Traditional panettone is a delicious Italian Christmas bread that is perfect to serve at breakfast with a cup of hot coffee.  This detailed recipe shows you how to make this soft and fluffy dessert so it turns out perfectly the first time.  You’ll be wanting a second piece!

Prep Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
loaf of panettone on a bamboo cutting board
Christmas, Holiday Bread, Sweet Bread

Traditional Panettone: Italian Christmas Bread

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Christmas time is here…and that means a tall, fluffy slice of an Italian Christmas bread called panettone.  You’ll be wanting more than one slice of this amazing cake-like dessert!  Although panettone can be tricky, you should be able to make a perfect loaf of panettone on your first try with all the tips and info I’m sharing in this post.

closeup of a slice of panettone

What is panettone?  Is it bread or cake?

Panetttone is a sweet yeast bread speckled with dried fruit and candied citrus peel, traditionally served at Christmas.  It has a similar texture to cake, but is definitely a bread.

Where does panettone come from?

This Christmas bread originates in Milan, Italy, and has roots in sweet breads made in the Roman Empire.  It was first produced commercially in the early 1900s, and in the late 1940s, became a worldwide Christmas favorite.  Nowadays, panettone is available in many variations, such as chocolate.

slice of panettone on a plate

How to Pronounce Panettone

Panettone is an Italian name, so keep that in mind.  Say it as pan-ah-TONE-ee.

Why do you cool panettone upside down?

Cooling this bread upside down sounds unusual, but it actually is an important step.  If panettone is cooled right side up, the heavy weight of the bread may cause it to collapse or become very dense.  Cooling the bread upside down encourages the bread to stay tall and fluffy.

slice of panettone on a plate with the loaf

How do you eat panettone?

  • Warm the panettone in a 200 F for 10-20 minutes.
  • Slice in thin wedges.
  • Serve with coffee at breakfast, tea in the afternoon, or milk.
  • Use in other desserts, like bread pudding, French toast, or trifle.

Why did my panettone not turn out?

Panettone is a more challenging bread to make, so don’t feel discouraged if it didn’t turn out as you expected.  Here are some actionable ways you can help ensure an awesome panettone on your first try.

  • Why is it dense?  The most common reason for a dense panettone is that it didn’t rise (also called “prove”) long enough.  When you’re letting the loaves prove in the pans, make sure that the top of the dough is above the edge of the tin before baking.  Make sure to cool the bread upside down to prevent it from sinking down as it cools.
  • Why didn’t it rise?  The yeast used in the dough may have been old.  Also, make sure not to let the salt touch the yeast directly, or it will kill the yeast.  In addition, let the dough rise in a warm environment to speed up the proving.  Cold temps will drastically slow down the rise.
  • Why is it dry? Not adding enough liquid when you make the dough or adding too much flour during the kneading process will make the dough dry.  Also, overbaking the bread will dry it out.  Bake the panettone until it has an internal temperature of 190 F on a meat thermometer.

person holding a slice of panettone on a plate

How long will panettone keep?

Homemade panettone will keep at room temperature for 1 week, but tastes the freshest within the first 24 hours of baking.  Do not refrigerate the bread, or it will go stale quickly.  For longer storage, follow the freezing instructions below.

Can panettone be frozen?

Yes, you can freeze panettone. Make sure that the bread is fully cool before freezing it.

  • Want to freeze a whole loaf?  Wrap the cooled loaf tightly in two layers of plastic wrap, then one layer of aluminum foil.  Freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Want to freeze slices? Seal the sliced bread in a zip-top freezer bag, squeezing the extra air from the bag.  Freeze for up to 1 month.
  • Defrost the bread at room temperature or in the toaster.  Do not refrigerate the bread, as it will go stale quickly in the fridge.

Can you toast panettone?

You absolutely can toast panettone!  It’s the tastiest way to enjoy leftovers.  Simply pop the slices in your toaster or under the broiler until toasted to your liking.

How to Make Panettone

Start by grabbing some dried fruit.  You’ll need candied lemon and orange peel, citron, raisins, currants, red and green glace cherries, lemon zest, and orange juice.

bowls of dried fruit, candied peel, and orange juice

Stir together all of these ingredients in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature overnight.  The fruit will absorb most of the orange juice, softening it and making it extra juicy and flavorful.

mixture of dried fruit in a glass bowl

Meanwhile, gather the ingredients for the bread dough.  You’ll need bread flour, salt, yeast, sugar, eggs, butter, milk, vanilla extract, and a few blanched almonds.

dough ingredients for panettone

Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the milk and heat until it’s warm, about 115 F on a thermometer.

melted butter and milk in a saucepan

While the milk is heating, pour the flour into a mixing bowl and add the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl.  This ensures that the salt won’t touch the yeast directly, as that can kill the yeast.  Mix each one in with your finger.

bowl of flour with salt and yeast

Mix the sugar into the flour mixture, then add the vanilla and eggs.

bowl of flour with egg

Gradually add the butter and milk mixture, mixing as you go, until all the flour is picked up from the bowl and a slightly sticky dough has formed.

sticky bread dough in a glass bowl

Knead on a lightly floured surface for 10-15 minutes, until the dough is smooth and stretchy.  You should be able to stretch a lump of the dough thin enough to read through.  Kneading the dough until it reaches this stage is crucial to getting a high-rising, fluffy panettone.

kneaded bread dough in a buttered bowl

Shape the dough into a ball and place in a buttered bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  The dough will prove even in the fridge, rising to almost twice its original size.  Even though a cold prove is slower, it produces a better flavored dough.

The next day, put the bowl of dough in a cold oven, and place a dish of boiling water on the shelf below the dough.  This creates a warm environment for the dough.  Leave the cold dough in this setup for 1 1/2 hours to warm it up and soften it.

proved panettone dough in a glass bowl

Meanwhile, dump the soaked fruit into a strainer set over a bowl.  This will drain off extra moisture from the fruit, preventing the dough from getting too sticky later.

straining the dried fruit mixture in a mesh sieve

Butter two 6-inch pans and line them with parchment paper.  You’ll have a higher-rising panettone with an extra deep pan especially for panettone, like the black one in the photo below, which is 6 inches deep.  Alternatively, use a 3-inch deep cake pan and let the parchment paper stick up to make up for the shorter sides.

buttered panettone tins lined with parchment paper

Once the dough has warmed up in the steamy oven, knead the drained fruit mixture into the dough.  You can do this with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or by hand.  Divide the dough in half, roll into a ball, and place each loaf in one of the prepared pans.

two loaves of panettone dough in tins

Let the panettone loaves rise in the steamy oven until the top of the dough rises above the top of the pans.  Arrange 5 blanched almonds in a star pattern on top of each loaf.

proved loaves of panettone in the tins

Bake the panettone at 400 F for 10 minutes, then 375 F for 10 minutes, then finally at 350 F for 10-15 minutes.  The bread is cooked when it has an internal temperature of 190 F on a meat thermometer.  Cover the panettone with foil once it is nicely browned.

baked panettone loaves on a cooling rack

Remove the panettone loaves from the pans and skewer the loaves about 2 inches from the base.  Flip them upside down and hang them above a pot or mixing bowl to cool completely, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  This is a crucial step, as hanging the loaves upside down will prevent them from collapsing.

hanging panettone loaves upside down to cool

Once the panettone loaves are cool, remove the skewers, dust with icing sugar if desired, slice in wedges, and enjoy.  Congratulations on making an amazing loaf of panettone!

baked loaf of panettone on a white plate

Pro Tips

  • Start the panettone the day before.  That way, the fruit can soak and the dough can rise for longer, giving you a tastier result.
  • Use bread flour, not all-purpose.  All-purpose flour lacks the protein content necessary to create a high-rising, fluffy panettone.
  • Use homemade candied peel for the most amazing bursts of citrusy flavor in your panettone.
  • Knead the dough thoroughly.  This is a crucial step to get a wonderful panettone.  Stretch, fold, and slap the dough until you can stretch a lump of the dough thin enough to read through it.
  • Create a warm environment for the dough to prove by placing a casserole dish filled with boiling water on the bottom shelf of a cold oven.  Place the dough on the shelf above the pan and shut the oven door.
  • Bake the panettone at 3 different temperatures.  This ensures that the panettone rises high and bakes well without drying out or burning.
  • Hang the panettone upside down to cool.  This important step will keep the panettone from collapsing or getting dense as it cools.

loaf of panettone cut open on a cutting board

Our Favorite Bread Making Tools

  • Kitchen Scale: using a digital scale is the fastest and easiest way to measure ingredients accurately.
  • Panettone Pan: this deep pan is will help your panettone rise high and beautiful.
  • Mesh Strainers: drain your soaked fruit and effortlessly sift icing sugar with these great sieves.
  • Metal Skewers: these sturdy skewers won’t bend or snap, supporting your panettone as it cools.
  • Diced Citron Peel: this already diced peel is a wonderful addition to your homemade panettone.

Baking for the holidays?  These tasty Christmas breads will definitely be popular.

sliced kanellangd on a wire rack plate of St. Lucia buns Loaf of German stollen on a cutting board with slices

  • Kanellängd: this Swedish cinnamon bread is a fancy showpiece that’s surprisingly simple to make.
  • St. Lucia Buns: these beautiful golden saffron buns are shaped into a variety of symbolic designs.
  • Stollen: this classic German bread is rich with dried fruit and a special layer of homemade marzipan.

The pleasure of a 5-star review for this panettone recipe would be greatly appreciated.

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loaf of panettone on a bamboo cutting board

Classic Panettone Recipe


  • Author: Emma
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 12 hours 55 minutes
  • Yield: 2 loaves 1x

Description

Traditional panettone is a delicious Italian Christmas bread that is perfect to serve at breakfast with a cup of hot coffee.  This detailed recipe shows you how to make this soft and fluffy dessert so it turns out perfectly the first time.  You’ll be wanting a second piece!


Scale

Ingredients

For the Fruit Mixture

  • 1/2 cup raisins (85g)
  • 1/2 cup currants (60g)
  • 1/2 cup candied citrus peel, finely diced (75g)
  • 1/4 cup glace cherries, cut in quarters (40g)
  • 1/4 cup citron peel, diced (43g)
  • 2/3 cup orange juice (160 ml)

For the Dough

  • 5 cups bread flour (600g)
  • 3 teaspoons fast-action yeast (10g)
  • 2 teaspoons fine salt (10g)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar (75g)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter (70g)
  • 1 cup whole milk, plus 1 tablespoon (250 ml)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons whole blanched almonds (19g)
  • 1 tablespoon icing sugar, for decoration (8g)

Instructions

Soaking the Dried Fruit (15 min + overnight soaking)

  1. Mix up the dried fruit. Toss all the dried fruit and the orange juice into a mixing bowl and mix until well combined.  Cover with a piece of plastic wrap and let the fruit stand at room temperature overnight, stirring occasionally.

Making the Dough (35 min + overnight proving)

  1. Warm the milk. Melt the unsalted butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, then pour in the milk and heat to 115 F on a meat thermometer.  Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients. Pour the bread flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl.  Stir each one into the flour with your finger.  Mix in the sugar.
  3. Add the liquids. Dump in the eggs and vanilla extract, then gradually add the milk and butter mixture, mixing constantly, to form a slightly sticky dough.  Keep mixing to make sure that all the flour has been picked up from the bowl.
  4. Knead. Knead the dough on a floured surface for 10-15 minutes.  The dough is done kneading when it passes the windowpane test.  Break off a lump of dough and stretch it as thin as you can.  If the dough can stretch to be translucent without tearing, it is kneaded enough.  If not, knead for a minute longer and check again.
  5. Prove. Shape the kneaded dough into a ball and place in a buttered bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and put the dough in the fridge to prove overnight, or at least 8 hours.  The dough should almost double in size during this time.

Shaping & Baking the Panettone (35 min + 3 hrs proving + 30 min baking)

  1. Warm up the dough. Place the bowl of risen dough on the middle shelf of a cold oven.  Place a casserole dish full of boiling water on the shelf beneath the dough to create a warm, moist environment.  Shut the oven door and let the dough prove for 1 1/2 hours to warm it up and soften it.
  2. Prep the pans.  You’ll need two 6-inch springform cake pans that are at least 3 inches deep.  You’ll get a higher-rising loaf if you use a special panettone pan with 6-inch tall sides.  Grease the pans lightly with butter.  If you’re using a shorter pan, line with parchment paper, and let the paper stick a few inches above the sides of the pan.
  3. Drain the fruit.  Stir the soaked fruit mixture, then dump it into a large mesh sieve set over a bowl.  Any excess liquid will drain into the bowl, preventing the dough from getting too sticky when you add the fruit later.
  4. Add the fruit. Punch down the dough, then divide it in half.  Place one half of the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add half of the dried fruit mixture, mixing on low speed until the fruit is evenly distributed in the dough.  Repeat with the other half of the ingredients.  (Feel free to do this step by hand if you don’t have a stand mixer.)
  5. Shape and prove.  Shape each piece of fruited dough into a ball and place in the prepared pans.  Cover with plastic wrap and prove in the steamy oven until the top of the dough is level with the top of the tin.  This will take about 1 1/2 hours.
  6. Preheat the oven.  About 10 minutes before the panettone loaves are done proving, take them out of the oven and preheat it to 400 F.
  7. Bake.  Press 5 blanched almonds in a star shape onto the top of each panettone.  Bake the loaves at 400 F for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375 F and bake for another 10 minutes.  Lower the temperature again to 350 F and bake for 10-15 minutes.  Cover the tops of the panettone with aluminum if it is getting too dark.
  8. Cool.  Unclip the sides of the springform pans and remove the loaves from the pan.  About 2 inches from the bottom of the loaves, poke three long skewers all the way through the loaf.  Flip the loaf upside down and hang the panettone over a large pot or mixing bowl.  Repeat with the other loaf, then let the bread cool upside down for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  9. Serve.  Remove the skewers, sprinkle with sifted icing sugar, cut in wedges, and serve with generous amounts of salted butter.  Leftovers can be frozen for up to 3 months and defrosted at room temperature.

Notes

  • Make this recipe perfectly the first time.  Check out the step-by-step photos and pro tips before the recipe card.
  • The pleasure of a 5-star review for this panettone recipe would be greatly appreciated.
  • 👩🏻‍🍳 Want to see our latest recipes?  Subscribe to our email newsletter to get our latest recipes, fun food facts, food puns, and behind the scenes news about our blog.
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: panettone recipe, Italian Christmas bread

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6 thoughts on “Traditional Panettone: Italian Christmas Bread

  1. I used to make Pannetone every Christmas when the children were young. Then, I started buying them from Sam’s. They are imported from Italy, so they are authentic. Lost the recipe. This yours here looks just like the old one I had, real Italian . I can’t wait for Christmas to make several Pannetone again , the home made ones, no preservatives and have again the house smelling like our old Christmas, this time with grandchildren included. Thank you Emma. Buon Natale. (i am not Italian but that much I know, it puts me in the mood). I will report results on due time

    1. What wonderful memories, Betty! I’m so glad that you find my recipe to be close to the real thing. 😊 Please check back and let us know how your panettone works out!

  2. This panettone smells divine! I like the red and green cherries in this chewy, soft, and yummy bread. The almonds on the top add a crunch, and I enjoy the flavor from the orange and lemon candied peel. I LOVE this bread!

  3. This bread smells very much like Christmas–super good! The icing sugar and almonds make this bread look gorgeous. The soft, sweet bread is sort of like Christmas cake, but in bread form. Divine!

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