I am not a huge fan of traditional Christmas cake so I decided to give panettone – the traditional Italian Christmas cake, a try. For me, I find the traditional cake a little too heavy, too fruity and too boozy (you probably think I am mad for not enjoying these things in a cake!). The super sweet marzipan and heavy icing are needed to compliment the richness of the cake and I just find them all a little too excessive.
Make way for the panettone! On the contrary, this type of light, sweet bread loaf is enjoyed on mainland Europe and South America during Christmas and the New Year. Typically it contains raisins with zest of citrus fruits and candied peel. I wanted to recreate this light, fluffy delight with purely candied peel, homemade candied lemon and limoncello for a truly zingy, lemon treat.
Having researched many recipes, this recipe is fairly straightforward and does not require any overnight proofing for a great result. If you are new to bread, or enriched dough, this may seem a little time consuming (not in intense ‘kitchen hours’) but in returning to carry out tasks. If you fancy the challenge and get excited by how dough reacts (I’m sure I am not the only one out there) – this one gets incredibly elastic, stringy and lucid, then definitely give this panettone a try.
This quantity makes two panettone (the cases measured 16cm diameter). I used special panettone waxed paper cases but you could use tins or moulds. Just ensure they have high sides – this doughy delight is meant to be tall. I also used panettone extract which consists of essential oils of bergamot, orange, lemon, tangerine and vanilla. This adds to my citrusy panettone but you could used lemon, or vanilla, extract instead.
I am no authority on the subject, but here are a few of my observations for making panettone (based on making this twice!):
Tip No.1 Do not overfill your case/tin. Do not underestimate how much this dough will rise. It will rise on the second proving in the panettone case/tin and again during the baking process.
Tip No.2 Cover the panettone with foil after the first 15 minutes of baking otherwise the top will bake too much.
Tip No.3 Invert the panettone as soon it comes out of the oven to cool. I did this by passing two wooden skewers through the bottom of the cake and hanging it upside between two containers. Allow to cool completely this way as it prevents the crust from sinking and helps retain the intended shape. If you use mini panettone or muffin cases, you do not need to do this. If you use a tin, allow to cool for 15 minutes in the tin, then remove and invert on a cooling rack.
Tip No.4 Wrap in plastic and foil for storage.
Enjoy this with a sweet liqueur, such as amaretto, or a thick Italian Hot Chocolate as I did (it was the middle of the afternoon after all). I think this is a great, sophisticated bake to start your seasonal baking. Wrap in cellophane and it will make a lovely gift…
- 75ml warm water
- 20g instant active yeast (10g, then 10g)
- 600g plain flour (100g, then 500g)
- 115ml whole milk, warm
- 150g golden caster sugar
- 4 eggs plus 3 egg yolks (2 yolks, then 1 for egg wash)
- 1 teaspoon panettone extract (or lemon extract)
- 6 tbsp. limoncello
- 165g unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 300g candied peel
- 50g homemade candied lemon peel (see separate post)
- 1 orange, zest finely grated
- 1 lemon, zest finely grated
- 1 tbsp. double cream
- sprinkling of sugar nibs (optional)
- If using the homemade candied lemon peel, make this first, ideally a day ahead. If not, substitute for a further 50g of ready-bought candied peel.
- Pour the warm water into a bowl and sprinkle 10g (half of the overall quantity) of yeast over the water. Stir with a fork until it dissolves. Set aside for 10 minutes to stand and once it starts to foam, add 100g of flour and mix with the fork. You should have a thick paste. Cover with food wrap and allow to prove for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, pour the warm milk into another bowl and again sprinkle the remaining yeast over it. Once again, stir with a fork to dissolve. Allow to stand for 10 minutes.
- In a further bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs, 2 yolks, panettone (or lemon) extract and limoncello. Add the milk - yeast mixture and whisk.
- In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, mix the butter, salt and flour until it becomes a sandy consistency. Add the egg mixture and beat until smooth. Now add the proved water-yeast mixture and beat on high speed for about 10 minutes. The dough will become very elastic and stringy. Add the candied peel and citrus zest and mix until well combined. Tip the dough into a buttered bowl, cover and allow to prove for about two hours.
- If you are using tins or moulds, butter them thoroughly at this point. If you are using waxed paper cases as I have done, there is no need.
- Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and lightly dust the top with flour so that the dough is not too sticky in the division process. Divide the dough equally in two. Place dough portions in each case and allow to prove for another hour at least.
- Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C, or gas mark 5. Once proved, brush the tops of the panettone with the egg wash - the egg yolk and double cream beaten together. With a pair of scissors, cut a cross on the top of the dough. The dough will deflate at this stage but it will rise again nicely during the baking process. Sprinkle with sugar nibs (optional).
- Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 170 degrees C, or gas mark 3 for a further 40 minutes. If the panettone are browning too quickly on top, cover with foil. To test to see if they are baked properly, tap the base. If you have a hollow sound, they are ready.
- Remove from the oven. You will need to invert the panettone for the cooling process. This prevents the crust from sinking into the light structure of the loaf. If you are using paper cases, take two skewers and pierce them through the bottom of the cake and rest on two containers. If you are using tins, allow to cool in the tins for about 15 minutes, then remove and place upside down on a wire cooling rack.
- Store at room temperature and wrap in food wrap and foil to keep them fresh.
Source: Adapted from Martha Stewart’s ‘Baking Handbook’