This panettone recipe isn’t traditional, but it’s a great project for when you want to try your hand at doing an easier version of this wonderful Italian bread at home!
The first time I ever had panettone, I was in my early teens. Back then I didn’t know I was going to develop such a huge interest in baking or cooking down the road, so I didn’t pay too much attention to the details of the bread, or even the brand. (I have a feeling it was Balocco though.) Yet I now cannot deny it made a mark on my subconscious; so much so that I still remember who gifted the panettone to us. And I still fondly remember feeling the familiar spark that always comes with learning what something is for the first time ever.
I’m trying to think of another bread that has a similar shape and crumb as a panettone and my limited knowledge has me coming up short. What I do know is that a good panettone is fluffy but not overly soft; filling without being dense. It also has this unique scent that wafts out when you slice into the bread– kind of like a mix of fermented dough and orange and fruit. I remember during the first time I had panettone, I thought it was one of the best things I have ever smelled in my life.
Without really understanding what was going on, I think that was the first time I ever TRULY appreciated how fascinating yeast breads can be. Now that I think about the memory with the benefit of hindsight, I suppose you could say it was a foreshadowing of my eventual love for bread-making.
I feel like this is one of the most ambitious bread recipes I’ve tried to date. (It was going to happen sooner or later!) Though this recipe has been modified for home-baking already, I was still expecting it to be difficult and tricky. But while it did take a long time to get the bread in the oven, it wasn’t as hard as I was expecting it to be. And that’s coming from someone who is a self-taught bread-baker. If you’re up for a little holiday project and you like bread, well, you’ve come to the right place!
I had hoped to get this post out before Christmas but sadly I could not finish the video in time. (I also made the conscious choice to take a break. I was exhausted!) Luckily, this lovely Italian sweet bread is traditionally served during Christmas AND New Year, so there’s still time to try your hand at making panettone at home in time for the new year. I honestly feel that you will love having this for your breakfast on the first day of 2022!
Although I imagine some Italians are kind of sick to death of this Christmas bread of theirs, as far as I know, panettone isn’t hugely popular for Christmas gifting here in the Philippines. It doesn’t stop me from hoping someone would gift us one every time Christmas comes around though lol. I am aware that certain specialty stores stock up on panettone for the holiday season, but I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that even S&R and Landers have panettone on their shelves this year. (Is this a sign of their growing popularity?)
And since nobody gifted us with panettone, apart from trying out a panettone recipe for myself, I actually ordered some from S&R. For research purposes, you know?
I wish S&R or Landers had Balocco so I could once and for all try to figure out if that was the panettone I first tried tried so many years back. What I managed to get was the sampler set of Saronno mini-panettone. They are pretty good, especially the chocolate one! Just sweet, with a nice flavorful crumb. The texture of the Saronno panettone is a little firmer than what this recipe produces, but it’s still magically fluffy. I enjoyed it a lot!
Anyway, I don’t really know why I’m so fascinated by panettone. You can sense my enthusiasm by how much I’m babbling right? I have tried making an informal and muffin-sized version of panettone before, but this is the first time I tried making a recipe with a starter and overnight proofing. It’s quite an experience! Again, I feel the need to clarify that the recipe I tried is not the traditional one, but in choosing the recipe I was going to make, I did my due diligence.
As always, I compared a few popular ones online, and in the end picked a well-regarded recipe that would also be feasible for my skill level and for home-baking. I have seen what it takes to make authentic Italian panettone on YouTube and it’s clearly not something that’s easy to undertake at home. All things considered, I’m honestly very happy with how this turned out. For such a big bread (see that glass for scale?!), we finished it within a week. That’s something!
I think if you like bread-making and have some time on your hands over the holidays, this is a really great project. There’s nothing like the satisfaction of getting to taste something you’ve “labored” over and feeling that spark of joy because it tastes great and is just an overall success. With this particular recipe, you get a truly beautiful fluffy bread speckled with lots of rum-infused dried fruit and candied orange peel inside. Let me show you what my own panettone-making experience was like!
Panettone- Day One
I’ve been thinking about making panettone for a couple of years now, but in the previous years the timing was just off for me. That’s the hard part about working on Saturdays– you don’t have two-day weekends to undertake lengthy recipes such as this. Actually, “lengthy” isn’t the right word to describe this panettone recipe. It makes it sound as if you’ll be actively working on it for a very long period, when in fact the active time is pretty minimal. I had a more exhausting time trying my hand at puff pastry, let me tell you.
The recipe I have chosen to try is from Simply Recipes. For me, this panettone recipe is not difficult. While it does require two days to accomplish, a lot of the time is spent just letting the dough rise in the fridge. However, you will need some equipment to make your life easier– in particular, a stand mixer with a paddle attachment AND a dough hook.
To start the recipe, we’re making a starter. The recipe has you mix together 1 cup flour and 1 tablespoon instant yeast with 2/3 cup water in the bowl of the stand mixer. It’s supposed to come out looking like thick batter, but mine was extremely thick and dough-like rather than batter-like, so I decided to add a touch more water until it looked right. I left the starter to rise for 45 minutes, trying to calm my nerves and telling myself it will work out. Thankfully, the sponge did double in size.
Once the sponge rises, it’s time to attach the bowl to the mixer. At this point, the mixer will do the rest of the work for you. Because the mixture will start out very liquid and the dough hook will not be able to mix it, the paddle attachment goes first. Beat together the starter, the eggs, vanilla, and sugar, plus the citrus zest. I decided to use the zest of 1 orange and the zest of 1 lemon in my dough because I wanted it to smell extra amazing, but the original recipe uses only the zest of 1 orange.
The flour gets added in gradually until a very soft dough is more or less formed. This is the time we switch to the dough hook. The dough will be super sticky and super soft, but allow the machine to knead the dough for about 8 minutes until it transforms to something smooth-looking and elastic. When we say elastic, the dough should not break easily when tugged.
Now the butter goes in, gradually as well, just so we make sure everything is well-incorporated. This dough is very rich because it has 5 eggs and 12 Tablespoons of butter in it. (That’s why it’s delicious lol.) Once all the butter is in, knead the dough an additional 3 minutes until it becomes almost silky. It will be very shiny.
This dough is very sticky naturally, but it should somewhat pull away from the sides of the bowl and be manageable. If you feel that it’s too sticky, you can add up to 4 extra Tablespoons of flour, but that’s it. Resist the urge to add more flour or the panettone will come out dense.
With greased hands, it’s time to transfer the soft dough into a clean, lightly greased large bowl. Try to shape the dough into a round with your hands, lightly greasing the surface all around, then cover with plastic wrap, placing it directly on the surface of the dough. I used a bowl with a lid and initially skipped the plastic wrap, thinking I would just grease the lid and cover it up, but I still ended up using plastic wrap because the dough kept popping the lid off as it rose.
Let the dough rest in the fridge for at least 8 hours, up to 2 days. I actually left it for 2 days in the fridge. This long fermentation is what will help this super soft dough become more manageable and easier to coax. Slow fermentation also helps the panettone develop better texture and more depth in flavor. Just like with brioche, if you’ve ever made that. It’s even richer than this is.
So now that the dough is in the fridge, it’s time to prepare the add-in’s. Traditionally, panettone has mostly raisins and candied orange peel in them and no rum. This recipe has you soaking the dried fruit in rum and water to great effect. As for the ratio of the dried fruits, I feel like you don’t need to follow a fixed formula. Just use mixed dried fruits of your choosing that totals to at least 1 cup and at most 1-1/2 cups.
I actually did not follow the original recipe when it asked for golden and dark raisins because I didn’t have golden raisins. I used apricots along with sultanas and candied orange peel instead. I think dried cherries would be wonderful in here.
You just want to stir the dried fruits with some rum and water, then let them soak overnight. I used a Tupperware with a lid and left them to soak for 2 days as well actually, shaking the dried fruits every once in a while to make sure everything is touched by the rum. Speaking of rum, I used a combination of dark rum and spiced rum. Don’t worry, if you dislike rum, the flavor is not going to be too strong once the dried fruits are incorporated into the panettone.
Before wrapping up my Day One in the kitchen, I decided to prepare the components of the drink I wanted to pair my panettone with. Since it’s a cold brew drink, I prepared the coffee to give it time to brew in the fridge overnight. Then I also made the Orange Spice Syrup that I will be using to flavor the drink. It’s really a simple concoction of orange peel and spices.
Just a note on the spices though: Since the syrup has cloves in it, it might not be something that people who dislike chai enjoy. (My mom was not a fan lol.) You can take out the cloves altogether if you want, or you can add the minimal amount of cloves. Maybe a pinch? I feel that it adds character to the drink so to be honest I recommend keeping it in, but I also understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
You don’t really have to make this drink if you don’t feel like it. I’m just really big on pairings these days. Actually, I picked this drink because I had a feeling that it would complement the panettone. Just like the bread, this drink has the essence of orange in it. At the same time, I felt that the spices in the syrup will make the drink stand out on its own. (Spoiler alert: I WAS RIGHT.)
Panettone- Day Two
Since most of the work has been done on the first day, we’re mostly just going to shape the bread on the second. Don’t forget to drain the dried fruits before anything else. Take out the dough from the fridge and liberally flour your work surface, and then your hands and the top of the dough. It will be pretty sticky without the flour! I usually use oil to prevent dough from sticking on the surface so I don’t need to add extra flour, but oil won’t work here. It has to be flour!
To shape the panettone, we start by rolling the dough out onto a flat rectangle that is approximately 12- by 15-inches. It’s okay if it’s not an exact measurement. Scatter the drained fruit and the almonds (if using) evenly over the top. Use the rolling pin again to forcefully roll the fruit into the dough, embedding them in as mush as possible.
Fold the short sides of the fruit-covered dough toward the center into thirds, like a letter. Now you will end up with a rectangle where a shorter side is facing you. Fold the bottom half of the rectangle to meet the top, forming a square. Pat the square of dough to a thickness of about 1-1/2 inches.
Now form the dough into a circle. What I like to do is lift the corners of the dough square up toward the center (you can also push the corners down and tuck them under), then pinch the loose ends together to seal. Then cupping both hands around the dough, turn the dough little by little to even the shape out into a round.
Transfer the round dough to your mold. A panettone paper mold is the traditional choice and will make the bread much prettier for gifting, but as you can see, I used a 9-inch springform pan and it worked out quite nicely.
Because this dough is still mostly cold, it will take at least 1.5 hours in a warm environment for it to sufficiently triple in size. (Make sure to loosely cover the top with clingwrap!) If you’re using a panettone mold, if it rises just beyond the top edge of the mold then it’s probably ready.
I have to tell you, I thought the springform pan was really big and that the dough will probably barely just clear the top edge because it will expand mostly horizontally instead of vertically. Imagine my surprise when I saw how high it managed to still grow despite being in a wider pan! I was delighted like a little kid!
By the way, make sure to preheat your oven 30 minutes before the end of this second rise! Also make sure to set your oven rack to the lower third portion of your oven. Despite how high it already is, it will still grow as it bakes. It’s a literal giant bread.
There is one last step we need to do before we pop the bread into the oven, and that is scoring the tops of the bread. Cut a slit from edge to edge to create an X on top of the bread. This will allow the bread to open up outward as well as upward as it bakes, creating that lovely rounded top. A pat of batter goes to the center of the X.
Depending on what vessel you use, you may need to adjust your baking time. Compared to a panettone mold that’s usually 7 inches wide but 4-inches high, the springform pan is 9-inches wide and less than 3-inches high. That means a panettone baked in a proper paper mold rises up higher and takes longer to bake; whereas panettone baked in a springform pan bakes faster since it spreads out wider, but does not rise up as high.
It will take less time to bake something that’s spread out on a bigger surface area than something that’s high and thick, so lessening the baking time by 5 minutes will probably be for the best if using a springform pan. I actually forgot this little tidbit so I feel that I over-baked my panettone just a smidge. Over-baking will cause it to dry out a little, but the good news is it will still taste pretty amazing.
Taking it out of the oven, it struck me just how ginormous this bread actually is. It looks like a giant mushroom from Super Mario lol. I have never ever made a bread this big before! The good news is, this particular panettone recipe does not require that you hang the bread upside down to maintain its high dome. You can just place the bread right side up on a cooling rack and leave it there, and it maintains its lovely shape just fine. Waiting for it to cool down was torture, but I forced myself to do it because I knew that if I sliced into this while it was freshly out of the oven, it will be too soft.
The moment you get to slice into it, the aroma of citrus hits you and makes your mouth water! Then you take that first bite and you won’t be able to help but smile and think: I made this, and it’s glorious! It was an ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED moment for me. And by the way, this bread tastes even better on Day 2 and beyond! (It didn’t last a week in our house.)
As I projected, the panettone paired perfectly with the Orange Spice Iced Coffee! The syrup is super pretty, and also pretty strong and obvious in the drink– as it should be! To me, 2 Tablespoons of the syrup is the maximum amount you should use for an 8-ounce glass of coffee so that the spices in the syrup do not overwhelm the sense. Then there will be no doubt every time you take a sip of this Orange Spice Iced Coffee that you’re having something with lots of spices and hints of orange.
For me, this syrup works best with cold brew, since the flavors of cold brew are much stronger and more bitter than normally brewed coffee. I tried it with my normal morning cup of coffee and the flavor of the syrup was a bit too much for the coffee to handle, even with just 1 Tablespoon of syrup added. I haven’t tried with espresso however.
This syrup and drink definitely lived up to my expectations. However, if you happen to dislike chai, which this reminds me quite a bit of, then you probably won’t particularly enjoy this drink. And that’s totally okay!
Ways to enjoy your panettone
- Au naturel, with plain coffee or something like the Spiced Orange Iced Coffee I made
- Au naturel, with a sweet fizzy dessert wine like Moscato
- Toasted, with rich spreadable cheese like mascarpone or cream cheese, plus berries
- Toasted, with some butter and marmalade/jam
- Toasted, with some chocolate spread
- Warmed, then topped with ice cream or gelato
- As a base for french toast or bread pudding
- PANETTONE DOUGH CAN BE MADE UP TO 2 DAYS AHEAD. This dough needs a minimum resting time of 8 hours in the fridge, but the dough can be refrigerated up to 2 days. I have not tried refrigerating for longer. Also, note that because this recipe spans 2 days to complete, you may need to figure out how to tackle it within your schedule before you start.
- YOU CAN USE A SPRINGFORM PAN OR A TUBE PAN IF YOU DON’T HAVE A PANETTONE MOLD. Personally I used a 9-inch springform pan, but I’ve seen people use a bundt pan and a tube pan that can hold an equivalent load as a 9-inch springform pan. Panettone paper molds are not exactly easy to come by at the moment–and those that I’ve seen are expensive!– so if you have other pans you can use then why not just use them?
- ADD THE FLOUR AND THE BUTTER GRADUALLY. Because this recipe uses a lot of flour and a lot of butter, introducing these two ingredients gradually will ensure the dough is not overwhelmed and everything is evenly mixed.
- DO NOT ADD TOO MUCH FLOUR TO THE DOUGH! This dough is naturally sticky and wet. You’re not supposed to add flour into it until it’s no longer sticky. All that additional flour will do is weigh down the bread and turn it dense rather than keep it fluffy. Even though the dough is soft, once it is in the elastic stage (tug at it and it should not break off easily) it should be manageable with floured hands.
- YOU CAN USE ANY COMBINATION OF DRIED FRUITS YOU WANT. It doesn’t need to be strictly raisins and candied citrus peel. If you don’t feel compelled to soak the dried fruits in rum, you don’t have to.
- GIVE THE PANETTONE AMPLE TIME TO RISE THE SECOND TIME. Because your dough is cold from the fridge, it will take longer for it to rise. This is normal so be patient! It took about 1.5 hours for mine to triple in bulk, even in warm weather, and it might take 2 if the weather is cooler. Give it the time it needs. You will not regret the wait.
- IN CASE THIS SECTION DOES NOT ANSWER QUESTIONS YOU MIGHT HAVE, READ MY DAY-BY-DAY ACCOUNT ABOVE. I want to keep this part short so I’ve only touched on what I think are the really important stuff.
- Stand mixer
- Stand mixer's paddle attachment and dough hook
- Panettone mold OR 9-inch springform pan OR 9-inch tube pan*
For the dough and sponge:
- 5 cups (600 grams) all-purpose flour, mix of bread and all-purpose works too, divided use
- 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
- ⅔ cup water, or a little bit more as needed
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- Zest of 1 to 2 oranges**, finely grated
- ⅓ cup (68 grams) sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
- 12 Tablespoons (170 grams) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature, for making the dough
- 1 Tablespoon (14 grams) cold unsalted butter, for the top of the dough
- Oil, for greasing the bowl
For the fruit and nuts***:
- ¾ cup mixed raisins, dark and golden
- ¼ heaping cup chopped dried apricots
- ½ cup chopped candied orange peel, or other dried fruit of choice
- ¼ cup dark rum, or a combination of spiced and dark rum
- ¼ cup hot water
- ½ cup slivered almonds, optional but good
Day One- Make the starter
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir in 1 cup flour and 1 tablespoon instant yeast together until blended. Add the water and mix with a spoon. It should be the consistency of very thick batter. If it seems a bit too dry, add more water a little at a time.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes. The sponge should double in size.
Day One- Make the dough
- In a bowl, whisk the remaining flour and salt together until blended.
- Once the sponge has risen, attach the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the speed onto medium, then add the eggs one at a time, waiting for each to incorporate before adding the next.
- Stop mixer for a moment and add the orange zest, sugar, and vanilla. Mix at medium speed until incorporated.
- Turn down mixer speed to low. Gradually add about 2-1/2 cups of the flour mixture and mix for about 2 minutes, or until blended. If necessary, stop the mixer and use a spatula to scrape down the dough stuck to the sides of the bowl as it mixes. The dough will become very soft and stretchy.
- Still on low speed, gradually add the remaining 1-1/2 cups of flour mixture just until it is incorporated.
- Stop the mixer and switch to the dough hook. Knead on low speed for 8 minutes, or until the dough is very smooth and elastic. Stop the mixer 2 to 3 times and use the same spatula to push down any dough that creeps up on the dough hook.
- Maintaining low speed, add butter a few tablespoons at a time. Allow butter to incorporate somewhat before adding more in. Once all the butter has been incorporated to the dough, continue to mix with the dough hook for about 3 minutes more, until the dough is silky and shiny.
- Aim for a dough that is very soft but still sticky enough that it will just barely pull away from the sides of the bowl, but will still stick to the bottom. If the dough still seems extremely sticky, gradually add 1 to 4 Tablespoons additional flour, a tablespoon at a time.
- With greased hands, transfer the dough to a large greased bowl. Pat into a ball and grease the top lightly with a bit of oil. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the dough. (I used a bowl with a lid and greased the lid before covering, but I ended up using plastic wrap instead because the dough kept popping the lid off as it rose.)
- Place the dough in the fridge and leave to proof at least 8 hours, up to 2 days.
Day One- Soak the fruit
- In a container with a lid, stir together the dried fruit, candied peel, rum, and water. Cover and soak at least overnight. (I like to give it a shake after covering, just to make sure everything is coated in liquid.)
Day Two- Finish the panettone
- Place panettone mold or pan of choice on a baking sheet. If using a springform pan, light grease the sides and bottom of the bottom just to make sure it doesn't stick. (You may also like with parchment, but I didn't.) Drain the dried fruit mixture.
- Take the panettone dough out of the fridge and turn out onto a floured workspace. Flour your rolling pin as well and roll dough into a flat rectangle that is approximately 12- by 15-inches. It's okay if it's not an exact measurement.
- Spread the drained fruit and the almonds (if using) evenly over the top. Use the rolling pin to forcefully roll the fruit into the dough, embedding them in as mush as possible.
- Fold the short sides of the fruit-covered dough toward the center into thirds, like a letter. You will end up with a rectangle of dough with a shorter side facing you. Fold the bottom half of the rectangle to meet the top, forming a square. Pat the square of dough to a thickness of about 1-1/2 inches.
- Now form the dough into a circle. You can either lift the corners in toward the center, or push the corners down and tuck them under. Pinch the loose ends together to seal on top. Cup both hands on either side of the dough and rotate the dough little by little to shape into a round.
- Place the dough seam side down inside the panettone mold or springform pan. (If using a tube pan, shape the dough into a thick snake.) Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough reaches the top edge of the mold or has tripled in size.
- About 30 minutes before the panettone is ready to be baked, set the oven rack to the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Once the dough has risen, use a sharp knife (or a stainless razor blade) to score a shallow cross on the top surface of the dough from edge to edge. Do not slice deeply into the dough, simply score it. Place the cold Tablespoon of butter in the center of the cross.
- Turn the oven down to 325°F (160°C). Bake the panettone for an initial 30 minutes. Place a piece of foil loosely over the top to keep it from browning too much, then continue to bake for 35 to 45 minutes****, or until golden brown. An instant read thermometer will help to identify if the panettone is cooked through. Inserted into the center of the dough, it should register 195°F (90°C).
- Remove panettone from the oven right away and transfer to cooling rack. Let cool completely in the paper mold before serving. (If using a springform pan, unmold once cool.)
- Slice the bread and serve as is, or toasted, with some cheese, or butter and jam. Since this is a dessert bread, it pairs well with wine, but it also pairs well with coffee as a sweet breakfast bread. Try it with Spiced Orange Iced Coffee (recipe below)!
Watch how it's made
- TAKE IT EASY ON THE CLOVES IF YOU’RE NOT A FAN OF THE SPICE. I realize not all are fans of cloves because it can be very dominant, but rather than completely removing it from the equation, add a pinch or two of ground cloves instead to the syrup. (How do you know if you’re not a fan of cloves? You probably don’t like chai.)
- YOU CAN START WITH 1 TABLESPOON SYRUP IF YOU’RE NOT CERTAIN HOW MUCH YOU’LL LIKE IT. Tasting the syrup on its own is not really a good way to measure how much you’ll end up liking the finished drink. What I would suggest instead is starting with 1 Tablespoon then building up. The syrup packs a punch so 1 Tablespoon in your cold brew will still give you a nice hint, but I really prefer the 2 Tablespoon hit of flavor in my drink. I prefer fully there to barely there.
- SYRUP PAIRS BEST WITH COLD BREW. I haven’t tried with espresso but I did not like it with regular brewed coffee.
Orange Spice Iced Coffee
For the orange spice syrup:
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup water
- 1 large strip fresh orange peel, pith avoided as much as possible
- 1 2-inch cinnamon stick, or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon ground cloves, depending on how strong you like it
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
To assemble the coffee:
- 1 to 2 Tablespoons orange spice syrup, from above
- 3/4 to 1 cup cold brew concentrate
- 1/2 cup milk or half-and-half, or more to taste
Make the orange spice syrup:
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the sugar and water. Add in the orange peel, cinnamon stick, ground cloves, and ground nutmeg. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. It will start to thicken at this point but will continue to thicken as it cools. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
- Pour syrup over a strainer into a small jar with a lid. Discard solids. Syrup will keep in an airtight container in the fridge up to 4 weeks, though it's best used within 2 weeks.
Make the coffee:
- Add ice to a serving glass, then add in the syrup. (If you're unsure if you'll like it, start with 1 Tablespoon syrup then build up.) Pour in the cold brew concentrate, followed by the milk. Stir to combine and enjoy! Adjust syrup as needed.
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