This recipe is a smaller take on the popular Italian Christmas fruit-bread, Panettone.  ‘Personal Panettone’, I call them, or Panettoncino if you want to be linguistically correct!  These little darlings are not only simple to make, they also make great Christmas projects for the children and a terrific gift for friends and family.

The history of Panettone itself is a varied one:  This popular Italian fruit bread hails from Milan and is synonymous the world over with Christmas in Italy.  Some say the real origin of the popular bread can be found in the Middle Ages when it was prepared as a decadent bread that was far fancier than the plain loaves that were prepared year-round.  Some suggest its origin goes as far back as the Roman Empire when cakes were once flavoured with fruit and honey.  There are a lot of terrific panettone legends out there to explore!

The etymology of the word ‘Panettone’ is also quite interesting: Panetto, pane-etto, means small bread.  But Panettone, Pane-etto-one, means small-large bread!  So what we’re preparing in this recipe, panettoncino, is small-large-small bread; a conundrum indeed!  No matter! It tastes terrific, so let’s get cracking, shall we?

Preparation

  • 3 1/2 cups white flour
  • 2 tsp of active dry yeast (or an 8 gr packet)
  • 1 1/2 c water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup lemon and orange zest
  • 1/2 cup raisins

The first thing you’ll want to get your hands on are panettone papers, or shells.  These are pre-formed waxed-paper shells that you can find at most cooking shops during the Christmas season. These decorative shells eliminate the need for baking the loaves in soup or coffee cans and there’s no need to oil them either.  Line your shells up a good inch apart on a baking sheet and begin preparing the dough. Note: Do NOT preheat your oven!

Preparing the dough.

In a mixer, or a bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and water.  Proof the yeast for 10 minutes by leaving it sit and making sure it is alive and kicking; you should see bubbles and foam starting to rise to the top of the water after about 10 minutes.  Once the yeast has proofed, combine the remaining ingredients (add the salt last) and begin to mix the dough.  Once you have a nice malleable ball of dough, roll and cut the dough into 10 even pieces, roll them into nice round balls and place them into each shell.  Give the dough a push down into the shell and make sure it’s no more than about 1/2 of the capacity of the shell.  These little panettoncini are going to rise up like a little army before long!  Make sure that you place each panettoncino about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet so that they don’t rise into each other before baking.

Place the sheet of shells into your oven and let rise for approximately one to two hours.  Once they’ve formed a nice round dome, it’s time to bake them!

Turn your oven on to 425 F (200 C, Gas Mark 7) now with the loaves in the oven. We do this so as to not disturb them once they’ve risen as they can fall very easily if moved. Bake for 20 minutes or until tops are golden brown.  Serve with butter or ricotta and enjoy!

If you’re planning to use these as small gifts or stocking stuffers, it’s a lovely finishing touch to wrap them in cellophane and tie the top shut with a ribbon. They’re so delicious and adorable.

Buon Natale!  Good eating to you…

Please feel free to leave comments or suggestions about this recipe below.