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Traditional Panettone Recipe (Italian Christmas Cake)

Traditional Panettone Recipe (Italian Christmas Cake) consists of a sweet and tender orange-scented sweet dough studded with candied fruits and raisins. You will want to devour this buttery bread for every special occasion!

  • Total Time: 2 hours + rise times
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale

*Important: use a kitchen scale and measure your ingredients in grams. It is more precise. Panettone molds small (makes 2) Panettone Paper Pan Mold - Small - 500gr - 5-1/4" x 3-3/4". Panettone Mold large  (makes 1) Large 1 Kg - 6-5/8" x 4-5/16". I used the large. 

The night before baking:

DOUGH STARTER 

  • 3/4 cup (90 g) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more if needed to feed the starter
  • 1/16 teaspoon (just a pinch) of instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup (80 g) of cool water

MIX-INS

  • 1/2 tablespoon grated zest of (about 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon grated zest of (about 1 orange)
  • 2 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Baking day

FOR THE DOUGH 

  • All of the dough starter (above)
  • 3 cups (384 g) all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 cup (135 g) of lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup (67 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon (8 g) salt
  • 5 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons (113 g) butter, softened

MIX-IN (see notes for variations)

  • 1/2 cup (85 g) raisins + 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup (85 g) candied orange peel, finely chopped

TOPPING

  • 1 egg, beaten (egg wash)
  • 1 pat of butter for topping
  • Pearl sugar

Instructions

The night before baking

  1. Dough Starter: Combine the starter ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix with a fork until a shaggy mixture. Cover, and allow it to rest in a warm place for 8-12 hours. This is called your biga- a type of pre-fermentation. You can also use a sourdough starter if you have some and skip this step (use 190 g of the starter if you have it already).
  2. Prepare Mix-Ins: In a small bowl, combine the honey, vanilla extract, orange peel, and lemon + orange zest. Mix to combine. Cover and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine raisins with water. Cover and set aside. This step makes sure the raisins stay moist during baking. Let them rest overnight. 

Baking day

  1. Dough Part 1 and 1st rise: in a stand mixer with a dough hook, combine the dough starter (biga), half of the flour, and all of the water and yeast. Mix until combined, and knead with the dough hook (or by hand) for about 5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour in a warm place. The dough should triple in size. 
  2. Dough Part 2: After the dough rises for 1 hr, add the rest of the flour and mix to combine. The dough will look shaggy and crumbly. Let rest for 10 minutes. 
  3. Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl until fluffy and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add the honey, candied orange, and zest mixture to the beaten eggs and stir until combined.
  4. Slowly add the egg and orange mixture to the dough. Mix with a dough hook until the dough is sticky and uniform; mix with a dough hook (or by hand) for about 5 minutes. The dough will be sticky, and it will take a couple of minutes for it to come together! If the dough is too wet and not coming together, add a bit of flour. 
  5. Add the butter to the dough, small bits at a time, mixing after each addition. Mix dough with a dough hook (or by hand) until a smooth dough forms (still sticky). After the butter is incorporated, add the raisins (remove excess water, if any). Gently mix until the raisins are incorporated into the dough.  Make the dough into a ball. Move the dough to a clean and greased bowl.
  6. Dough Rise 2. Cover the dough, and let it rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until it's puffy or proofed and doubled in size. Gently deflate the dough.
  7. Fold Dough (see the video in this post for a visual view). Move to a greased baking sheet or countertop (do not add extra flour use greased hands to work with dough). Start clockwise- by taking the top corner of the dough (12 o'clock position) pinch a corner of the dough and lift it up and let the dough stretch by lifting your hands up. Fold the stretched dough back on itself (6 pm location). Turn the dough clockwise so (your 12 o'clock position is now the 3 pm location). Repeat the same process of stretching and folding the dough onto itself 3 times total. This is a fast process that takes about 1 minute from start to finish.
  8.  Let the dough rest for 10-15 minutes and repeat the folding process 2 more times with these exact directions of stretching and folding.
  9. Shape Dough. Bring the corners in toward the center to form a ball, and pinch the loose ends together. Cup your hands around the dough to round the ball. Place it in a well-buttered or sprayed panettone pan, mold paper, or other straight-sided, tall 1 1/2- to 2-quart pan.
  10. Dough Rise 3. Let the dough rise in a warm place until it reaches over the rim of the mold, about 1 1/2- 2 hours (time varies depending on humidity and temperature). You want the dough just at the rim or slightly above the mold. When the rise is complete, brush the top with egg wash. Make cross cuts on the panettone with a sharp knife, and put a small pat of butter in the center of the cake. Sprinkle with the desired amount of pearl sugar (optional).
  11. Bake. Bake the cake in a preheated 375°F oven for 10 minutes; then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for about 40 minutes, tenting with aluminum foil if the top of the panettone appears to be browning too fast.
  12. When finished baking, the Panettone bread or cake should be a deep brown color. It will sound hollow when tapped and will read 190°F at the center using a digital thermometer. It's easy to underbake panettone since the top can brown quickly. Remove the panettone from the oven and cool completely.
  13. Rest. To cool the panettone- pierce each side with a bamboo skewer (or these panettone hangers), flip it over, and hang it between two tall jars. Hanging it upside down for a few hours prevents the panettone from caving in on itself. You do not have to cool it upside down. You can cool it on a cooling rack. 
  14. Storage. Store at room temperature, well-wrapped, for up to a week; freeze for longer storage.

Notes

Top Tips for Panettone Recipe

  • Use room temperature ingredients. Room temperature ingredients for baking give optimal results.
  • Make sure you are working with yeast that is NOT expired, or you will do a lot of work for nothing ;).
  • Follow the recipe exactly and be patient with the dough rising at the different stages. Find the warmest place in your home, or use a proofing oven.
  • Use a kitchen scale and measure your ingredients.
  • Hydrate the raisins in a bit of water, or they will be dry.
  • Baker's Secret: When the bread is cooling poke it with two long metal or wooden skewers about 3-4 cm from the base. Then, let it rest upside down to cool completely. This will prevent the bread from collapsing while cooling.

Mix-in Variations 

  • Chocolate Chip - add chocolate chips (I love dark chocolate chips)
  • Pistachio Cranberry Panettone - dried cranberries, pistachios, orange zest
  • Black Forest Panettone - dried cherries, candied orange, chocolate chip
  • Rum-Soaked Raisins - use rum soaked raisins instead of soaking them in water

  • Author: Elena Davis
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes active time + overnight rise time
  • Cook Time: 55 minutes
  • Category: Sweet
  • Method: Italian
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: panettone, Italian Christmas cake, Italian bread, sweet bread, traditional panettone