Wednesday, December 15, 2010


It's nice to be able to stay home and bake where it's safe and warm, especially when the city is burning with protests and confidence votes. These are strange times, and it seems smarter to stay out of the mess by just being domestic.

I got a lot of strange looks around town when I proudly announced I was planning on making my own panettone. I can understand in part why people find it strange. In Italy, there is more panettone than people could possibly consume this season. According to the press, the price went up 19% on this and other Christmas food items compared to last year! I thought it would be nice to master it this year, so that next year, when I'm living in the States again, I know I can have fresh panettone without the price tag.

There is something about buying bread that comes in a box that doesn't exactly scream freshness to me. There are so many variations on the original panettone now- some with limoncello, or piped full of chocolate, ranging in price and quality, some come decorated like christmas trees and I've even seen some sold in fancy handbags! But to smell the orange and lemon notes coming from your own kitchen, that is something that cannot be bought.

My first attempt was a complete flop a few weekends ago, so much so that I almost gave up. I was using Italian 00 flour which is much finer than American all-purpose flour and I did not adjust the quantities. I was convinced that I must have omitted a cup of flour since I was distracted by Roman. But when I made it the second time, counting out loud as I added the flour, I got the same result. It looked like cake batter instead of bread dough. But this time, I decided to trust my instinct and kept adding flour, just enough so that I could knead it by hand. The result was still light and airy enough to bear the name panettone.

The recipe is originally from Martha Stewart and I came across it here, recommended by an Italian, which for me lends more credibility to a Martha recipe. I made a few changes, like using only raisins instead of candied fruit, and I also omitted the egg and cream wash for the tops. I'm looking forward to using my leftovers for french toast. It is also wonderful for breakfast, lightly toasted and spread with butter or some fig jam.

Adapted from Martha Stewart and from Z Tasty Life
Makes 3 medium loaves

I used standard size paper lunch bags to make this recipe. If you have deserving friends and/or neighbors, this makes a wonderful gift. I must admit, I am selfishly keeping all three loaves for myself this year. I'm not ashamed to say I don't always feel like sharing a good thing!

For the sponge:
1/3 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

For the dough:
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm milk
2/3 cup sugar
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 cups mixed dried and candied fruit (I used exclusively raisins, since that is my preference)
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange

To make the sponge, warm a small bowl by rinsing it with hot water. Pour in warm water, and sprinkle one package yeast on it. Let stand until dissolved. Stir in 1/2 cup flour, cover with plastic wrap and let stand about thirty minutes, until doubled. Sprinkle remaining package yeast over warm milk. Let stand until dissolved. Beat together sugar, eggs, egg yolks and vanilla. Mix in yeast-milk mixture. Add sponge and stir until well incorporated.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (I do not have an electric stand mixer, so I used my hand held mixer), combine butter and remaining 3 1/2 cups flour until crumbly. Slowly pour in egg mixture and beat on high speed for 3 - 4 minutes, until dough is elastic looking and long strands form. Beat in fruit and zests. Turn the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 2 to 3 hours. Fold down the tops of your paper bags to form a 3 inch cuff.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead gently a few times to deflate. Divide the dough in three. Roll each piece into a ball, and drop into the prepared bags. Place the bags on a baking sheet about 4 inches apart and cover with plastic wrap (greased with a bit of canola oil if it looks like you're dough will rise and touch the plastic wrap.) Leave in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Carefully but decisively slash the top of each loaf in a cross pattern with scissors or a serrated knife. Bake for 10 minutes, then lower oven temperature to 375. Bake for an additional 20-30 minutes (you may have to cover them with aluminum foil to prevent them from over browning.) Loaves are done when a wooden skewer inserted into the center of a loaf comes out clean.


  1. Hello Nicole! it's so interesting how our lives are flip-flopped: you and American living in my city, Rome, and me and Italian living in your country! I love how food and blogging has connected us. Your panettone looks lovely, I hope it tasted delicious too. Stay war, stay safe and enjoy your Roman holidays ;) Amelia
    P.s. thank you for the credit. Did you use "lievito di birra"?

  2. Homemade panettone... is there anything better than that? I've never made panettone myself but I'm seriously tempted to try it. If I can squeeze it in with all the Greek sweets I'll be making this weekend.
    The panettone-french toast idea is brilliant!

  3. Every year I get the desire to make panettone. Every year we're given panettone. I should wait until we've finished the last of our boxed variety...Wait until there's a super snowy/cold day to keep me inside hovered around the oven. I'll be back for this recipe when that day comes.

  4. I am intrigued by bread recipes that have an interesting technique; I have over 200 sandwich bags sitting somewhere collecting dust so what better use for them than to make panettone? I just hope they don't catch on fire in the oven! Can't wait to try!

  5. I love this: the using sandwich bags and the homemade pannettone. How great!

  6. Hi!I'm Italian and here is a suggestion if you want to try panettone as we Italians usually eat here in Italy during Christmas holidays: there are 3 ways to eat panettone 1) alone; 2)with crema pasticcera, which is similar to english custard; 3) with mascarpone cheese and fruit mustard (the classic apple mustard or either apricot, kiwi, ecc). Hope you'll like it for 2012 Christmas :)
    congrats for your blog and sorry if I messed up with english!


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