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Panettone

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

My favourite recipe! Like every things that are hard to achieve once you master it you have a feeling of accomplishment that lasts until you eat the last slice.

Bake it as a gift for your loved ones, or to share something special or just because you like it.



As it happens for many Italian recipes there is not a clear history of the Panettone, and looking for historic sources just add to the legend. What we know for sure is that the Panettone is a Christmas tradition that originated in the city of Milan, so here two of the "legends" that tells about the invention of the Panettone, one or both of them could be real, what I like is that both seems to be Christmas tales, and that's why I want to share both with you.


A Christmas love story:
Messer Ulivo degli Atellani was a falconer, living in the Contrada delle Grazie in Milan. He was in love with Algisa, the beautiful daughter of a baker. To get the permission to marry her he decided to show her father his capabilities as a baker. He convinced Algisa's father to hire him as an apprentice to increase the production and sales. Once a baker he prepared a dough using the best flour from the mill, kneaded with eggs, butter, honey and raisins. Then he baked. It was an amazing success, everyone wanted to taste the new bread and some time later the two young lovers got married and lived happily ever after.

A Christmas dinner saved:
One of the traditions reported in the book "De originis et causis ceremoniarum quae celebrantur in Nataliciis" is the so-called 'Log Celebration', a sort of re-enactment of the Last Supper. According to tradition, the Milanese families spent Christmas Eve around the fireplace; during the celebration a log of wood decorated with fruit was burned and wine and juniper berries were put on the log three time. Meanwhile the family gathered around the fireplace and the father symbolically broke the bread and shared it with those present. This rite was celebrated by Galeazzo Maria Sforza who used to break large and tasty loaves in front of the fireplace.
The cook at the service of Ludovico il Moro was commissioned to prepare a sumptuous Christmas dinner for the Log Celebration party to which many nobles from the district had been invited. After a long day of preparation the cake, forgotten by mistake in the oven, almost charred. Given the cook's desperation, Toni, a little scullery boy, proposed a solution: «With what is left in the pantry - a little flour, butter, eggs, cedar peel and a few raisins - this morning I cooked this dessert. If you have nothing else, you can bring it to the table ». The cook consented and, trembling, went behind a curtain to spy on the reaction of the guests. Everyone was enthusiastic and to the duke, who wanted to know the name of that delicacy, the cook revealed the secret: «L'è 'l pan del Toni». Since then it is the "pane di Toni", that is the "panettone"

Let's see how to prepare this delicacy. One thing that is not described at all in the stories is the complexity of the preparation: every step must be planned, sourcing of the ingredients, preparing the yeast, mixing the ingredients, leavening times, cooking, and resting. Nothing can be improvised.

​Difficulty level:



Cooking Time:

​50-55 minutes (or until the centre reach 94˚C)

Oven Temperature:

160˚C

Cooking Method:

​Static Oven - put the oven tray in the lowest position

Panettone is one of the great leavened products that enhance the qualities of Natural Mother Yeast (Sourdough Starter). I've tried to bake panettone with dried yeast to reduce the time required to prepare it, but with no good results. The final product was always too dry and was collapsing at the centre. Only with the Sourdough starter yeast it is possible to obtain the best results, nevertheless I will post also a recipe that uses dried yeast for those of you that has no time but want to bake something for a Christmas party.

The procedure and processing are very difficult and long, it requires between 2 and 3 days to prepare a Panettone, and you will not always succeed (there are several things that could go wrong from kneading to baking) but the final result will pay off for all the effort.

This is the recipe from the Master Ronaldo Morandin, its characteristic is the custard cream added to the second dough. I love to use this to add my signature by adding some Brandy, Cognac, or Sweet wine, while cooking the custard, this allows the alcohol to evaporate leaving only the aroma and not affecting the yeasts.

A good start is to plan in advance. Start refreshing your yeast using the same flour you will use to bake a panettone. I use Manitoba flour with a W higher than 380.

Ingredients for a Panettone of 1 kg:


For the First Dough:

200g Strong Flour (W 380/400)

85g Caster Sugar

50g Water (first dose)

110g Egg Yolk

100g Sourdough Starter

25g Water (second dose)

120g Soft Butter


For the Second Dough:

All the first Dough

75g Very Strong Flour (W 380/400)

25g Caster Sugar

35g Egg Yolk

30g Soft Butter

25g Pastry Cream

6g Salt

1 Vanilla Pod

100g dried sultanas

150g candied orange

50g candied citron (or lemon)


Pastry cream:

170g Milk

2 Egg Yolk

50g Caster Sugar

12g Very Strong Flour (W 380/400)

1/2 Vanilla Pod

1 Grated Orange Zest


Before to start:

Remove the sourdough from the refrigerator and after a couple of hours proceed with a refresh. The amount of yeast you need to prepare the Panettone will stay out of the fridge all the night. Pet the remaining sourdough back into the fridge.

On the following day you will refresh the yeast at least three times. These steps are important to ensure that the yeast is at its maximum strength.

To give a boost to the sourdough starter add with each refresh 1g of diastatic malt.

Making a Panettone is a small project and it requires some planning, this will allow you make it while working from home, or to plan other activities, like Christmas shopping, going to the gym, organising a dinner, or simply to avoid working in your kitchen in the middle of the night as it happened to me the first time I prepared it.


Here is the plan I usually follow:

​Step

​Day

​Time

​Action

1

1

7pm

Take the yeast out of the fridge

2

​1

9pm

Refresh the yeast using the following quantities: 150g of yeast, 150g of flour, 75g of water. Take 125g of yeast and leave it out of the fridge until the morning. The rest of the yeast will go back into the fridge for the usual routine/preparations.

3

​2

8am

Take about 100g from the 125g dose you left out of the fridge overnight and refresh using the usual procedure: 100g yeast, 100g flour, and 50g of water. Set aside the 25g of yeast in excess for other preparations. Put the refreshed yeast in a container and let it leavening for about 4 hours at 25˚C (it must double its volume).

4

​2

​12pm

Repeat step 2

5

2

​4pm

​Repeat step 3

6

​2

​8pm

​The yeast should be at its maximum strength, the perfect condition to start preparing a Panettone.

7

2

8pm

Prepare the first dough and let it leavening at 26˚C until it is 3 or 4 time its initial volume (between 12 and 24 hours)

8

​3

​8pm

Prepare the second dough and let it leavening at 26˚C until it doubled its volume (about 16 to 20 hours)

9

​4

4pm

Bake

10

4

5pm

Put the baked panettone to rest upside down for at least 12 hours.

Once your sourdough starter is ready you can start preparing the dough. Follow the procedure described and never rush. The secret to successfully prepare a Panettone is to create a strong gluten network since the very first steps and keeping it while adding all the ingredients.


Steps for the first dough:

  1. Put in the bowl of the mixer 50g of water, the sugar and 80g of egg yolks (about ¾ of the yolks) and mix for 10 minutes at maximum speed with the whisk.

  2. Add the sourdough starter in small pieces and the sifted flour. Start mixing at the lowest speed using the dough hook.

  3. Add the sifted flour and start kneading it. This is a critical step to create the gluten network that will ensure a good result. Do not proceed to the next step until the dough stays on the hook and it doesn't attach to the sides of the mixing bowl.

  4. Add the remaining water (25g) and mix until it is fully absorbed by the dough and it doesn't attach to the sides of the mixing bowl.

  5. Add the remaining egg yolks in 2 steps. While adding the yolks the dough will become extremely sticky, just let the mixer working for you. As for the previous steps you have to wait until the dough stays on the hook and it doesn't attach to the sides of the mixing bowl.

  6. Add 20g of softened butter to the dough and mix until it is fully absorbed by the dough, repeat this step until you have added all the butter. Adding the butter too quickly or all at once will weaken the gluten network, making the dough stringing more difficult (if not impossible at all). Keep on kneading until the dough stays on the hook. During this step the temperature of the dough should not exceed 26˚C. You can measure it using an infrared thermometer, if the temperature is rising stop the mixer and put the dough for about 10 minute in the refrigerator.

  7. Put the dough in a transparent container (to follow its development), covered with cling film and let it rise, at 26°C until it reaches 3 to 4 times its initial volume.


While the first dough is leavening it is time to prepare the Pastry cream.


Steps for the Pastry Cream:

  1. Mix the eggs with the sugar until smooth.

  2. Add the vanilla seeds and the orange zest.

  3. Put the milk and the remaining vanilla pods in a not stick saucepan. Slowly bring it to the boil and filter it.

  4. If you want to give a personal signature to your Panettone you can add 20ml of Cognac or any other liqueur or wine. Be sure that all the alcohol is completely evaporated as it will affect the yeasts during the second leavening.

  5. Slowly pour the milk on the eggs and milk mixture, mixing constantly to avoid the eggs from cooking.

  6. Put the cream back in the saucepan and cook it until it reaches 93˚C.

  7. Put the cream in a bowl and let it cooling down.

  8. Let the Pastry Cream resting overnight in the fridge.


First dough after 24 hours leavening


Wait for the first dough to fully leaven. Do not rush, sometime it could take up to 36 hours!




Steps for the second dough:

  1. Put the dried sultanas in warm water and let it soak for about 10 minutes, then dry it and set it apart.

  2. Put in the mixer bowl all the first dough.

  3. Add the sifted flour and start kneading, at the slowest speed possible, until it becomes smooth and remains on the hook. During this step we are creating the final gluten network that will give texture to the final result.

  4. Mix the egg yolks with the sugar.

  5. Add the mix of sugar and yolks to the dough 2 table spoons at the time. Do not add more mixture until the previous one has been completely incorporated in the dough. It is important to keep the gluten network.

  6. Once the eggs and sugar mixture is completely incorporated add the pastry cream. I usually add the cream in 2 or 3 times, as I did with the egg and sugar.

  7. Start adding the butter 10g at the time. before adding the last 10g add the salt and the seeds of the vanilla pod. Remember to monitor the temperature of the dough during this phase as it should not exceed 26˚C.

  8. Dust the sultanas with some flour.

  9. Put the sultanas and the candied fruit in the mixing bowl. This is another critical step because all the fruit must be homogeneously distributed in the dough without ruining the gluten network.

  10. Grease a working surface with some butter and place the dough on it.

  11. Grease your hands with somebutter and knead the dough for a few minutes using your hands.

  12. Let the dough to rest for 1 hour.

  13. Grease your hands with some butter and start rounding the dough to shape it.

  14. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

  15. Grease your hands with some butter, again, shape the dough into a ball and place into a Panettone mold.

  16. Using a very sharp blade make a X shaped cut on the dough.

  17. Cover the cold with cling film and let it rise, at 26°C until it comes up about 1 to 5 cm above the rim.


Once the leavening is complete, and your dough reached the mold rim as in the picture above, it is time to prepare for baking.

You can also divide the dough in 10 pieces and bake individual mini-panettoni

Baking a Panettone is not difficult, you just need to follow some rules:

  • Place the oven tray on the lowest position possible. The upper oven resistances (source of heat) must be as far as possible from the top.

  • Use a very light oven tray that will not accumulate heat. It will make easier moving the mold around.

  • Use a low temperature. I usually bake at 160˚C in a static oven. I am also planning to try even lower temperatures.

  • Buy a temperature sensor that can be placed in the oven. I use a digital thermometer that works with up to 6 sensors and it sends an alert on my phone when the desired temperature is reached.

Let's see the steps for cooking.


Steps for cooking:

  1. Remove the cling film from the dough.

  2. Place the oven rack on the lowest position.

  3. Preheat the oven 160°C.

  4. Carefully transfer the raised dough on an oven tray and put it in the oven.

  5. Bake at 160°C for 45 minutes.

  6. Place the temperature sensors in the panettone and continue baking until the temperature at the centre of the panettone reaches 94˚C

  7. Remove from the oven and leave to hang upside down by inserting a 2 or 3 knitting needles through the bottom of the panettone and suspending it. Leave for 12 hours.


The panettone tastes best the next day, and even better after a few days, if you can resist from eating it immediately. To preserve it from drying close it in a food bag.


For a longer shelf life, spray a little ethyl alcohol for food in the food bog. This will avoid any mold due to the humidity of the product and you will reach a shelf life of 30/40 days.



As I mentioned at the beginning the Panettone is a traditional Christmas dessert from Milan and it started becoming popular abroad because of Italian emigrants. In the past few years, thanks to a few famous Chefs, Panettone has become very popular everywhere in Italy and depending on the area Chefs and Bakers started creating their own variants. The recipe I presented here is for the traditional Panettone (with Sultanas and candied Orange and Citron), but you can also try different versions for example:

  • Sultanas only

  • Chocolate chips (you can use the chocolate you prefer)

  • Chocolate chips and sultanas

  • Apricots

  • Figues

  • Cherries

  • Mixed candied fruit.

Just ensure that you new goes over the total weight of Sultanas and Candied Orange and Citron indicated (300g in total).


Merry Christmas!



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