December 18, 2023
Milan claims to have made the first panettone, but there is great debate about this. Today, one finds this bread made throughout Italy, sporting many different flavors from limoncello to chocolate, and packed with chestnuts, dried fruits, and various nuts.
The most important point to remember is that this bread requires a sponge, a loose yeast, water, and flour mixture that gives the dough an added boost for rising and flavor and a long rising time but it is all worth it!
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm (110 F) water
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup grappa or brandy
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm (110º to 115ºF) water
5 tablespoons butter, softened
2 large eggs, room temperature
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 1/2 to 5 cups plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped candied citron or dried apricots
To make the sponge: dissolve the package of dry yeast in the ½ cup warm water in a medium size bowl. Stir in the ¼ cup flour with a spoon to make a loose dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
In a small bowl, combine the raisins and grappa or brandy, and let marinate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
Dissolve the 1 teaspoon active dry yeast in the ¼ cup warm water in a small bowl and allow to stand until bubbly
In a large bowl, stir the butter, eggs, yolks, vanilla, sugar and orange zest together.
In a stand mixer combine all the sponge and the 1 teaspoon active dry yeast mixture.
Add the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla extract and combine well. Add the raisins with their liquid and the citron and combine. Add the flour about 2 cups at a time, mixing enough flour until a ball of dough forms. Stir in the salt with the third addition of flour.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic, adding additional flour as needed.
Butter a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with a clean cloth and let rise for 6 hours in a warm place.
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Cut an X in the top of the bread. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes lor until a skewer inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean. If the top begins to brown too much, cover the bread loosely with a piece of foil.
Cool the bread on a rack for about 30 minutes before removing it from the mold.
Note: There are many versions of panettone. Some use Vin Santo, a sweet dessert wine, instead of grappa. Some are made with olive oil instead of butter, and some include pine nuts and anise seed instead of raisins and citron. Some are filled with figs, chestnuts and even chocolate.