Classic Christmas Italian Panettone

Classic Christmas Italian Panettone

The Spruce / Yana Karin

  • Total: 2 hrs 5 mins
  • Prep: 40 mins
  • Cook: 85 mins
  • Chilling & Rising: 15 hrs
  • Servings: 10 to 14 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
470 Calories
21g Fat
60g Carbs
9g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10 to 14
Amount per serving
Calories 470
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 21g 26%
Saturated Fat 11g 56%
Cholesterol 124mg 41%
Sodium 212mg 9%
Total Carbohydrate 60g 22%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 23g
Protein 9g
Vitamin C 1mg 4%
Calcium 53mg 4%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 279mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

From the Italian panetto or small cake, panettone is a large fruity enriched sweet bread, offered typically during Christmas throughout Italy and in Italian communities around the world. Originated in Milan, it is a large, dome-shaped cake that has been leavened with yeast. It has a slightly light and airy texture but a rich and buttery taste, and is not very sweet. The jury is still out on whether panettone is a cake or a bread because it's both as chewy as a loaf of bread and as fruity and sweet as a fruit cake. Pandoro, another Italian Christmas bread, is often confused with panettone but is a star-shaped golden cake, without any dried fruit, from the city of Verona.

Filled with dried fruits and candied peels, spongy panettone needs care and attention, but making it is not as difficult as it might seem, as our straightforward recipe shows. Sliced or pulled by hand, alone or with butter, cream, or fruit preserves, don't miss out on this wonderful dessert, great for brunches, coffee, and tea times.

Ingredients

For the Fruit:

  • 10 ounces mixed dried fruits (currants, raisins, cranberries, dried cherries)

  • 4 ounces candied lemon and orange peel (finely chopped)

  • 2 ounces candied cherries

  • 6 tablespoons Cointreau (or your favorite liqueur or fruit juice)

For the Dough:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dry yeast

  • 6 ounces milk

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 4 cups strong bread flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 6 large large eggs

  • 10 ounces unsalted butter

  • 1 ounce almonds

Steps to Make It

Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this panettone is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

Prepare the Fruit

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    dry raisins, dry fruit, dry cherries, Cointreau on a wood board

    The Spruce / Yana Karin

  2. Put all the dried and candied fruits into a bowl and mix thoroughly.

    cherries and raisins in a large glass bowl, Cointreau in a glass container, dry fruit

    The Spruce / Yana Karin

  3. Pour in the Cointreau, mix again.

    pouring Cointreau in to a large glass bowl of raisins, dry fruit and dry cherries

    The Spruce / Yana Karin

  4. Cover, and store in a cool dark place overnight. Do not refrigerate.

    dried fruit and Cointreau in a large glass bowl, covered with plastic wrap

    The Spruce / Yana Karin

Prepare the Dough

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Classic Christmas Italian Panettone ingredients, yeast, milk, sugar, flour, water, butter, almonds, salt, eggs

    The Spruce / Yana Karin

  2. Warm up 5 ounces of the milk to lukewarm temperature. Reserve the remaining ounce of milk in the fridge. In a heatproof jug or bowl, sprinkle the dry yeast over the warmed milk, stir in the sugar, and leave to one side for 5 minutes.

    yeast and milk mixture in a white bowl

    The Spruce / Yana Karin

  3. Tip the flour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Sprinkle the salt into one side of the bowl. Pour in the frothy yeast mixture onto the other side—salt should never come into direct contact with dry or fresh yeast as it will kill the yeast, making the bread dense and hard.

    dry yeast over the warmed milk and sugar in a bowl

    The Spruce / Yana Karin

  4. Mix the flour, salt, and yeast at slow speed to combine the ingredients. Add 5 of the eggs, turn the mixer to medium speed and continue mixing until the dough smooths out, although it will become sticky.

    dough in a stand mixer

    The Spruce / Yana Karin

  5. Cut 9 ounces of the softened butter into bite-sized chunks. Raise the speed of the mixer and add the butter a few pieces at a time.

    butter added to dough in a stand mixer

    The Spruce / Yana Karin

  6. Let the mixer continue to run for at least 5 more minutes. The dough will turn glossy and even smoother and so soft and airy that it will be impossible to handle. This is the texture that you're looking for.

    dough in a stand mixer bowl

    The Spruce / Yana Karin

  7. Grease a large baking bowl or dish with 1/2 ounce of the remaining butter. To retain the maximum amount of air, let the dough slide down into the greased bowl by its own weight. Do not force it out.

    pouring dough into a glass container

    The Spruce / Yana Karin

  8. Scrape down any leftover dough with a soft spatula. Cover the greased bowl with a lid or tightly with plastic wrap and put it into a very cool place, preferably the fridge, and leave to proof overnight—the cold, long, slow rise will deliver the lightest of cakes. Slow is always better, and the result is a light and airy cake with a soft crumb.

    dough in a glass container covered with plastic wrap

    The Spruce / Yana Karin

Make the Panettone

  1. Place dough on a floured work surface and spread out into a rectangular shape. Strain the soaked fruits through a fine sieve, discard the juice. Place half of the fruits onto the spread-out dough.

    spread out dough on a wood board

    The Spruce / Yana Karin

  2. Strain the soaked fruits through a fine sieve, discard the juice. Place half of the fruits onto the spread-out dough.

    dry fruit spread out on the dough

    The Spruce / Yana Karin

  3. Fold the dough over the fruits and lightly roll the dough around to evenly distribute the fruit. Spread the dough again and repeat as before with the remaining fruit. The dough will be lumpy and knobbly, but look out for clusters of fruit and give them another roll around to redistribute it, if needed.

    dry fruit spread out on top of dough

    The Spruce / Yana Karin

  4. Form the dough into a roughly shaped ball.

    dough with dry fruit shaped into a ball

    The Spruce / Yana Karin

  5. Grease a 7-inch panettone tin or panettone paper case with the remaining 1/2 ounce of butter. If you have neither of these, use a regular cake tin, but line the base and sides with greaseproof paper standing at least 2 inches above the rim.

    greasing paper

    The Spruce / Yana Karin

  6. Drop the dough into the center of the tin, tuck the almonds into the surface of the cake, and cover loosely with a tea cloth. 

    panetone dough with almonds on top

    Spruce Eats

  7. Proof the cake in a warm place for 2 to 3 hours until the dough is well risen and rising above the tin. If 3 hours isn't enough, give it enough time: The key here is to have the rise above the rim of the tin or case.

    proof panetone

    The Spruce

  8. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Mix the remaining egg with the remaining ounce of milk and brush over the surface of the cake. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 300 F and cook for a further 40 minutes. The panettone is ready when a skewer comes out clean from the middle part of the cake.

    brush panetone with egg mixture before baking

    The Spruce

  9. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes in the tin on a cooling rack, then remove and leave it to cool completely.

    Classic Christmas Italian Panettone on a metal cooling rack

    The Spruce / Yana Karin

    What Is an Enriched Dough?

    An enriched dough is one that has more ingredients than the basic yeast, flour, salt, and water. Eggs, sugar, milk, and/or butter are added to the dough. The addition of these enrichments makes the dough very heavy but also helps the final texture be really airy and fluffy, like our panettone, challah, or stollen. Enriched doughs need enough time to proof, once after mixing and once after shaping.

    Additional Flavors and Substitutions

    • Soaking the fruit in Cointreau or any liqueur of your liking enhances the flavor of the cake. But even without it, the panettone will be delicious. If alcohol is not your thing, or the cake is for children, then substitute orange or apple juice for the Cointreau.
    • Our recipe is for the classic combination of fruits and thereby flavor. You can choose the fruits in any proportion you prefer, or avoid one or more altogether.
    • Switch out the almonds on the top of the cake for walnuts or cashews. Or leave out the nuts altogether and sprinkle with pearl sugar.
    • Although not a part of the classic recipe, adding chocolate chips complements really well the fruity flavor of the cake. If chocolate is your thing, add 3/4 cup of semisweet chocolate chips at the same time you incorporate the dried fruit.

    How to Store Panettone

    • The cake is delicious eaten fresh and keeps well in an airtight tin for a week at room temperature. It also freezes well for up to two months. Thaw slowly in the refrigerator overnight and slightly warm up in the oven, avoiding crisping up the bread.

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