Festive Christmas Panettone – Part II – The Baking

Brace yourselves dear readers.   This is a long post.  It follows on from Festive Christmas Panettone – Part I – The Fruit Mix.  I have included lots of photos to hopefully make sense of what I’ve done along the way.  I hope they will make it easier to follow for anyone who is not used to working with yeast or if you’ve not made a panettone before.

Making great panettone requires some planning and  a lot of patience, although the real work involved is not that much.   Okay, there is a good deal of frantic and vigorous waiting around during the lengthy rising sessions (or catch some zzzz during the overnight proofing!).  You can cheat and let the dough rise for only a couple of hours each time, however, the long slow rise times do allow the dough to develop texture and flavour that you don’t get if you cheat.  I have to admit, this time around I feel like I’ve been making this panettone for at least a week 🙂  But then, I always have to do things the hard way!  It has been a lot of fun, also a little nerve-wracking, but totally worth every minute.  Even the washing up.  Which was rather time-consuming in itself 😦

Ideally, one would use a natural or ‘mother’ yeast, as a leaven for panettone, as this adds to the flavour as well as keeping qualities of the panettone.  Fresh yeast will still give a great result if you use the sponge method I’ve outlined below.  To be honest, when I make panettone, the idea is generally to eat it sooner than later and so keeping qualities are not exactly a major requirement.  I’ve not had the chance to find out if it lasts more than a few days let alone a couple of months.  Baker’s yeast does give the finished panettone a rather yeasty aroma and flavour but this dissipates if you leave it for a day or two before serving.

I’ve made panettone on many occasions but each time I vary what I do to improve it so it’s been a haphazard journey over the years.  This is the first time I’ve made it using really long proofing times, although I’ve used that method when making breads and focaccias in the past.  I’ve also been modifying the recipe over the years to make a panettone that is light but rich, soft and not at all dry.  Past attempts haven’t always been successful, with panettone that has sometimes been a little dry, even when quite light in texture.  Researching why keeps bringing me back to one’s ability to work more eggs and butter into the dough.  It’s apparently easier if you use natural yeast starter.  Well, yeah, okay.  I’ve upped the ante a bit for myself and sought to do just that here, using a sponge method.  I’ve managed to work more butter into the dough and used more egg yolks rather than whole eggs, although I suspect the increase in the quantity of the butter is the key.  In any case, this is my recipe based on lots of late night research and many experiments that resulted in failures, near misses, and some successes over the years.  It pays to have realistic expectations.  It’s quite a complicated cake to make but it’s worth persevering.

How did it turn out?  The best yet!  Seriously.  Lots of flavour and just the right amount of fruit and chocolate.  If you like it really choc-full of fruit, double the recipe for the Fruit Mix.  I have a new oven so I think I probably baked them just a little too long (it’s a fan forced which I’m still getting used to).  Definitely worth sharing.  Definitely worth all the extra effort and a mess in the kitchen.  Waiting for hours for the dough to proof gave me plenty of quality clean up time though …

Note that I set aside about 1/2 cup of flour for the final kneading by hand, below.  The reason for this is simple.  Flour is quite sensitive to temperature, altitude and humidity.  Anyone who makes bread on a regular basis knows that the amount of flour you need for a given recipe can vary a little as a result.  To that end, I’ve given a rough guide.  You will need to add some extra flour because the dough is very sticky.  Just add it gradually until the dough is still soft and silky but not completely sticking to the board or bench.  I found I needed about 1/2 cup.

I’ve also indicated that you can add either 6 egg yolks or 3 whole eggs for the second kneading.  The former will make for an even richer dough.

I also used my trusty Kitchen-Aid mixer to mix and knead the dough – the mixer paddle initially and then switching to the dough hook before adding the sponge in the first kneading.  Panettone requires a decent effort at kneading and to do it properly by hand (which I’ve tried before … OWW) takes some serious muscle and endurance.  So do that if you want an excuse to skip the gym  🙂

Makes: 1 very large panettone or 1 standard plus 3 individual-sized panettoni


For the sponge:
30 grams fresh yeast
2/3 cup lukewarm water
1 cup Italian tipo “00” or unbleached plain flour

For the first kneading:
185 grams unsalted butter at room temperature
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups Italian tipo “00” or unbleached plain flour

For the second kneading:
65 grams unsalted butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar                                                                                                                 2 tablespoons glucose syrup
grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon vanilla paste or 1 vanilla pod, scraped
6 egg yolks OR 3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups Italian tipo “00” or plain flour
1 quantity (400 grams) prepared Fruit Mix
1/2 cup good quality chocolate chips or couverture, chopped

extra flour for kneading, about 1/2 cup at least

small knob of unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the glaze:
100 grams sugar
50 millilitres water


For the sponge: Whisk the yeast into the lukewarm water.  Stir the yeast mixture into the flour using a whisk until smooth.  Cover and allow to ferment at room temperature for about 45 minutes, until almost tripled in volume.

For the first kneading: In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, beat the butter with the sugar until light.  Add one cup of the flour and beat on low to medium speed until incorporated.  Add the egg yolks and continue beating until the dough comes together.  Add the remaining two cups of flour and mix well on low-speed until fully incorporated.   Change to the dough hook on the mixer.  Add the sponge to the dough and knead the dough until it is shiny, smooth and elastic.  This will take some time, up to 20 minutes.  If you were to knead the dough by hand, it would take considerably longer!

Place the dough into a large lightly oiled bowl and allow to rise at room temperature for about 10 -12 hours (I leave it overnight).  Ideally, the temperature of the room should be about 25°C – 28°C.  In reality, our overnight room temperature this year dropped considerably lower than that (hello Melbourne, what about summer?).  I let the dough rise for about 13 hours.

For the second kneading: Deflate the risen dough and return to the bowl of the mixer.  Add the salt, sugar, glucose, orange zest, and vanilla to the dough and knead on the lowest speed until incorporated, using the dough hook.  Cut the butter into small pieces.  Add the butter and the egg yolks (or whole eggs) to the dough and knead until smooth.  Add the flour and again knead until smooth and elastic.  This will take time.  I give the dough a real shellacing with the mixer for a good 15 minutes or more.  Finally, add the fruit mix and chocolate and knead until incorporated evenly throughout the dough.

Turn the dough out on a floured surface.  It is sticky so might be hard to work with.  Make sure you flour your hands as well.  Finish off the kneading by hand as this ensures you evenly distribute the fruit and chocolate.

Form the dough into a round for strength and place it in the prepared mould.  I place the mould into a cake tin for extra stability during the last proofing.  If you don’t have a traditional paper panettone mould, see the notes below on creating a panettone mould.  It works really well and I used it for years before the paper moulds became available here in Australia.  Allow the dough to rise again at room temperature for about 6 hours.

I used a standard panettone paper mould and three small individual moulds as I wanted to make little ones for my folks for a breakfast the next day.

Preheat the oven at 190°C/375°C.

Slash a shallow X in the top of the panettone with a very sharp knife or razor and place a small pat of butter in the cut.  This step is optional but traditional.

Place the panettone in the oven and bake at 190°C until golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean.  For a large cake, this can take anywhere from 50 to 75 minutes or so, depending on the size of the panettone.  If your oven has a tendency to over-brown cakes and breads, place some foil over the top of the panettone once it achieves a rich colour.  Make sure the shiny side of the foil is facing outwards.  My new Ilve oven seems to do this for cakes that require long baking times and I have to admit, I waited a little too long before attaching the foil cover.  It didn’t hurt the panettone (cooked perfectly, no burning!  phew!) but the top of the large one was darker than I wanted.  Ah well, a valuable lesson learned …

When ready, remove the panettone from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.  In Italy, pasticcieri typically hang their panettoni for about 3 hours or so to prevent them collapsing.  Well, I can’t do that so a wire rack has to do.  So far, I’ve happily had no collapses.  Hopefully, they won’t be famous last words …

You can use small (individual) panettone moulds to make a batch of smaller panettoni for gifts.  Divide the dough after the second kneading and place in the moulds, and allow to rise as above.  Depending on your oven, bake for about 20-30 minutes.  Keep an eye on the panettoni to make sure you don’t overbake the smaller ones.

For the glaze: Place the sugar and water into a saucepan over low heat to dissolve the sugar.  Do not stir the syrup.  Bring to the boil and boil for a few minutes but do not allow the syrup to colour and caramelise.  Brush the hot syrup over the top of the panettone to give it a sugary and shiny glaze.

Store the panettone in a sealed plastic bag in an airtight container for up to a week.  Okay, it will probably keep a little longer than that, but I really don’t know.  It’ll probably disappear this weekend for Christmas.

Leftover panettone can be used in any manner of ways.  Toasted and topped with ricotta cream and fruit for breakfast, or used to make bread puddings and as a base for many desserts.  So it won’t go to waste.

Homemade panettone mould: Oh no!  I don’t have a panettone mould!  Don’t panic.  This is what I used to do before panettone paper moulds were available here in Australia.  To be honest, it was much more successful at preventing any over-browning and gives a great result.

I used a high-sided 20cm/8-inch round cake tin with sides about 4 inches high. If you don’t have one, use a standard 2 inch high tin, but you will need to make a taller reinforced paper and foil collar.  I also lined the base with a double thickness of non-stick baking paper and lined the sides with it as well, making the collar stand up several inches above the rim of the pan.  For added strength, I made a foil collar which I tied around the outside of the pan to stop the dough bending over the paper collar during the last rise.  I tied the foil collar securely to the underneath of the cake tin with string.  Make sure you use standard string that is okay to place in the oven (ie not plastic or chemically treated).  When risen, the dough should reach the top of the paper collar, making the panettone about 6 – 8 inches in height.


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