You see panettone in all the Italian shops at Christmas time…in huge boxes, or wrapped in brightly-coloured film. They are entirely impractical to carry, therefore immediately mark themselves out as a luxury. I love the soft, fluffy cake, the icing sugar on top and the fruit and citrus, which is so different from a dense, dark British Christmas cake. Thing is…for years, making them properly has eluded me, so they have always seemed like a “too hard to make yourself” cake.
I tried making panettone again last year, and while I had managed to get the taste spot on, the dough did not really rise, so I had a rather heavy fruit bread rather than the light fluffy panettone that you would buy. So did this mean I should give in and go to a shop? Well, determined to give it one final attempt, I took the lazy man’s option: I would be sure that the dough would get a good kneading by putting everything in a bread machine. I would then sit on the sofa while someone (something) else does all the hard work, while I hope for the best.
Dough made, I though I would get clever with this, and remarkably, it worked! I put six small balls of dough into a canelé mould, and hoped to get six mini-panettone to eat in the coming days for breakfast. The remaining two-thirds of the dough went towards making one large panettone. Happily, this all went swimmingly, and you can see my handywork below, complete with a liberal dusting of icing sugar, with a star shape on top to keep the festive theme going.
Finally, I am happy that I have nailed the panettone. It was clear that the bread machine had ensured that the dough had been properly worked, and the result was soft and stretchy, and when I put it into moulds, it puffed up brilliantly. Once in the oven, it kept going, forming lovely golden domes of bready goodness, studded with sultanas and cubes of citrus peel.
I have been enjoying slices of this bread with breakfast over the last few days, and am seriously thinking of making another one for this weekend’s Christmas drinks at my house. It is as light and fluffy as a nutmeg-infused citrus and sultana cloud. Was this like mama would make back in the village in Italy? Maybe not. But I think it’s pretty darn good, and everyone so far seems to like it. Plus, no awkward boxes to carry back home.
And if there is any left on Sunday, this is going into a panettone bread and butter pudding. Mmmmmmmh!
To make panettone (one medium plus six mini loaves, or one large loaf):
• 2 eggs
• 150ml milk
• 75g butter
• 50g sugar
• Large pinch freshly ground nutmeg
• Pinch of salt
• Zest of 1 lemon
• Zest of 1 orange
• 1 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast
• 400g strong white flour
• 150g dried fruit (raisins, sultanas)
• 75g candied peel, diced
Put the eggs and milk into a bowl, and mix well with a whisk.
Pour the milk/egg mixture into the bread machine tin, and add the butter, sugar, nutmeg, salt and zest. Add the flour, and sprinkle the yeast on top.
Put the tin into the bread machine, and switch on the dough cycle. Place the dried fruit and chopped citrus peel in the raisin dispenser, or add at the right moment in the cycle.
Once the dough is ready, prepare a deep cake tin (or saucepan) by greasing lightly with butter, and line with greaseproof paper(*). Take the dough out of the machine, form into a ball, and press into the tin. Leave in a warm place, covered with a damp teacloth or clingfilm, for about one hour until the dough has reached to top of the tin.
In the meantime, preheat the oven at 180°C (350°F). Once the panettone has risen, bake for 45 minutes until risen and golden, and sounds hollow when tapped (20-25 minutes for smaller loaves). If the top is browning too quickly, cover loosely with tin foil.
(*) If you are making mini-panettone, use a silicone mould, and grease well with butter or non-stick spray.