This recipe is for the popular, and incredibly tasty, Italian Christmas fruit-bread: Panettone. These fruit breads 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 is a conundrum indeed!  No matter! it tastes terrific so let’s get cracking, shall we?

Preparation

  • 6 1/2 cups white flour
  • 4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups of water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup lemon and orange zest
  • 1 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.  This recipe will require one shell only and it should be placed on a baking sheet while in the oven. 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 2 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.

Place the sheet and shell into your oven and let it rise for approximately one hour.  Once it’s formed a nice round dome, it’s time to bake your panettone!

Turn your oven on to 425 F (200 C, Gas Mark 7) now with the loaf in the oven.  We do this so as to not disturb it once it has risen as it can fall very easily if moved.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until top is golden brown.  Brush with egg white at the 20 minute mark to give the top a polished finish and bake until golden. Serve with butter or ricotta and enjoy!

If you’re planning to use this as a gift, it’s a lovely finishing touch to wrap it in cellophane and tie the top shut with a ribbon.

Buon Natale!  Good eating to you…

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