I love panettone. I feel like it mostly get's a bad reputation because of the prepackaged ones that come out during the holidays but when I finally made one myself it's so much better. It first got ingrained in my head from watching Coco Peru videos. She's a hilarious drag queen, go look her up. But she has this distinct way of saying panettone that I can't not say. It's a little nasally (Sorry Coco!), kind of like a Jewish mother from New York, but I love it and it's so fun to say with a big explanation point at the end. It's a PANETTONE!!
Now fun story. A couple years ago when I was first trying to make a good panettone at home, I whipped out my recipe from school and tried just making it smaller and doing it in my mixer. Big mistake. Home mixers aren't made like industrial ones and after mixing the dough slightly it got tough and my mixer burned out.... This is why I have a backup mixer to pull out if anything happens like that again. But then I had to figure out a new way to make my panettone...
I looked around at what other people did and different ways of making such an enriched dough with eggs, sugar, and butter. Pretty much this recipe is where I have gotten to. Rather than starting with the dry ingredients and water then incorporating the eggs and butter after forming some gluten, I've turned to mixing for longer and allowing the gluten development to take more time to ease the pressure on the mixer. It does take a bit to mix, and the mixer will heat up so I don't make anything else around the time I do this so the mixer can rest and cool. I'm not looking to burn one out again... But in return for the time mixing you get this silky dough that is so soft after it bakes and it's worth every second of mixing. Check out the recipe below and I'll get into more details after.
80g All Purpose Flour
Pinch Dry Instant Yeast
275g All Purpose Flour
60g Water, warm
2 ea Eggs
65g Unsalted Butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1 tsp Fiori di Sicilia
2 ½ tsp Osmotolerant Yeast (or 1 tbsp and ⅓ tsp Dry Active)
70g Granulated Sugar
1 tsp Salt
As Needed Dried Fruit and Nuts
1 ea Orange, zested
Make the starter by mixing the water, flour, and yeast. Cover and let rest at room temp overnight (8-12 hours).
The next day, mix the starter with the flour, water, eggs, sugar, yeast, salt, and fiori di sicilia. Mix into a soft dough with a dough hook, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the butter and continue to mix with a dough hook on medium speed until butter breaks down and mixes in. This can take some time but let it mix for awhile. About 8-10 minutes.
Once it is smooth, soft, and supple, place into a greased bowl and cover with a damp towel. Rest to proof for 1 ½ hours.
Deflate the dough on a lightly floured surface and pat into a rectangle about 1-inch thick.
sprinkle with desired fruits, nuts, and orange zest. Fold over and knead slightly to incorporate.
Shape into a ball and place into a 6-inch panettone pan. Cover and proof for 2-3 hours, until it just barely reaches the top of the pan but doesn't go above it.
Bake in a preheated 400℉ oven for 10 minutes. Then reduce temp and finish at 350℉ for 25-35 minutes until top is golden and cooked through.
Remove from oven and allow to cool, ideally invert to maintain open crumb.
Okay so let's talk a bit more about this lovely dough. I will say this is very similar to a brioche, so if you've done that kind of dough before you may see how this recipe works. Most breads we use warm liquids to make the yeast happy but with this one the water can be a little warm but the eggs and butter are best kept cold. When doughs mix they produce heat from the friction in the bowl. This can be a lot or little based on the dough and how long it mixes. Most doughs don't have too much heat but this one mixes for up near 10 minutes and that will create some good heat. Keeping the eggs and butter cold allows the dough to not get overly hot and harm the yeast while also keeping the butter fats from fully melting and creating an oily dough rather than a supple dough.
For the preferment, there is a way to mess with this. Traditionally I see a lot of panettone made with pasta madre, or in other terms sourdough starter. Pasta madre is a thicker form of starter that is almost like a pasta and is fermented in water. As it builds gas it floats and then you pull what you need and feed the remains. At the end of the day it's very similar to a standard liquid starter like I have. I've also seen a lot of how-to's about switching your starter from a thinner to a thicker and back again based on what your recipe needs. Since I made this recipe with a simple poolish style preferment you can substitute it with your starter and this is what I do all the time. Rather than plan a day ahead and make the preferment, I make the panettone in one day by using starter. Just keep the weight the same and it works beautifully.
I also want to talk more about the yeast. I use Osmotolerant yeast. Oh my goodness. What the heck is that? Let's break down that word real quick. Osmo-tolerant. Tolerant we know, it's like the acceptance of something. So this would be the acceptance of "osmo". This is where we get more sciencey. When making bread or things with yeast (like beer, mead, wine) sugar is a food for the yeast and helps with fermentation. BUT, too much of a good thing can be bad. Sugar causes osmotic pressure. Pretty much what happens is the sugar takes water away from the yeast, causing the fermentation to take a hit. Osmotolerant yeast is a specific type that can handle this environment and work well with high sugar concentration in doughs.
Now this doesn't mean you have to go buy some fancy yeast that will sit years in the freezer and you use for one or two recipes. I have some because I use it more. And I think it is well worth the buy to have some for these doughs and it will last a long while in the freezer. If you do want to buy some it's sometime referred to as SAF Gold Yeast. SAF is the brand and gold is the color of the label. So fancy right? This is the only kind I've used and can find. It comes in 1 lbs bags but is only like $6-7 bucks so not a big investment. Put in a quart mason jar and freeze, that's what I do and it has lasted over a year. If you don't have any or don't want to get it, you can still use standard instant dry yeast, just need a little more. In general you should increase by 1/3. In this recipe you need 2 1/2 tsp Osmotolerant Yeast so use 1 tablespoon and about 1/3 of a teaspoon. Don't worry if it's perfectly measured. The proof time will be slightly more or less but won't be a major factor.
You may also be questioning this Fiori di Sicilia extract. It's a fancy Italian flavor. Personally I find it so good and unique it's worth having a bottle around. Again there are ways to mimic it or just don't use it at all. It has a light citrus flavor with a hint of vanilla and some floral notes. When I don't have any I sub with a mixture of vanilla extract, lemon extract, and orange blossom water. About 1/3 each is good. Again though, don't use it if you don't want to. It's for flavor and can be subbed with any flavors you want in your panettone.
Let's also talk about the add ins. The recipe says just any amount dried fruit and nuts. This is where I've never seen an official this is what you HAVE to use. I like to leave it open. I use about 5-8oz. of various things. I prefer more in mine but I know some that don't like mix ins so you can always leave them out. Change it up, have fun. I use a mixture of pistachios, chopped almonds, candied lemon and orange peels, dried blueberries, dried cranberries, dried apricot, and dried pineapple. Chop it all up to be small pieces about the size of the pistachios and mix in after the first proof. If you like chocolate, some chunks thrown in there are super delicious so highly advisable for a different flavor. Plus chocolate/orange is a good combo in my kitchen.
After the panettone proofs and is ready for the oven these are various ways to go about prebake. I have seen throwing it right in but then you can not control the shape as it expands and it can go in one direction. Some people do a simple cross score on top. At the very least, do this. It will help maintain a nice shape. I have also seen people cut under to cross and pull the top skin back, I tried it, I hated it. Not worth the time or stickiness. I do like to add a pad of butter though. Why not throw a little more butter one this? Again, completely optional but I do like the shininess from the added fat and it looks so cute before going in the oven.
Now after baking is also really unique and weird. To maintain an open crumb and as much volume as possible you traditionally cool panettone upside down. Professionally bakeries use long metal bars and have racks to do this. I use bamboo skewers and Macgyver a rack with cooling racks and cambros to build the height. It's not 100% necessary but I like to stick with the professional way and do this to keep that fluffy interior. If you don't it won't be horrible, just a slight shrink but still really fluffy and open.
Okay, last bit here, the panettone paper pans. This recipe fits into a standard 6-inch pan. I'm sorry but you will want to get some of these paper pans. They are really pretty and typically only $1-2. I order them from an eco baking supply company that makes 100% compostable ones, gotta stay as green as I can. But these pans are tall and will hold the shape of the panettone to be to traditional bump on top. Small investment for a great reward.
Damn, that was a lot. But panettone is a weird dough and bread and there's a lot of information to it. If you make some at home let me know. It's one of my top 5 breads that I make. It's just soft and slightly sweet and I love dried fruit and nuts in things. Just make it and decide for yourself. If you hate it you'll never have to make it again. But if you love it, you'll have a new tradition to add to your holiday baking!