Panettone; Milan's Christmas Bread
It is not Christmas in Italy without panettone. Many commercial varieties are available and they are very good but nothing beats homemade and this bread takes a bit of time but on Christmas morning it is the first thing we open!
- 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
- 5 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2 large eggs
- 4 large egg yolks
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup warm (110º to 115ºF) water
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 4 1/2 to 5 cups plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 Grated zest ofmedium orange
- 1 Grated zest ofmedium lemon
- 1/2 cup chopped candied citron
- To make the sponge: dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a medium size bowl. Stir in the 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.
- In a large bowl, stir the butter, eggs, yolks, sugar, warm water and vanilla together. Drain the marinated raisins in a small strainer set over a bowl and press on the raisins with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Set the raisins aside and add the liquid to the egg mixture. Add the sponge and mix well with your hands. Add the flour about 2 cups at a time, mixing with your hands until a ball of dough forms.
- 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.
- Butter and flour a paper panettone or other deep mold at least 6 inches tall and 7 to 8 inches wide. (The ceramic insert to a crockpot is ideal. Or you can use two 2-pound coffee cans and make 2 smaller loaves. Paper panettone molds are available on line and at fantes.com
- Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Flatten the dough out with your hands and sprinkle on the lemon and orange zest. In a small bowl, mix the raisins and citron with the 1 tablespoon flour, and sprinkle the mixture over the dough. Fold the dough in half, press the edges together, and knead to distribute the fruits. Continue to knead for 5 to 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth, adding additional flour if necessary. Place the dough in the mold, cover with a clean cloth, and let rise for 35 minutes in a warm place.
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Cut an X in the top of the bread. Bake for 5 minutes, reduce the heat to 375ºF, and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350ºF, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes longer, or 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.