Christmas time is here...and that means a tall, fluffy slice of an Italian Christmas bread called panettone. With our delicious Panettone recipe, you'll be wanting more than one slice of this amazing cake-like dessert!
Panettone, pronounced as pan-ah-TONE-ee, originated 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, it is available in many variations, such as chocolate.
Wondering what ingredients you'll need for our panettone recipe? Here are the most important ingredients you'll need for this Italian sweet bread.
- Bread Flour: It's really important to use bread flour since it has a higher protein content and will create a better rise and fluffier texture in the loaf.
- Dried Fruit: A mixture of candied citrus peel, candied citron, raisins, currants, and glace cherries add to the jewel-like appearance and beautiful flavor of the bread.
- Decoration: It's traditional to decorate the top of the panettone with whole almonds and a dusting of icing sugar.
See recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
How to Make
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.
- 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.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the milk and heat until it's warm, about 115 F on a thermometer.
3. Add the salt and yeast to the flour on opposite sides of the bowl, then mix each one in with your finger. Mix the sugar into the flour mixture, then add the vanilla and eggs.
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.
Knead on a lightly floured surface for 10-15 minutes, until the dough is smooth and stretchy. You should be able to stretch a piece thin enough to read through. Kneading until it reaches this stage is crucial to getting a high-rising, fluffy result.
4. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a buttered bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. It will prove even in the fridge, rising to almost twice its original size. Even though a cold prove is slower, it produces a better flavor.
5. The next day, put the bowl in a cold oven, and place a dish of boiling water on the shelf below, creating a warm, steamy environment. Leave the dough in this setup for 1 ½ hours to warm it up and soften it.
Meanwhile, drain the dried fruit and butter two 6-inch pans and line them with parchment paper.
Once the dough has warmed up in the steamy oven, knead the drained fruit mixture into it. You can do this with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or by hand. Divide it in half, roll it into a ball, and place each loaf in one of the prepared pans.
Let the loaves rise in the steamy oven until the top rises above the top of the pans. Arrange 5 blanched almonds in a star pattern on top of each loaf.
6. Bake 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.
7. Remove the 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 ½ to 2 hours. This is a crucial step, as hanging the loaves upside down will prevent them from collapsing.
8. Once the 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!
Panettone 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.
Cooling this bread upside down sounds unusual, but it actually is an important step. If it 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 it to stay tall and fluffy.
The process and ingredients are key to ending up with a great-tasting panettone. Start by using fresh and reliable baking ingredients. Next, make sure to follow the recipe instructions closely. Also, allow the loaves to fully prove in the pans. The top of the dough should be above the edge of the tin before baking. Next, make sure to cool the panettone loaf upside down to prevent it from sinking down as it cools. Use a thermometer when cooking to prevent overbaking. It's ready when it has an internal temperature of 190° F.
Serve it up in thin wedges with coffee at breakfast, tea in the afternoon, or milk.
You can also use it in other desserts, like bread pudding, French toast, or trifle.
Want to make other traditional holiday breads? You'll want to try our recipes for German stollen, Czech vánočka, Mexican rosca de reyes, Spanish roscón de reyes, Venezuelan pan de jamón, American Cinnabon cinnamon rolls, and easy challah.
- Leftovers: Homemade panettone will keep at room temperature for one week, but tastes the freshest within the first 24 hours of baking. Do not refrigerate the bread, or it will go stale quickly.
- Freezer: Make sure that it is fully cool before freezing it. Freeze a whole loaf, wrapped in two layers of plastic wrap and one layer of aluminum foil for up to 3 months. You can also freeze slices sealed in a zip-top freezer bag, squeezing the extra air from the bag. Freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost at room temperature or in the toaster.
- Start the panettone recipe 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 rise and fluffy texture.
- Knead thoroughly. This is a crucial step! Stretch, fold, and slap the dough until you can stretch a lump of it thin enough to read through it.
- Create a warm environment for the rising 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.
- Hang the panettone upside down to cool. This important step will keep it from collapsing or getting dense as it cools.
More Sweet Bread Recipes
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For the Fruit Mixture
Soaking the Dried Fruit (15 min + overnight soaking)
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Knead on a floured surface for 10-15 minutes. It's done when it passes the windowpane test. Break off a lump and stretch it as thin as you can. If you can read through the stretched dough without it tearing, it's good. If not, knead for a minute longer and check again.
- Shape the dough into a ball and place in a buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge to prove overnight, or at least 8 hours. It should almost double in size during this time.
Shaping & Baking the Panettone (35 min + 3 hrs proving + 30 min baking)
- 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 underneath to create a warm, moist environment. Shut the oven door and let it prove for 1 ½ hours to warm it up and soften it.
- 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.
- 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.
- Punch down the dough, then divide it in half. Place one half 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. Repeat with the other half of the ingredients. (Feel free to do this step by hand if you don't have a stand mixer.)
- 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 is level with the top of the tin. This will take about 1 ½ hours.
- About 10 minutes before the loaves are done proving, take them out of the oven and preheat it to 400 F.
- 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 with foil if it is getting too dark.
- 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 them over a large pot or mixing bowl. Repeat with the other loaf, then let the bread cool upside down for 1 ½ to 2 hours.
- 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.
- Start the dough the day before to give the fruit extra time to soak and the dough to rise.
- Always use bread flour; all-purpose will not give you the best rise or texture.
- Knead thoroughly until the dough passes the windowpane test, as described in the instructions above.
- Dough rising slowly? Put the dough in a cold oven with a pan of boiling water on the shelf beneath.
- Let the panettone cool upside down. This prevents it from collapsing.
Serving sizes and nutritional information are only an estimate and may vary from your results.
Our Panettone recipe was originally published on November 15, 2019.