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What Is Panettone?
Panettone is an Italian sweet bread loaf originating from Milan, traditionally produced during the holiday season on Christmas and New Year. A panettone—which translates to “big bread loaf”—is a large, dome-shaped sweet bread that has been leavened with yeast. It has a light and airy texture, with a rich and buttery taste, and is subtly sweetened.
The History of Panettone
Panettone was invented by two Milanese bakers in the early twentieth century. Panettone became widely popular across Italy, becoming the country’s leading Christmas dessert. In 1919, Milanese baker Angelo Motto updated the traditional panettone by creating its tall, domed shape, which comes from rising and kneading the dough three times before baking.
The 5 Traditional Characteristics of Panettone Bread
- Talled and domed. Panettone has a tall and domed appearance is associated with Christmas.
- Filled with fruit. The festive bread is filled with pieces of fruit, such as candied orange peel, citron, lemon zest, and raisins.
- Sliced into wedges. Panettone is a bread that is sliced into wedges like a cake when served.
- Similar to sourdough bread. Panettone is a leavened sweet bread with a yeast that comes from a “mother dough”, which is passed along to each new batch.
- Hung upside down after baking. In a traditional recipe, after panettone has finished baking, it is flipped upside down until it cools. This prevents the bread from collapsing in on itself.
5 Twists on the Classic Panettone
- Pandoro: A sweet Italian bread from Verona that is star-shaped and finished with powdered sugar.
- Pandolce: Translates to “sweet bread,” pandolce is a variety of fruit cake from Genova. It’s dense, crumbly, and filled with spices and candied fruits.
- Panforte: A chewy, dense fruitcake from Siena, flavored with honey, cloves, coriander, cinnamon, and white pepper.
- Panpepato: Panpepato is a heavy gingerbread cake spiced with cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, honey, nuts, dark chocolate, and candied fruit.
- Pangiallo: Pangiallo is from the Lazio region. It is a golden yellow bread filled with nuts, raisins, spices, and candied fruit. The nuts are a recent addition; previously, Romans used dried plum and apricot kernels instead, since nuts were too expensive.
Homemade Panettone Recipe
Prep Time2 hr 55 min
Total Time3 hr 25 min
Cook Time30 min
This Italian Christmas bread is studded with dried fruit and sure to impress guests at any holiday celebration. If it’s your first time making this and you don’t have a panettone mold, try using empty coffee cans for a spectacular tall domed shape.
For the Fruit:
- ⅓ cup golden raisins
- ⅓ cup chopped dried apricots
- ⅓ cup dried cherries or cranberries
- ¼ cup Cointreau or Triple Sec (orange flavored liqueur)
For the Dough:
- 1 package dry yeast or active yeast
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- ¼ cup warm water
- 3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
- ¼ cup whole milk
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon melted unsalted butter
- Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling
- 2 empty coffee cans
- To marinate the fruit, combine fruit and orange liqueur in a small bowl; set aside for 1 hour. Drain fruit in a sieve, reserving fruit and 2 teaspoons of liqueur separately.
- To prepare the dough, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in a small bowl; set aside for 5 minutes. Combine 1/2 cup flour, butter, milk, sugar, salt, and egg yolk in the large bowl of a stand mixer. Beat at medium speed for 1–2 minutes, until smooth. Add the yeast mixture and another 1/2 cup flour; beat for 1 minute. Stir in marinated fruit and 2 1/2 cups of flour. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8–10 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Place dough in a large greased bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours. Dough will not double in size.
- Punch dough down and let rest 5 minutes. Divide dough in half, shaping each piece into a ball. Place balls into 2 greased coffee cans. Cover and let rise 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Uncover the dough and place coffee cans onto baking sheets, and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. The loaf should sound hollow when tapped. Remove bread from cans by gently turning the panettone upside down, and cool on a wire rack. Combine reserved liqueur and melted butter; brush over loaves. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
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