Panettone is an extraordinarily rich Milanese Christmas cake that also keeps quite well: Traditionally, the Milanese set aside a slice to enjoy on San Biagio, February 3. Panettone is one of the most involved and difficult Italian cakes, and most Italians buy their panettoni from bakeries, or at supermarkets. However, you may want to make a Panettone, and this is a relatively easy home recipe.
- 3 cups less 2 tablespoons (350 g) flour
- 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons (125 g) unsalted butter
- the grated zest of 1 organically grown lemon
- 1/4 pound (100 g) sultana raisins, plumped in warm water and drained well
- 4/5 cup (80 g) sugar
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 2 ounces (60 g) baker's yeast (live yeast cakes)
- 4 eggs, separated
- 2 ounces (60 g, or about 3/4 cup) candied fruit peel, diced
- a pinch of salt
Dissolve the yeast in a little warm water, and combine it with 7/8 cup flour. Knead well, form the dough into a loaf, make an X in the top of the loaf, wrap the loaf in a cloth, and let it rise in a warm place for about 25 minutes.
Combine the loaf with 1 1/8 cups flour and the milk. Knead until the dough is smooth and homogenous, form it into a loaf, and wrap it in the cloth. Put it to rise in a warm place for 2 hours.
Put the sugar in a bowl and dissolve it with a little hot water, thus obtaining a syrup. Beat in the yolks, one at a time, and about half an egg white. Keep the mixture warm over a double boiler, but do not let it cook.
Melt 1/2 cup of butter.
Make a mound of the remaining flour in a bowl and scoop a well into it. Put the risen dough in the well, together with the melted butter, the grated lemon zest, a pinch of salt, and the warm syrup mixture. Mix energetically for 15 minutes, adding, if need be, a little warm water; the dough should be firm and elastic. Incorporate the raisins (squeeze them to make sure they are well drained) and the candied fruit into the dough. Shape the dough into a ball and put it in a bowl, in a warm place. Let it rise until it has doubled in volume.
Preheat your oven to 440 F (220 C). Melt the remaining butter.
Put the dough into a high-sided mold lined with buttered oven parchment, make an X on the top of it, and bake it for about an hour. After 10 minutes, carefully pour the melted butter into the X on top of the panettone and continue to bake it until it is done, gradually lowering the oven temperature somewhat as the top browns.