Christmas Panettone

| 12/16/2011 3:04:31 PM

Christmas Panettone

We’re going to Italy! Via our kitchens, that is. This is a fancy bread I only make this time of year. Panettone is the quintessential bread made by Italians at Christmas. Legend has it that it started in Milan, but some dispute that. What it is, is a rich sweet bread with fruits and peels, usually flavoured with citrus and vanilla. It is dome shaped on top, and some say this represents Il Duomo, or the cathedral in Florence. There are two Duomos, one in each city, but the domed bread much more resembles the one in Florence. Go figure, as these two cities weren’t always the best of friends. At any rate, politics and architecture aside, panettone has spread beyond the borders of Italy as a popular Christmas bread.

The Italians start with a yeast concoction they call biga, and if you want to take a couple of days to make your bread, be my guest. I have found you can produce a very nice panettone in a few hours, using fairly typical techniques. One aspect of making this bread is the soaking of the fruits and peels in marsala, but alas, I didn’t have any this time, and a little detail like that wasn’t going to stop me. I grabbed the brandy instead. It worked beautifully, so take your pick. And if you really want to gild the lily, get some Fiori di Sicilia (literally, Flowers of Sicily) extract, about ¼ to ½ tsp. This is a citrus flavoured extract, and you might get it in some shops that cater to bakers, otherwise, King Arthur Flour has it. It does give the bread a traditional Italian taste. If you can’t find it, just leave it out. You can also go to my website,, and listen to the podcast for last year’s panettone there, albeit it’s a little different recipe, but it will help give you the idea. I like this recipe better.  And the panettone’s you find in the grocery store? The one I tried this year is going into bread pudding. Enough said.


1 cup raisins, any kind, a mixture is nice1/2 cup chopped mixed fruits and peels 
1/3 cup Marsala or brandy
1/2 cup milk, approximately
1 tbsp granulated sugar  
2½ tbsp active dry yeast  
5 cups all-purpose flour  
1/3 cup granulated sugar  
1 tsp salt  
3/4 cup milk  
1/2 cup butter (no substitute)3 large eggs, beaten  
2 egg yolks, beaten 
1 tsp finely grated orange or lemon zest* 
1 tsp. Vanilla extract 


Mix the fruit and raisins in a small bowl with the liquor and let sit for at least half an hour. Heat milk and first amount of sugar in a pan or microwave until milk is warm and sugar dissolved. If it is warmer than about 120 degrees Fahrenheit, let stand for a few minutes to cool, then sprinkle the yeast over the top and stir until dissolved. Let sit for about 10 minutes, but keep an eye on it, as it will really begin to grow. Combine your flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and then add your fruit mixture. Stir. Then stir in the yeast mixture, stirring well.   

Maria van Hamersveld
12/19/2011 7:37:39 PM

What type of peels do you use? Apple, pear? or Orange and lemon? if using orange, lemon etc. do you take the pith off? Thank you for responding.

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