This recipe is a smaller take on the popular Italian Christmas fruit-bread, Panettone. ‘Mini 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? Note: Do not preheat your oven!
Ingredients (Makes 8 panettoncini)
- 4 1/2 cups white flour
- 2 tsp of active dry yeast (or an 8 gr packet)
- 1 2/3 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!
- 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 and begin to mix and knead the dough.
- Once the dough is mixed thoroughly, leave the dough covered in a mixing bowl until it doubles in size. This could be anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours depending on the warmth of your region and your kitchen.
- Once you have completed the first rise, punch the dough down, knead and fold it a few more times, and cut it into 8 even pieces. You can also pinch the individual dough pieces off using your hand if you grab dough the size of a medium sized apple between your thumb and forefinger and then squeeze the section of dough off.
- Roll each section into round balls, using a bit of additional flour in your hands, and place them into each shell.
- Give the dough a gentle push down into each shell and place the shells onto a baking sheet. 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 unheated oven and let them rise until they’ve popped up above the shell rims and begin to form dome. Then it’s time to bake!
- Turn your oven on to 400 F (200 C, Gas Mark 6) now with the loaves in the oven. We do this so as to not disturb them once they have risen as they can fall very easily if moved.
- Bake for 20 minutes, from preheat to finish, until the tops are a dark golden brown.
- Remove the pannetoncini from the oven and let them cool until the reach room temperature. They’ll be fluffy little clouds of fruit-bread joy once they’ve cooled!
- Serve with butter or marmalade and enjoy!
If you’re planning to use these as small gifts or stocking stuffers, it’s a nice finishing touch to wrap them in cellophane and tie the top shut with a ribbon, making the whole package both delicious and adorable.
Buon Natale! Good eating to you…
Please feel free to leave comments or suggestions about this recipe below.