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Panettone

I like panettone. I mean, I like anything you can toast and put butter on, but as a festive food it has a special place in my heart for one very particular reason: it isn’t Christmas pudding.

There’s this whole screed I’ll do after a few drinks (and if I’m feeling mean-spirited) about Office Banter Blokes ordering roast turkey “with all the trimmings – got to be done, mate!”, followed by Christmas pudding, and masticating their way through it with that bloodless performative jollity that masculinity lets you have instead of fun.

But mostly, I just find Christmas cakes and puddings a bit heavy. Panettone makes a great alternative.

Here’s the panettone I make. It’s not super authentic – a “proper” one would have a slow sour early ferment, for fluffiness and taste. But you can fake a little of that with an overnight prove and some orange zest, which is what I do here.

It’s not the easiest thing to make, and it’s messy as balls, but it’s kind of fun.

Ingredients:

  • Flour, 500g
  • Butter, 250g (room temperature)
  • Eggs, 5 medium, plus 1 for glazing
  • Raisins, 50g
  • Dried apricots (chopped), 75g
  • Sultanas, 100g
  • Candied peel, 100g
  • Optional: flaked almonds, 50g
  • Milk, 80ml
  • Caster sugar, 80g
  • Zest of 1 lemon & 1 orange
  • Yeast, 14g sachet
  • Salt 5g
  • Vanilla extract, 1/4tsp
  • Soaking booze for the fruit, about 50ml (rum is common, I like to mix a sweet Manhattan)

Gear:

I don’t often recommend equipment (see note on mixers), but this will be much, much easier if you have a high-sided cake tin. I use one about 20cm (internal diameter) by about 9cm tall.

Also essential are a couple of sturdy metal skewers, and either a large tall saucepan, comfortably wider and taller than the cake tin, or some kind of table or board with a hole cut in it. Panettone cools upside-down.

Panettone dough

I use – and I cannot stress enough how helpful it is here – a cheap-ass plastic dough scraper. They’re brilliant. You’re about to face angry batter in single combat – this is your shield.

This recipe is for doing it all by hand, no mixer, like a crazy person. So, uh, I hope you like getting your hands dirty.

There’s a best-guess stand mixer adaptation at the end.

Instructions:

This is a two-day recipe. Sorry. It honestly, honestly looks longer and more complicated than it is.

The two days are to give you a nice slow overnight prove for the dough. It’s a flavour thing, and a good way to not be tied to the kitchen for a whole day. You can probably replace that with any arbitrary 6-8 hour interval in the fridge, or 2-3 at room temperature, but I find overnight convenient.

Day 1

Zest the citrus. Beat the eggs. Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth and light.

Warm the milk a little (hand-hot), and add the yeast and 1tsp of the sugar. Leave for 5-10 mins for the yeast to activate.

Stir the zest and vanilla into the butter mix, and then gradually work in the eggs, along with 1tbsp of the flour (this helps stop it splitting). I use a whisk for this part.

Put the flour in a nice big mixing bowl, and add the yeast, salt, and the egg and butter mix to it, and work it into a dough. I start with a wooden spoon and quickly get my hands in.

The dough is incredibly sticky, to start with. More like a gluey and resilient batter than anything you’ll know from making bread. Don’t worry, it comes together. A bit.

Panettone dough

When everything’s amalgamated, don’t keep stirring expecting it to form a nice clean ball. Just scoop it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead the hell out of it.

It’ll be gooey and stick to your fingers. It’s more like stretching and plucking at it than kneading, to start with. It may seem hopeless. But gradually, over the course of the first 10 mins or so, those glutens will start to form, and it’ll feel firmer and silkier under the hand. It’ll still be sticky, but you’ll be able to kind of pick it up.

Knead for at least 15 minutes, until it firms a little, and resist the temptation to add too much flour. Sure, keep a dusting on the worktop and your hands, but don’t heap it in there. Trust the alarming bread Shoggoth. It’ll come around.

Once you’re happy(ish) with it, put it in a bag or tub in the fridge overnight. It should more or less double in bulk.

You’re nearly done for the day. Just soak the fruit. Chop the apricots if they’re whole. If you’re using rum or argmnac or something, measure it out. Otherwise make a sweet-ish Manhattan, reserve about 50ml of it, and drink the rest with your feet up, after all that kneading. Put all the fruit and soaking booze in a container, and leave it overnight too.

Day 2

Take the dough out of the fridge. If it’s not pretty much doubled, leave it for an hour or so and it’ll perk up as it warms. But ideally you want to be working it cool-ish for this part, as the colder, more solid butter makes it easier than yesterday.

Grease a tall-sided baking tin, and line it with greaseproof or baking paper. Line it a 4-5 centimetres above the edge of the tin – panettone rises.

If “line a tin” sounds like I’m making a bunch of assumptions about WT precise F you know how to do, here’s Delia.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough, and scatter over the fruit and candied peel. Fold it together and give it a knead until it’s mixed.

Shape it into a round and put it into the tin.

Panettone, rising

Cover the tin with a large, slightly oiled plastic bag, leaving plenty of room at the top for rising. I usually end up using a bin bag for this, puffed up with a bit of air. It needs to be covered to rise, to stop the top drying out.

Leave it to rise at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Depending on how warm it is, this could need more like 3 or 4. Heck, it could be closer to 1 if you’re doing this in summer for some reason. But you want it to something like double in size again, and then a bit. We’re looking for it to form a nice dome, a little above the edge of the tin.

Heat the oven to 180c.

Brush the top carefully with beaten egg. Now make a shallow cross-wise score over the top of the panettone with a sharp knife. This is one of those lovely form-follows-function touches where yes, it makes it look good, but its’ also about stabilising the shape and structure as it rises. It’ll puff up in the oven, and could collapse or come lop-sided, so the cross-wise score lets some steam out and keeps it evenly shaped.

Put it in the oven for 20 mins, then reduce the heat to 150c for another 40 mins.

At this point it should be done, but you can test it by plunging in a skewer and seeing if it comes away clean. If not, give it another 5-10 mins, but try not to overbake.

It will brown heavily on top (that’s largely the sugar), but you can reduce that by making it a little foil hat, shiny side out, and popping it on top after that initial 20 mins, to deflect some heat.

Once it’s done, you’re… still not done. One more step.

Panettone has a soft, light structure, and it’s just risen crazy tall. If you leave this to cool normally, it’ll sag like the favoured armchair of a maiden aunt. So we get creative.

Panettone cooling

Take the panettone out of the oven and let it cool for just a few minutes. Get it out of the tin, and find that large, tall saucepan I mentioned way back when. Near the outside edge of the cake, and about a quarter of the way up from the bottom, stick a skewer through it on each side, and use these to balance it upside-down in the pot.

This helps it keep its shape as it cools.

Now you’re done. Pretty cool, huh?

…and with a stand mixer?

Basically, just do The Paul Hollywood recipe on the BBC site.

There’s also Chef John on Food Wishes (with a handy video).

Briefly, though, to adapt this one, combine all of the Day 1 dough ingredients except the butter (flour, yeast, milk, eggs, sugar, salt) and work them together with the mixer’s dough hook, for about 5 mins. This gives the gluten a good run up before you ruin its day with the butter.

Add the butter, and work it for about 10 minutes more.

Fingers crossed, you should be able to prove it in the fridge at this point, and resume the rest of the recipe. I still like to handle it a bit because I get paranoid about the texture.

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