Although panettone is a classic Italian bread very few Italians go to the bother of making it themselves. The reason becomes clear when you start to look at the recipe: there’s a lot of kneading and rising time involved. Why trouble yourself when excellent panettone is easily available from any of the many fine Bakeries in Italy?
But if you don’t happen to be in Italy and your local bakery doesn’t make it, don’t panic, as we have a recipe for you to try. We do advise using a Food Mixer with a dough hook if you have one rather than doing it by hand unless you particularly want to exercise your arm muscles! Unlike most breads, which will be allowed to rise twice, panettone is proven 3 times, so you also need to begin a long time before you want to eat it.
It’s generally accepted that panettone originated in Milan but how is a matter for discussion. There are those who will tell you that it was a love story that led to its creation.
A rich young man fell in love with the daughter of a poor baker. Knowing his family would not entertain the thought of an impoverished girl as his wife, he, in ways that are still argued over, helped the baker, Toni, to create a new bread rich in fruit and butter. This proved so popular that it made the baker’s fortune and the two young lovers were able to wed and live happily ever after. And the bread was named Pan de Toni after the baker.
Others will say that story is nonsense and that panettone was, in fact, invented at the court of the Duke of Milan, when at a Christmas feast the pudding destined for the table was accidentally burned and the only thing the chef had to offer the duke in its place was a sweet bread made from scraps by a young kitchen boy called Toni. It proved a great success and the duke named it after the boy.
There are other stories too about the creation of panettone but they’re far more boring and we know that now you really want to get down to baking it, so let’s go.
- 476g (1lb 1oz or 3½ cups) strong white flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 7 tablespoons caster sugar
- 7 tablespoons butter, softened
- 3 eggs
- 3 teaspoons fast action yeast
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 240ml (8fl oz or 1 cup) milk
- 100g (3½ oz or ½ cup) sultanas
- 110g (4oz or ½ cup) mixed peel
Sieve the flour and salt together into a large bowl. Add the sugar and the butter cut into pieces and begin mixing. Add the eggs, yeast and vanilla essence and continue mixing. Gradually add the milk and work until you have a soft elastic dough. (This will take 10 minutes or more.) If the dough is too wet, add more flour; if too dry add more milk.
Cover the bowl and leave in a warm place for about 1-2 hours for the dough to rise. When the dough has doubled in size, turn it out on to a floured surface, punch it back and knead well for another 10 minutes. Replace in the bowl, cover and return to a warm place to rise again.
When it’s doubled in size, turn out onto a floured surface and punch back again. Now it’s time to gently work in the sultanas and peel. Try not to bruise the sultanas as that will affect the finished texture.
Place the dough in a greased panettone or 8” round tin. Cover and let it rise again in a warm place.
While it’s rising, preheat the oven to 150°C, gas mark 2.
When the dough has doubled in size, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with flaked almonds. Bake for about 40 minutes or until it has a golden dome and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Serve cut in chunks with Italian coffee.