Cuisine Fiend





Yes – it’s doable. You can make your own panettone instead of getting one in a cardboard box. What on earth must they add to the dough of those shop bought panettones that they last the shipping, have a shelf life of weeks and are supposed to be good at least a week after opening?! I shudder to think. Yeast dough as everyone knows is lovely straight from the oven, tasty the day after and has to be toasted on the third day because it goes stale and dry. I’m not trying to discourage anyone from buying the cake in colourful boxes and tins, or indeed receiving it as a gift, but it makes you wonder, it does.

It is only relatively recently that we have embraced the festive yeast confections here in the UK – instead of only plugging our gobs with (my personal opinion - disgusting) Christmas puddings and Christmas cake where cake is not visible amongst the fruit, icing and marzipan. We now enjoy panettone, pandoro and stollen so perhaps it’s time to make one at home?

A word of warning though: it’s a fickle, capricious beast in the truly Italian style, la donna è mobile and so is panettone. It sometimes doesn’t rise at all, especially if ingredients are not at the right temperature (eggs too cold, butter too hot). You need to be awfully patient through the double rise, don’t rush it into the oven, let it properly triple in volume – the second rise might take as long as three hours. But oh so rewarding if it rises and bakes impressively tall – the texture is Fluffy Central and it melts in your mouth wonderfully on Christmas morning.

  • For the ferment:
  • 180ml full fat milk
  • a few strands of saffron, ground to a powder
  • 25g fresh or 3 tsp fast action yeast
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp strong white flour
  • For the dough:
  • 130g caster sugar minus the 1 tbsp for the ferment
  • 1 vanilla pod, sliced and seeds scraped out
  • 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 whole egg, at room temperature
  • 400g strong white flour minus the 1 tbsp for the ferment, warmed up in a very low oven
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 130g butter, melted
  • grated zest from 1 lemon
  • grated zest from 1 orange
  • 100g raisins or sultanas
  • 20g white rum
  • 50g candied mixed peel

First make the ferment: mix the milk with saffron and warm up to about 25C, add a spoonful of sugar and a spoonful of flour out of the given quantities, then stir in the yeast. Leave to bubble up for 15-30 minutes.

Panettone ferment

Transfer the ferment to the bowl of a standing mixer with the dough hook attachment, or use hand mixer. Add half the amount of flour to the ferment, the egg yolks and the whole egg, sugar and the vanilla seeds. Beat at medium speed for about 10 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl every now and then until the mixture is smooth and all the lumps have disappeared, it will be quite runny. Cover and leave for an hour.

It should expand in volume a little by that time and show some air bubbles. Add the rest of the flour (make sure it’s kept warm) together with the grated zests, the salt and the melted butter and start kneading or beating on low speed. After about 5 minutes increase the speed to medium and beat for 15 minutes until the dough stops sticking to the sides of the bowl (or doesn’t stick to your hands). Cover and leave in the warmest place you can find for at least 1 ½ hour, until almost tripled in volume.

Adding raisins to panettone

Soak the raisins in the white rum heated up to almost boiling (one of those re-sealable sandwich bags will be handy) at least at this point so they have a good long soak – the night before would be the best. When the dough has risen impressively either return it to the standing mixer or turn out onto a floured surface – it will be seriously sticky though. Drain the raisins and add to the dough together with the peel. Mix in on very low speed or knead in gently.

Sparingly butter a 7” panettone tin – or use an ordinary 7” cake tin and insert a collar made from double folded baking parchment to make it up to the height of 7”/20cm. Transfer the dough gently into the tin, cover with cling film and leave to prove in a very warm place for at least 2 hours or until tripled in volume. The cake doesn’t rise much in the oven so you’ll know roughly what height it will be when risen in the tin.

Panettone - proving in tin

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5 and place a heavy baking sheet on the middle shelf. Bake the panettone for 40-45 minutes until deep brown on top – but don’t open the oven door earlier than 40 minutes have passed.

Remove from the oven and turn upside down onto a wire rack – it will drop soon enough but if it’s suspended for at least a couple of minutes chances are it won’t sink when cooling. Remove it from the tin and place right side up again on the rack to cool. Dust with icing sugar and have at least one tranche when still warm.

Halloween Fiend

Looking for Halloweeen inspiration? My small selection of desserts is fun to make, impressively scary – especially if you, unlike me, are a little artistically gifted. But above all, these are recipes for really tasty sweets, worth saving not just for Halloween. Read more...

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