Christmas Panettone – Traditional Italian Fruit Bread

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?

Ingredients (Makes 2 panettone)

  • 9 cups white flour
  • 4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 3 cups of water
  • 5 tbsp whole milk or cream
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 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 and reserve your egg whites!


  1. 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.
  2. Once the yeast has proofed, combine the remaining ingredients and begin to mix and knead the dough.
  3. 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.
  4. Once you have completed the first rise, punch the dough down, knead and fold it a few more times, and cut it into 2 even pieces. You can also separate the dough using your hand if you grab the dough in the middle between your thumb and forefinger and then squeeze the dough into two pieces.
  5. Roll each section into round balls, using a bit of additional flour in your hands, and place them into each shell.
  6. Give the dough a gentle push down into each shell and place the shells onto a baking sheet.  These babies are going to rise up like the dome of the Hagia Sophia before long!  Make sure that you place each panettone about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet so that they don’t rise into each other before baking.
  7. Place the sheet and shells into your unheated oven and let them rise until they’ve popped up above the shell rims and begin to form a dome.  Then it’s time to bake!
  8. 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 the dough can fall very easily if moved.
  9. Bake for 40 minutes, from preheat to finish, until the tops are a dark golden brown.
  10. Brush with egg white at the 20 minute mark to give the tops a polished sheen.
  11. Remove the pannetone loaves from the oven and let them cool until they reach room temperature. They’ll be fluffy little clouds of fruit-bread joy once they’ve cooled!
  12. 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.

Mini Panettone from Tavola Mediterranea
Mini Panettone from Tavola Mediterranea

Buon Natale!  Good eating to you…

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

*Revised 11-Dec-2017

One Comment

  1. Thank you

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