Christmas is around the corner and I couldn’t avoid to get carried away with a Christmassy baking challenge: this year it’s traditional Italian Panettone. The original recipe for this sweet bread is usually made with sourdough starter or beer yeast and usually has long proving times. Keeping the ingredients as per the original recipe, I decided to use a slightly easier method that only requires dried yeast and overnight chilling so that the proving time is reduced to once only for three hours. The ingredient amounts would have required an 18cm panettone tin, but mine were 15.5cm, so I made two – perfect for a last minute Christmas present!
Fun fact – Italians would rarely bake panettone at home, with a huge variety of this sweet bread sold industrially, as well as by all bakers in any given Italian town or city. A bit like pizza, we know that it will be just perfect if made by our favourite baker, and we rarely take the risk to have lesser result!
140ml warm milk
14g fast-action dried yeast
100g caster sugar
250g butter, softened
5 medium eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 lemon
grated zest of 1 orange
500g strong white bread flour
3 tbsp dark rum
100g good-quality candied lemon and orange peel, finely chopped
Step 1 – Place the flour, salt, sugar, yeast, lemon and orange zest, milk and the eggs into a bowl and start working them together with a mixer fitted with dough hooks. Start at a slow speed for the first two minutes, then increase the speed and keep mixing for 6-8 minutes until you reach a smooth texture.
Step 2 – Add the soft butter and keep mixing for 5 minutes. Then add the rum and mix again for another 2-3 minutes until you have a soft dough.
Step 3 – Add the sultana and the candied fruit and keep working with the mixer to incorporate them thoroughly.
Step 4 – Place the dough into a bowl and cover with cling film. Then place it in the fridge overnight. Bear in mind that the dough will grow, so try to use a bowl that will let it at least double in size. I had to change the bowl after a few hours I noticed the dough was growing!
Step 5 – The next morning, take your dough out of the fridge and punch it gently with your hand in order to get rid of the air that has allowed it to rise during chilling time.
Step 6 – Have your panettone stamp or tin ready, grease it accordingly if you are not using paper moulds like I did. Shape your dough into a ball (or two if you are making two panettone) and place the ball into your tin/mould. Now let it prove in a warm room, or inside the oven, with the light on and the temperature off, for three hours: the dough should have risen just to reach the height of the tin/mould.
Step 7 – Make an egg wash and brush it over the top of your risen panettone and place it in a hot oven at 180° for 25 minutes. Then turn the oven temperature down to 150° and bake for another 35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Don’t worry about the dark colour: the butter and the sugar can make it become brown very quickly, but this won’t mean that it’s fully baked yet.
Step 8 – If you are using a tin, remove it immediately from the tin and let it cool. Or, if you are using the paper moulds, let it cool gradually in the oven by opening the oven door.