Panettone: A Traditional Sweet Bread is a Symbol of Christmas Greetings
A traditional sweet bread made at Christmas time, panettone was created in the Lombardy region of Italy and is the undisputable holiday favorite. Scholars have traced panettone back to the middle ages. The dome shaped sweet bread is traditionally made with candied fruits, zest and flavored with liquors. Today you can find it with chocolate chips and other ingredients. It is less like a cake then light fluffy sweet bread. The use of natural yeast results in a dough that rises slowly. The rising time can be as long as 48 hours. The long leavening contributes to the long shelf life, which can be as long as 6 months. Italian bakers take pride in the age of their leavening and some are maintained over many years.
It is eaten in Italy with a glass of white wine and in earlier time generally served as a dessert. Panettone is recognized in Italy as a very special greeting gesture of the Christmas season. Restaurants and shops offer panettone to their customers as a Christmas greeting and they can be found in all bakeries and markets in all sizes. At Christmas time you can be overwhelmed with gifts of panettone and I often use them to make panettone bread pudding or French toast for my overnight guests and I also freeze it. Panettone has become so popular that you can find it year round not just in Italy but all over the world.
They are baked in greased paper molds, which is removed like a cupcake. The greased paper molds help to maintain their freshness. The molds are available on Internet sites as well as metal panettone pans. The disposable molds are traditional and I prefer them to the pans. Usually packaged in brightly decorated boxes or colored decorated foils in blue and red – they are stacked high in markets.
We make panettone in smaller paper molds similar to cupcake cups but larger, and individually wrap them in cello wrap. We sell them as wedding favors, for parties and business conference breaks. Make them yourself and give them as Christmas gifts to special friends and family.
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: Yield: 375ºF for 35-45 minutes
Yield: 12 Panettone cups
2 1/4 teaspoons. active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 pinch of sugar
4 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 cups raisins, soaked in dry Marsala, rum or brandy for 30 minutes
3/4 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
6 oz. unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup candied fruit, mix with a tablespoon of flour
1 orange zest
1 lemon zest
1 teaspoon flour, to mix with the zest
1 egg yolk, beaten
2 tablespoons water
Combine the yeast, pinch of sugar and water and mix well to dissolve the yeast. Let it stand for about 10 minutes in a warm place such as the oven to activate. When foam appears on the top of the water, the yeast has been activated.
Put the flour, sugar, salt, butter and eggs in the large bowl of an electric mixer or food processor. Mix the dough with the dough hook at low speed. Add the yeast mixture slowly. When all the ingredients are incorporated, increase to medium speed or until the dough forms a ball.
Spread a little flour in a large bowl and place the dough in it. Cover it with plastic wrap and place in a draft-free place to rise for 4 hours. It should double in volume. Remove the dough and knead it for 5 minutes and return it to the bowl. Cover and let it rise again until it has doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
Strain the raisins and press down on them to remove the liquid. Lightly flour the work surface. Punch down the dough and make a large circle with your hands. Sprinkle the raisins, candied fruit, orange peel and lemon peel over the dough. Fold the dough over the mixture and knead it lightly until all of the ingredients have been incorporated. If you are adding the citron and/or zest, mix with the flour and add it to the dough.
Divide the dough into 12 round equally sized balls, approximately 4 1/2 ounces each. Butter each of the panettone cups lightly and place a ball in each cup. Cut a cross into the top with a knife. If using scissors make a small cut in both directions on the top or each ball of dough. Brush the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle some almond slices over the top. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for another 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until it has doubled in volume again.
Preheat the oven to 375º F. Bake the panettoni for 30 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Allow them to cool on a wire rack. In this case we don’t have cups and we are cooking several cups.
Note: The Panettone can be made in one or two molds to make a larger cake. They are wonderful gifts as they have a long life and can be beautifully packaged.