.

    I was so happy to try yours ---now I am SOLD--
    this stuff is what family traditions are made of.
    AND>>>>it was even SO much better than the red canned stuff from Italy. Thanks for trying to master this recipe at MY house!


  4. Hey - that's my Italy your talkin 'bout - red canned stuff or not.
    We gave Columbus to the world. So what if we cheapen a few Christmas cakes?