A Perfect Panettone
You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten good panettone. Not the expensive, chemical heavy, taste-light, mass produced, dry and dull supermarket version (although some of them can be halfway towards decent); but a fresh, homemade, citrusy, vanilla-laced, rustic looking one. They are a beauty to behold, and a slice goes down perfectly with a cup of Monmouth coffee on a wintery morning.
I’d never made one before, and was desperate to add it to our repertoire of Christmas baking; previous entries including Christmas cake, spiced biscuits, stollen and lebkuchen. Two problems, however, stood in my way.
First, there is a surprising dearth of good panettone recipes around. None of our cookbooks contained one, hardly any of our usual go-to-websites had anything to offer (other than recipes for dishes using chopped up shop bought specimens!) and one promising version we did come across bore a host of comments saying that it didn’t work. And second, we don’t own a panettone tin; who does?
So I was thrilled to stumble across this blog, which solved both my problems in one fell swoop. Not only was the recipe a great success, but the suggestion of cooking the panettone in an Ikea cutlery container was inspired!
I must admit, I’m not much of a baker. I’ve made a few cakes here and there (most of which have been successful), but this was my first serious foray into the world of breadmaking. We made three; one as a trial run and the other two as gifts. Each took around 8 hours in total, but it was well worth it for the satisfaction of being able to hold a beautiful, buttery, fragrant, handmade creation. I shall certainly be making them again, and I understand that they can be traditionally eaten at Easter as well as Christmas – a perfect excuse, which I intend to exploit!
Below is the recipe, accompanied with a couple of pictures. I’ve not changed it much from @maisoncupcake’s version, (except removing the chocolate chips and adjusting the fruit quantities accordingly), but I have annotated it with a few tips of my own and the odd thought here and there.
Makes 1 Large Loaf
7g sachet dried yeast
400g strong white bread flour
75g caster sugar
2 large free range eggs plus 2 egg yolks at room temperature
3 tablespoons lukewarm water
half teaspoon vanilla extract
finely grated zest of one unwaxed orange and one unwaxed lemon
half teaspoon salt
175g softened unsalted butter
90g mixed peel, chopped
40g unsalted butter to finish
Mix 125g of the weighed flour with the yeast and sugar in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Mix the two whole eggs with the water and pour into the well. Using your hands or a dough hook, mix the flour into the liquid to make a smooth thick batter. I used my hand, which was infinitely more satisfying than a hook. Just remember to remove wedding rings first; looking like you’re single for a few hours is far preferable to having crusty dough stuck around your fingers! Sprinkle a little flour over the batter to prevent a skin forming then leave in a warm place for around an hour or until the batter is bubbly.
Stir in the egg yolks, vanilla and grated zest using your hand. I’d never realised until this stage that it was vanilla that gives panettone its trademark aroma. But that, coupled with the zest immediately made the kitchen smell of Christmas.
Gradually work in 175g flour plus the salt to make a soft sticky dough. This bit, I admit, gets a little tough on the hands. I’d suggest putting a cloth under the bowl, which will grip it and stop it moving, making it easier to mix.
Next add the softened butter and work in with your fingers. Beat until the butter is incorporated with no streaks.
Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead thoroughly by hand for 10 mins working in the remainder of the weighed flour to make a satiny soft pliable non-sticky dough. You may need to use a little more flour. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise at room temperature until doubled in size, probably 2 to 2.5 hours. Don’t leave in a very warm place as the butter will melt.
Next uncover the dough and punch down to deflate. This is very satisfying. So much so that I photographed the process, enjoying the fist marks. Cover and let it double in size again (1-1.5 hours).
Meanwhile, combine the sultanas with the chopped peel. Stir in a teaspoon of flour to stop it clumping in the dough.
Given that we used our regular Ikea cutlery holder, we needed to sterilise it. To do this, wash it thoroughly and then put it in the oven on a low to medium heat to dry off.
Prepare the tin by first greasing it, and then lining it with parchment paper. I’m rubbish at this sort of thing, so Helen did this bit brilliantly. She cut a circle to sit in the bottom, and then a piece of paper big enough to wrap around and fit inside the tin. Make it about 6cm higher than the tin. Fold a flap around 1cm from the bottom, and then cut slits about 1cm apart, all the way along. Put the paper into the tin so that the flaps sit flat on the bottom and then put the circle of paper on top, sticking it down with a little butter or oil. The paper should extend 5cm higher than the height of the tin.
Punch down the risen dough again and turn onto a floured surface; sprinkle the fruit on top and work into the dough gently until evenly distributed. The dough gets quite tough, the more you work in.
All this time, try to keep the temperature in the room quite low, and don’t overwork the dough, as the butter easily melts under the heat of your hands.
Shape the dough into a ball and gently drop it into the tin. This is harder than it sounds, as the dough stretches, the paper flops and the butter melts! I found it necessary to put the dough in the fridge for just a minute to stop the butter melting, before moulding it into a ball. Try to get the ball as smooth as possible. The third time I made this, I had a fold on the outside, which caused me some problems in getting it out of the tin (see below).
Cut a cross into the top. On one of my attempts I cut the cross too deep, which meant that the top spread out a bit too much and didn’t keep its shape. Lay a sheet of clingfilm loosely over the top of the tin and leave for another hour or so until doubled in size again. I’d suggest putting the tin into an ovenproof dish, as this will catch any melting butter that seeps through. The original recipe didn’t mention this, but I learnt the hard way as I returned to find butter dripping onto the kitchen floor.
Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 200c / 400f / gas 6. When ready to bake, melt 15g of the butter for finishing and brush it over the risen dough. Put a knob of butter in the centre of the cross.
Bake for 10 minutes or until just starting to colour, then brush again with melted butter. Reduce the temperature to 180c / 350f / gas 4 and bake for a further 40 minutes until a good golden brown and a skewer inserted to the centre comes out clean. After about 10 minutes the top of my panettone was going too brown, so I covered it in a little foil hat. @maisoncupcake’s didn’t need foil until about 30 minutes – it just depends on your oven, so keep an eye on it.
Remove from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack. Allow to cool for a few minutes before teasing it out of the tin. If your crust is fragile allow to cool further before removing from tin. This was not easy! You’ll need to gently, but firmly, hold the cake with one hand, and turn the tin with the other. On the third attempt, I’d had some folds on the outside of my dough, so there were some protruding layers of bread, which caught as I tried to remove it from the tin. A careful knife around the rim, a long long time twisting gently and one (mild) swear word finally got it out!
Cool completely before slicing, or decorating, depending on whether this little beauty is for you or for someone else.
This should last about a week without going so stale that it’s inedible – however, I defy you to make it last that long!