The experiment – Panettone

Panettone is the most elegant take on the Christmas sweet…

Panettone is the most elegant take on the Christmas sweet. It isn’t a cake but a bread which literally translates as ‘little big bread’. Originating from Milan, it is the national Christmas cake of Italy. A myth exists that a Milanese baker called Toni created the Panettone when baking for a rich family. It became a Christmas tradition due to baker Angelo Motta, who between the wars lucratively advertised the Panettone through platforms such as The Giro D’Italia, where the winning cyclist of each stage was awarded a giant Panettone.

Alongside the German Stollen and the chocolate Yule Log, this is a bread which is setting a new trend for something ‘else’ on Christmas day. In comparison to the brandy fed British cake it’s quicker, lighter and less of a hassle.

No UK celebrity chef has shown us how to make it. Even ITV’s Italian import Gino D’Acampo has left the way unmarked, and so naturally the calibre of recipes available to us is low with variations amongst them being high. Responses on the internet suggest that the bread is notoriously difficult to get right, and so an element of excitement comes from testing your abilities and sheer luck with the yeast and your kneading technique.

This recipe is based on Shehezerade Goldsmith’s mini Panettone recipe. You can add rum, fresh fruit zest, dried cranberries, and vanilla extract but the basic recipe is a good place to start. The great thing about a Panettone is its stout nature; you can really play with it and experiment with the flavours that dot your bread.

I’ve swapped the recipe’s little moulds for a cooking pot because the fun of a Panettone comes from its sheer size. It is a centre piece to slice or grab.

A bucket is great to achieve a dome like shape for Christmas, and a deep cake tin will give the look of a traditional Milanese Panettone. This recipe should serve 12.

Ingredients: 500g white bread flour

½ tsp salt

2x 7g sachets of easy to use yeast

120ml lukewarm milk

2 medium eggs

2 medium egg yolks

160g butter softened

85g caster sugar

115g chopped mixed peel

75g raisins

A bucket with just over 2litre capacity/ deep cake tin

1) Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, add the salt and make a well in the centre.

2) In another bowl, whisk together the yeast, milk and whole eggs. Pour this into the well, fold in a little of the surrounding flour to make a batter. Leave to rest for 30 minutes.

3) Add the egg yolks, butter and sugar and mix them and the rest of the flour into the batter with a fork. Then bind everything together into a ball with your hands.

4) Knead the dough for 5 minutes (to knead, press and stretch the dough away from you, then lift the edges into the middle, give it a quarter turn and repeat). Leave to rest in a warm place for 1½-2 hours or until doubled in size. Scatter over the peel and raisins and gently knead these in.

5) Grease and line your chosen tin with greaseproof paper and pour the mixture in. Avoid leaving dried fruit exposed on the surface of the breads as this may burn during cooking and turn bitter. Set aside, covered with a dry tea towel, and rest for 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/gas 4.

6) Brush the top of the bread with melted butter and bake for around an hour, give or take. When it starts to brown on top, cover with tin foil to avoid burning.

What to do with left overs:

Panettone and marmalade bread and butter pudding

Panettone trifle

Toast with butter or jam

Dip in with a glass of milk

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