Our Italian friend and chef Valentina Harris told us recently that she only knows one Italian person who attempts making her own panettone each year... And the process includes draft-proofing her kitchen by blocking up all the windows and doors with eiderdown!
What exactly is panettone?
Where does panettone come from?
Valentina Harris also explains that one version of the history behind panettone states that it is simple ‘pan di toni’: or simply Toni’s bread.
The legend goes that ‘Toni’ was a baker in Milan who wanted to seduce his sweetheart with the most elaborate, decadent recipe he could create. And so the Pan de Toni / panettone was created, studded with rich candied fruit and packed full of butter and eggs.
Surely, this act of bakerly affection was successful? Either way, panettone has now become a staple of Italian Christmas. And a recipe loved across the world.
Is it hard to make panettone?
While panettone is a labour of love, requiring patience and precision, it's a rewarding endeavour. The multiple rises can seem daunting, but each step is crucial to achieving that perfect light texture..
Which flour for panettone?
The choice of flour is pivotal. Bread flour, high in gluten, is ideal for panettone. Its high protein content gives the bread its signature fluffy and airy texture.
How does panettone last so long?
Some say the double rising process helps to prolong panettone's shelf-life. And others attribute it to the high butter content, which keeps the dough soft. Plus many of the traditional fillings, such as candied fruit, have long shelf lives themselves.
Panettone is nearly always wrapped in an airtight packet - inside your beautiful tin or paper, there will be a plastic bag that is tightly sealed. This protects the dough, and ensures it will last (if unopened) for several weeks, if not months.
How do Italians make panettone?
Authenticity is the essence of panettone. Traditionally, a mother dough, fermenting over several hours, forms the heart of the recipe, creating its unique texture and taste.
After baking, to preserve its distinctive dome shape and delicate crumb structure, panettones are skewered through their bases and hung upside down.
This method prevents the bread's moist, airy interior from collapsing under its own weight, ensuring that each slice is perfect.
Here, we’ve gathered a few of our favourite expert recipes that walk you through exactly how to make panettone.
How to make panettone, the expert’s guide:
This recipe for traditional panettone from Andrea Tortora, on the Great British Chefs website takes two days, and includes the traditional Italian resting and proving times. It should give you a light and aerated dough, that tears into strips like mozzarella cheese.
Many bakers opt for a quick panettone recipe - more similar to a cake in texture. Try this recipe by Dan Lepard for soft, rich quick panettone. With a golden dough and loose crumb.
Or the BBC Food recipe for panettone enriched with butter, Marsala wine and soaked fruits. But ready in just one afternoon, rather than several days!
Baker Richard Bertinet talks through a step-by-step panettone recipe here, with helpful images of the exact dough texture to aim for. His recipe is another ‘quick’ version with a combined hands-on and cooking time of just 1hr 35.
Anna Glover’s recipe in olive magazine also uses fast-action yeast, in order to reduce the traditional 72-hour proving time. This recipe is topped with flaked almonds and golden caster sugar for extra crunch.
Mary Norwak’s recipe for the Women’s Institute in 1984 is brilliantly succinct.
While the Weekend Bakery recipe is extremely detailed, and also explains how to hang the panettone upside down using skewers as it cools. To achieve the optimum rise!