Make the holidays extra special with a homemade loaf of panettone. This enriched Italian Christmas bread—dotted with rum-soak dried fruit, citrus, and almonds—is easy to make at home with the time-saving tip of letting it rise overnight in the refrigerator.
For the dough and sponge:
- 5 cups (600g) all-purpose flour, divided, plus a little more as needed
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast (slightly more than 1 packet)
- 2/3 cup water
- 5 large eggs
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 1/3 cup (68 g) sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks, 170g) room temperature unsalted butter, to make the dough
- 1 tablespoon (14g) cold unsalted butter for the top of the dough
- Vegetable oil spray (for the dough bowl)
For the fruit and nuts:
- 1/2 cup dark raisins
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup best quality candied orange peel, or a combination of 1/4-inch diced dried fruit, such as apricots, pears, cranberries, or dried cherries
- 1/4 cup dark rum, such as Meyer’s rum
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds, optional
- Prep time: 30 minutes
- Rising time: 45 minutes for the sponge, plus overnight rise
1 Make the sponge (starter) and let it rise: In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir 1 cup flour and 1 tablespoon instant yeast together until blended. Add the water and mix with a spoon. It should be the consistency of thick cake batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes. The sponge should double in size.
(If using active dry yeast, place the water in the bowl first, stir in the yeast, and let stand until bubbly, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour.)
2 Soak the fruit: In a small bowl, stir the dark raisins, golden raisins, candied orange peel, rum, and water together. Cover with a plate and let soak overnight. Measure the almonds and set the measuring cup on top of the plate (so you don’t forget them).
3 Measure the flour and salt: In a bowl, whisk the remaining flour and salt together until blended.
4 Mix the dough: Once the sponge has risen, transfer the bowl to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Set it on medium speed, and add the eggs to the sponge one at a time, until each is incorporated. Continue at medium speed and add the orange zest, sugar, and vanilla.
Drop the mixer to low speed and gradually add about 2 1/2 cups of the flour mixture and mix for about 2 minutes, or until blended. You may need to scrape the sides of the bowl. The dough should be very soft and stretchy. On low speed, gradually add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour until it is incorporated.
5 Knead the dough: Switch to the dough hook. Knead on low speed for 8 minutes, or until the dough is very smooth and elastic. Stop 2 or 3 times to push down any dough that creeps up on the dough hook.
With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time, until it is incorporated. Continue to mix with the dough hook for 3 minutes until the dough is silky and shiny.
If it still seems extremely sticky, gradually add from 1 to 4 tablespoons additional flour. The dough should be very soft and still sticky and will just barely pull away from the sides of the bowl, but not the bottom.
6 Overnight rise in the refrigerator: Keeping the dough in the bowl, pat it into a ball. Spray lightly with vegetable oil spray and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the dough. Refrigerate for 8 hours or up to 2 days.
- Prep time: 10 minutes
- Rising time: 2 to 3 hours, or longer if the kitchen is cold
- Baking time: 70 to 75 minutes
7 Prepare to finish the dough: Place the panettone mold on a baking sheet. Drain the fruit.
Turn the dough onto a floured workspace and roll it into a flat rectangle that is approximately 12- by 15-inches (you don’t need to be exact). Spread the drained fruit and the almonds evenly over the top. With a rolling pin, roll forcefully over the fruit and nuts to embed them into the dough.
8 Shape the dough: Fold the long sides of the fruit-covered dough into thirds (like a letter). You will end up with a rectangle. Then fold the bottom half of the rectangle to meet the top to form a square. Pat the square to a thickness of about 1 1/2 inches. Bring the corners in toward the center to form a ball, and pinch the loose ends together. Cup your hands around the dough to round the ball.
Place the dough with the seam side down inside the panettone mold. Cover with plastic and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough reaches the top edge of the mold. This can take longer if the room is cold.
9 Preheat the oven and score the panettone: About 30 minutes before the panettone is ready to be baked, set a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375ºF.
When the dough has risen, use a sharp, serrated knife to cut a shallow cross from edge to edge. You are scoring the surface, rather than cutting into it deeply. Place the cold pat of butter in the center of the dough.
10 Bake the panettone: Turn the oven down to 325ºF. Bake the panettone for 30 minutes. Then place a piece of foil loosely over the top to keep it from browning too much. Continue to bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the dough registers 195°F. (Poke it through the side of the cake, through the paper, so you don’t mar the top). Remove it from the oven, transfer to rack, and let cool completely in the paper mold.