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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 panettoni 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 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, milk too hot). You need to be awfully patient through the mixing, folding, shaping and rise; it will take the best part of a day, not counting the sponge preparation the night before. 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.
I have been baking it for a few years and, incidentally, doing it all wrong. This is an updated recipe and an incomparably bigger success, indebted mainly to Susan of Wild Yeast Blog - brilliant lesson in technique which I came across researching panettone: sourdough version. I can assure everyone that the yeasted bread is every bit as tasty, keeps astoundingly well and is a safer option for the sourdough-phobes.
- For the sponge:
- 300g strong bread flour
- 120g whole milk
- 20g fresh yeast or 3 tsp instant
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 whole egg
- 5g diastatic malt powder or malt syrup
- 50g unsalted butter, softened
- For the main dough:
- Step one:
- sponge, from above
- 100g strong bread flour
- 3g (1 tsp) salt
- 2 egg yolks
- seeds scraped from a vanilla pod
- zest of 2 oranges
- 20g warm whole milk
- Step two:
- 70g caster sugar, added in 5 or 6 goes
- Step three:
- 80g unsalted butter, softened
- Step four:
- 40g warm whole milk with a pinch of saffron strands (optional), added in 2 goes
- For the dried fruit:
- 100g raisins or sultanas
- 50g candied orange peel
- For the glaze:
- 80g caster sugar
- 2 tsp ground almonds
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp.fine cornmeal
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- 30g egg whites
- For the topping:
- 2 tbsp. icing sugar
- 2 tbsp. pearl sugar
- whole blanched almonds
1. Makes 2 panettoni in 13cm paper cases or tins; or 1 large 20cm
- Day 1 evening: prepare the sponge
- Day 2 morning: make the dough, prove and shape
- Day 2 midday: bake
2. Prepare the sponge in the evening before baking. Use a standing mixer with the dough hook attachment; you can mix by hand but it will be hard going. Mix all the sponge ingredients until combined, cover the bowl with cling film and leave it at warm room temperature overnight.
3. The next morning soak the raisins in a little hot water or warmed up limoncello or vin santo.
4. Add the ingredients for the first addition to the sponge and mix at low speed for 5 minutes and then at medium speed for another 3 minutes.
5. Continue at medium speed while you add the sugar in five or six goes; mix for 2 minutes after each addition. Continue after you’ve added all the sugar until the dough clears the sides and bottom of the bowl and almost passes the windowpane test.
6. Windowpane test: pull a little of the dough between your fingers and stretch until it’s almost see-through. If it doesn’t tear, that means the gluten is fully developed.
7. Add the butter and turn the mixer back on at low speed. Mix for 2 minutes, then up the speed to medium and continue for about 10 minutes until the butter is completely absorbed. Do another windowpane test: the dough should now form thin membrane without tearing. If not, mix for another 4-5 minutes.
8. Add the remaining milk in two goes, mixing until completely absorbed after each addition.
9. Drain the raisins. Add them in with the orange peel mixing at minimum speed, only until just about distributed in the dough. Transfer the dough into a buttered large shallow bowl or a plastic container, cover and leave in a warm room for an hour; stretching and folding every 20 minutes. To do that, butter your fingers lightly, grab the underside of the dough and fold the dough in three over itself along the length, like an envelope. Turn the container and do the same fold, stretching gently, in the opposite direction along the width. Cover and leave for another 20 minutes; then repeat the stretching, folding and 20 minute proving.
10. Turn the dough out onto buttered surface and divide in half with a dough scraper (or leave whole if baking one large). Gently push the dough portions with the scraper and your hand to form light balls. Leave them uncovered for 20 minutes.
11. If using paper cases, prepare them for hanging: pierce each case near the bottom with two thin wooden skewers to make kind of rails. You can also thread two lengths of kitchen string spaced evenly across the bottom.
If using a tin, do NOT butter it.
12. Tighten the rested dough into taut balls by cupping it with your hands and dragging gently over the work surface. Drop them into the cases, smooth side up. Prove in a warm place (electric oven set to 30-35C, if it keeps temperature well; or an airing cupboard) for 1 hour 30 minutes – 2 hours. When they have risen so the dome is level with the rim of the case and the sides are about 2cm below it, it’s ready to bake.
13. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5 – obviously remove the dough from the oven if you’ve been proving it there. If it’s in paper cases, you’re best off taking out the oven rack with panettoni on it and then load it back for baking – that way you’ll not disturb the dough.
14. Beat together all the ingredients of the glaze and spoon it in the centre of the dome(s) – it will spread all over. Sprinkle with pearl sugar, icing sugar or both and decorate with almonds arranged in the middle.
15. Bake for 30 minutes, lower the heat to 180C/350F after 20 minutes if the tops are browning too much. Leave the bread in the oven for 5 minutes after it’s switched off (10 in case of a large panettone).
16. Hang the panettoni immediately after they are out of the oven. If you have skewered paper cases, rest them between two piles of books; if using string, tie the ends to the backs of two chairs or a clothes rack. The tin can be turned upside down and the rim propped on three or four solid tumblers or mugs; space them out correctly beforehand.
17. Leave the panettone hanging for at least 5 hours or overnight. If you skipped the glazing, sprinkle it with icing sugar before cutting.