Panettone

This is my take on the classic panettone: a rich, buttery but oh-so-light sweet bread, adapted from a recipe by Andrea Tortora, using multiple fermentations for THE best flavour.

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Panettone should be very soft and fluffy inside, with a slight chewiness, and packed with flavour. I always think it is like eating sweet clouds!

I love to add Fiori di Sicilia, an intensely citrussy essence that enhances a dough such as this: it is now widely available online. I often add it to mincemeat, fruit cakes and sweet bread doughs. But you can omit it if you prefer.

A spiced almond topping?

Sometimes I just bake the risen dough after I brush it with beaten egg and a sprinkling of pearl sugar, but at other times I like a macaroon-type topping which adds bursts of almond sweetness and a nice crisp, chewiness.

This is made in seconds and just gets dolloped over the risen dough before baking – it then sets as the panettone cooks.

A challenging but achievable bake!

Panettone has a reputation for being tricky, but the use of a food mixer with dough hook and a lot of patience (while the dough, at various stages, proves very slowly) makes this easier. You are barely handling the dough, either, so it is mainly a matter of scooping the dough out of the bowl once mixed, into the tin and then into the oven once it has had its final prove.

A panettone is not quick thing to make: it can be, and there are short-cut versions that taste good, but this requires several fermentations that get worked into the main dough, giving the most remarkable depth of flavour.

Many recipes recommend inverting the just-baked panettone so it does not collapse. You certainly can do this but I have never found the need to.

Slowly does it!

The amount of eggs, sugar and butter used to enrich this dough means it will take longer to prove than a standard yeasted dough, but you don’t want to rush this: the slower you allow the dough to prove, the better the final flavour.

The mixture can be made as two tall 6” panettones, but I like to make one 6″ panettone and about 10 smaller ones in individual panettone cases.

No panettone tin? You can improvise….

You can make this whether or not you have a panettone tin:

  • a deep cake tin work well
  • panettone paper cases (from small to large)
  • cleaned tins from baked beans and the like (but use tins without the rims so you have perfectly vertical sides).
  • mini Victoria sandwich moulds (the ones with vertical sides)

Preparing the tin

Whatever tin you go for, butter it inside and line it with a double-thickness of greaseproof, going a couple of inches above the tin.

This does two things:

(1) It insulates the mixture while it bakes. preventing it from getting too dark or crisp in the oven.

(2) It holds the dough in place as it rises and as it bakes so that you get a nice vertical pannetone. Without this collar, the dough is prone to sagging dejectedly over the edge of the tin!

Recipe: panettone – makes one deep 6” panettone plus 10 smaller ones

Initial pre-ferment:

20g strong white flour
7g sachet instant yeast*
20g water

(1) Mix the ingredients together, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise until very bubbly and well risen: several hours in a warmish room or up to a day if in a cooler room. I sometimes pop it into the fridge overnight.

* it is a lot of yeast for the small amount of flour compared to a more traditional pre-ferment or poolish and the like, but there needs to be for what will be a very enriched dough.

Second pre-ferment:
  • 120g flour
  • 90g water
  • the initial pre-ferment

(2) Add the flour and water to the initial pre-ferment and mix well. Cover and leave overnight at room temperature, covered with clingfilm.
NB: this extra flour will keep the dough well fed so the yeast will be very active. The flavour will also be magnificent and will enhance the main dough.

Main dough
  • 200g caster sugar dissolved in 160ml warm water
  • the second pre-ferment (above)
  • 500g flour
  • 7g sachet instant yeast
  • 10 large egg yolks
  • 200g very soft unsalted butter
To finish
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1-2 tablespoons pearl sugar (sugar nibs) or Demerara sugar, optional
Spiced almond topping – optional
  • 2 egg whites
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 level tablespoon plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia or the grated zest of an orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

(3) Add the flour, yeast, second pre-ferment, sugar solution and eggs and knead for about 5 minutes: I tend to use the food mixer with the dough hook.

(4)  With the mixer on at a medium speed, add butter a little at a time and continue to knead for 10 mins.
NB: you will be a very soft dough, almost like a thick cake batter but silky and shiny.

(5) Cover and leave at room temperature for an hour or so to kick-start the yeast into action and then leave in the fridge overnight.

Final dough
  • 100g strong white flour
  • 30g caster sugar
  • finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 300g dried fruit of choice (sultanas, currants, raisins, cherries, cranberries – ideally soaked overnight in a very generous splash of rum, brandy or liqueur of choice!)
  • 100g finely chopped mixed peel
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
  • 3 teaspoons Fiori di Sicilia
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 60g soft unsalted butter
  • 12g fine sea salt

(6) Add the flour, sugar, vanilla, Fiori di Sicilia and fruit (plus any alcohol that might not have been absorbed) to the chilled dough. Knead to incorporate for a few minutes.

(7) Gradually knead in the butter and egg yolks. Finally add the salt and knead for 2-3 minutes.
NB: as soon as you add the salt, the slack dough will tighten up and become firmer, holding it shape as the salt strengthens the gluten in the flour. 

(8) Scrape the dough into a tin (or several smaller tins)  – see above recipe. Go to about half the depth of the tin, but not much more than that. You can use a damp finger to smooth off the tops if you prefer.
NB: if you find you have too much dough for your tin, pop the extra dough into sandwich tins and the like or mini deep cake tins.

(9) Cover loosely with clingfilm or pop into a large plastic bag and leave at room temperature until the dough has almost doubled in size.

(10) If you are going for a spiced almond topping, simply mix the ingredients together in a small bowl to give a thick paste and dot teaspoons of the paste over the top of the risen dough. Sprinkle over the sugar.

Otherwise, brush the top of the dough with the beaten egg and sprinkle over the sugar generously.

(11) Bake in an oven set to 160C (fan) for about 25 minutes for smaller ones, and 50-60 minutes for the larger ones. You can cover the tops with foil or greaseproof towards the end of the cooking time if they start to go dark.

(12) Remove from the oven and leave to cool fully in their tins. I tend to keep them in their paper until I am ready to eat them.

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Author: Philip

Finalist on Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC Television 2018). Published recipe writer with a love of growing fruit & veg, cooking & eating.

7 thoughts on “Panettone”

  1. Me again… Philip, can you tell me the dimension of the individual holes of your victoria sandwich tin? I have a very similar looking pan, but I doubt it is big enough for a panettone.

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  2. You’re my hero! I love Panneton. I make glazed chestnuts for it. I’m looking for that recipe that’s got the right texture and yours looks perfect. I was never a fan of the mixed fruit and definitely don’t want chocolate chips in there. It’s so hard to make that I always wanted it to be special. The chestnuts are beautiful in it. I will let you know what happens. I’m so excited to give this a try & really happy that I canned chestnuts! Yeah..

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