Homemade Panettone | Authentic Italian Recipe
While Italians make and eat all kinds of regional Christmas desserts, panettone is the one treat that will be found in nearly every home throughout the holiday season. Light, fluffy and buttery, this delicious cake defines the holiday in Italy.
Making panettone at home is quite difficult, especially using the traditional methods. But with the right tools and a lot of patience, it can be done and the result is both tasty and rewarding. We must give credit to pastry chef Iginio Massari for the foundation of this recipe. We have adapted his technique and measurements to work with ingredients commonly found in America, which differ slightly from those in Italy.
Watch the Pasta Grammar video where we made this recipe here:
This recipe uses a natural yeast which is easy to make but takes about a month to prepare. To see how we made our natural yeast, check out our 4-step process:
In order to prepare your natural yeast for the dough, you must feed it three times in three-hour intervals. For instance, if you wanted to begin making your dough at 6pm, you would want to feed your yeast at 9am, 12pm and 3pm leading up to the cooking. When you measure out your yeast, be sure to only use the soft "core." You'll want to discard the hard crust that forms on the outside. You can also split off some of the yeast to continue feeding for other panettoni or sourdough recipes!
Making a panettone requires several steps. A first dough is made and allowed to rise. Then the dough is worked further with more added ingredients, before rising again and being baked. The ingredients list has been divided to reflect the components necessary for each step.
Ingredients for the First Dough:
- 90g natural yeast
- 75g white sugar
- 80g water (room temperature)
- 85g egg yolks (room temperature)
- 85g unsalted butter (softened at room temperature)
- 240g bread flour
- 20g honey
- 1/2 orange zest
- 1/2 lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 120g raisins
- 1/2 oz (15ml) dark rum
- 120g candied fruit (fruitcake mix)
Ingredients for the Second Dough:
- 60g bread flour
- 60g white sugar
- 80g egg yolks (room temperature)
- 90g unsalted butter (softened at room temperature)
- 40g water (room temperature)
- 5g salt
- Extra butter for greasing and topping
- Electric stand mixer with paddle and hook attachments
- Panettone paper molds (1kg/2lb)
- Metal skewers, about 1-foot long (we used metal kebab skewers)
- Safety razor blade
Step 1 | Making the First Dough
Bring all of the ingredients for the first dough to room temperature.
In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the flour, sugar and water together with a low speed setting. Continue stirring until the mixture solidifies into a somewhat firm dough (if your mixer starts jamming, you're in a good place).
Begin adding the butter, a spoonful at a time. BE PATIENT and wait for each bit of butter to fully incorporate before adding more. We cannot stress patience enough. Take your time and trust the mixer to do its job. Feel free to occasionally stop the mixer and scrape the sides with a spatula.
Once all of the butter is fully mixed in, add half of the egg yolks. Again, allow the yolks to mix in completely. Then add the natural yeast, broken into little marble-sized balls, and the rest of the egg yolks. Mix until the dough is completely incorporated and even.
Stop the mixer and replace the paddle with the hook attachment. Knead the dough on a slow speed setting until the dough is very elastic and glutinous. You'll know it's done when you can stretch a piece off of it into a translucent membrane without breaking it. This will take some time, from 30 minutes to over an hour. Once again, BE PATIENT.
Occasionally you'll want to measure the dough's temperature with an instant read thermometer. Ideally, the dough stays at or under 75 degrees F (24 C). If it gets too hot, put the mixing bowl into a freezer for a minute or two.
When the dough has finished kneading, transfer it onto a large work surface that has been liberally buttered. Form the dough into a smooth ball by sliding and spinning it on the greased surface. We recommend watching the video above to see the technique!
Place the dough ball into a tall, transparent container. Cover and keep in a warm place. We recommend keeping it in an oven with the light on.
The dough should rise, and will be ready to continue working once it has roughly tripled in size (making some marks on the side of the container to track the growth can be useful). This can take anywhere from 10-18 hours, so don't worry if nothing seems to be happening for several hours!
Step 2 | Aromatics and Fruit
While the dough is rising, prepare the aromatics and candied fruit. Mix the honey, orange zest, lemon zest and vanilla extract. Refrigerate overnight.
Soak the raisins in water with the rum added. Refrigerate for 4-5 hours. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Allow to air dry fully.
Step 3 | The Second Dough
When the first dough has tripled in size, bring all of your remaining ingredients to room temperature.
Transfer the first dough into the mixer bowl and add the flour and aromatic honey mixture. Slowly knead, until the dough is fully mixed and has solidified into a single ball, attached to the hook. Patience! If the dough is still sticking to the sides, keep mixing.
Add the sugar, one spoonful at a time. Allow each spoon to fully mix before adding the next.
When the sugar is completely incorporated, add 1/3 of the egg yolks into the dough. Mix completely.
Add another 1/3 of the egg yolks and the salt. Mix completely.
Begin adding the butter, one spoonful at a time. As always, allow each spoon to fully mix in before adding the next.
After the butter has been completely incorporated, add the remaining egg yolks and mix completely.
Add the water and continue to mix until the dough is shiny, smooth and elastic. It shouldn't be sticking to the bowl. Again, this will take time! Use the same stretching technique to test the dough's readiness. Also continue to monitor the dough's temperature as you did with the first dough and place it in the freezer if it overheats.
When the dough is ready, add the raisins and candied fruit. Knead slowly until the fruit is thoroughly and evenly distributed. Transfer the dough into a container (or keep in the mixing bowl if you can cover it). Cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Place the dough onto a large, buttered work surface and let it rest a further 30 minutes. While the dough shouldn't be liquid at this point, it will spread out into quite a "puddle" so give it plenty of space.
Use the same sliding and spinning technique as before to form the dough into a smooth ball. Buttering your hands will make this step a little easier. Let rest a further 15 minutes.
Repeat the spinning and sliding, then transfer the dough into a paper mold. Place in a warm, dry place. Again, we recommend the oven with the light left on.
Allow the dough to rise until it is an inch from the top of the paper. This can take anywhere from 7-10 hours. Move the panettone into the open air and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. This helps a slight crust to form on the top.
Step 4 | Baking
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F (160 C). We highly recommend allowing the oven to preheat for 30-45 minutes to ensure an even temperature.
With a razor blade, gently make a cross-shaped slice in the top "crust" of the panettone. This will leave three triangle flaps on top. Use the razor blade to peel each of these away from the center, exposing the softer dough underneath. Again, we recommend watching the video to see how this is done!
Place a small chunk of butter in the center of the panettone, then fold the triangles back into place so that their ends overlap slightly. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the top is browned and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the panettone reaches 200 degrees F (94 C).
Remove from the oven and insert two skewers through the panettone. They should be parallel and even, each about an inch from the bottom of the cake (again, see video). Carefully flip the panettone upside down and suspend it by propping the skewers onto two opposing surfaces (such as the rim of a large pot or two chair backs set close to one another). Allow the panettone to cool, upside-down, for 12 hours.
The panettone is best enjoyed 2-3 days after cooking. Store in a plastic bag or plastic wrap for up to 15-20 days.
Buon appetito e buon natale!