Last Christmas my panettone was an astonishing success. I baked about a dozen large ones in total over December, gave some away but most were hovered up for breakfasts, brunches, post-lunch sweets and once instead of dinner, between the two of us.
Easter means industrial quantities of hot cross buns in my house. Sticky with sugar glaze, fragrant with spice and featuring proper piped crosses. Okay – once I forgot to add the spices so they were ‘cross buns’; another time I missed out the crosses in a rush to bake them, thus creating ‘not cross buns’. They are mind-blowing warm, delicious fresh and epic when toasted and buttered. And I have not one but two recipes for buns here (go with the first one, trust me!).
So there we have it: the above plus my everlasting aspiration to create a new baking confection has hereby resulted in the best of two, an exquisite combination of Italian and English (just like The Weather Man): bun-e-ttone. Fluffy and airy like panettone, spiced and cinnamonned like the buns, and adorned with a piped cross. I defied the Easter chocolate sine qua non and put just raisins and candied peel in them. And I thought it would be nice to make one large and 11 small bunettones, after the Simnel cake fashion of featuring 12 or 11 marzipan balls, for Jesus and 11 disciples (minus Judas, obvs).
I used the sourdough starter I reserve for San Francisco bread because it’s refreshed with yogurt and milk, giving it a rich, less sour flavour. Try ordinary water based starter by all means. And if yeast is more of your comfort zone, increase the amount below to 20g, up the flour in the ferment to 375g and water to 250g.
1. Makes 1 large cake (13cm panettone paper case or tin) and 11 mini buns (in 7cm mini panettone cases, in ramekins or in a muffin tin; muffin paper cases on their own will be too flimsy).
Use a lively wheat starter at 100% hydration. This recipe calls for a large amount of it so technically it might be called levain. Prepare it, for example, with 100g of your chilled starter refreshed with 100g flour, 50g milk and 50g yogurt not longer than 12-10 hours before making up the ferment.
- Day 1 midday: refresh starter
- Day 1 evening: make the ferment
- Day 2 morning: make the main dough, prove and shape
- Day 2 early afternoon: bake
2. Prepare the ferment 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 ferment ingredients until combined, cover the bowl with cling film and leave it at warm room temperature overnight. The dough should triple in volume.
3. The next morning add the flour, salt, egg yolk, mixed spice, cinnamon, orange essence and a third of the water to the ferment. Mix at low speed for 5 minutes and then at medium speed for another 3 minutes.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. In low speed, add the honey and the remaining water in two goes, mixing until completely absorbed after each addition.
8. Add the raisins and 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.
9. Prepare a large buttered surface. The dough will be runny and sticky! Using a dough scraper and scales, scoop out 500g for the large cake and place on the prepared surface. Weigh the remaining dough out into 11 portions at about 70g each and place them all on the surface, spaced well apart. Gently push each dough portion with the scraper and your hand to form light balls. Leave them uncovered for 20 minutes.
10. If you are using tins or ramekins, do NOT butter them.
11. Tighten the rested dough into tauter balls by pushing them round the surface with the scraper. 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.
12. While they are proving, make the crossing mix: beat the flour with the oil and water until smooth. Spoon it into a piping bag or syringe.
13. Preheat the oven (fan if available) to 180C/350F/gas 4 – 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 buns on it and then load it back for baking – that way you’ll not disturb the dough.
14. Pipe the crosses over each bun, including the large one. Use your finger to cut off the flow from the piping tool; the mix is very stretchy.
15. Bake the buns 20 minutes for the mini ones, 30 minutes the large one. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack.
16. Alternatively you can cool them hanging upside down to make sure they don’t collapse (they won’t; but just in case you don’t trust me). If you have skewered* paper cases, rest them between two piles of books or a clothes rack. The tin or the ramekins can be turned upside down and the rims propped on three or four solid tumblers or mugs; space them out correctly beforehand.
17. Prepare the glaze: bring the ingredients to the boil very briefly in a microwave or in a small pan. When the buns have cooled, brush them gently with the glaze.
*How to prepare paper cases for hanging: pierce each case near the bottom with two thin wooden skewers to make kind of rails. You can also thread a thin meat needle through the bottom of each mini case, if you have enough of them.