The story of Panettone, by Cynthia Ferris-Bennett (recipe)

Every Christmas we begin to see the arrival of those beautiful, colorful boxes from Italy containing the delectable, circular loaf of sweet bread that originated in Milan. The story of Panettone is based on a poor Milanese baker who invented the loaf as a dowry for his daughter after she fell in love with a nobleman ... pane di Tonio – Tonio’s Bread.

Italians seem to give Panettone like Americans send Christmas cards — same sentiment, but much more delicious!

Panettone is somewhere between a bread and a cake with a soft brioche like dough that has plenty of eggs and butter. The dough is studded with flavor bursts of vanilla bean, lemon zest, rum soaked raisins and candied orange peel. Panettone is hung upside down after baking until it cools. This will prevent the Panettone from falling in on itself and will keep the texture fluffy.

You will need to acquire some special items for this recipe and plan ahead ... but it is worth it.

Panettone molds (however, I have seen old school recipes that use coffee cans), 6” x 4” is a standard size and the size used for this recipe. Smaller individual molds are also available but the baking time will need to be adjusted down for the smaller size. There are many options available on Amazon.

Candied orange peel (recipe below). These are available at most supermarkets but you should try to make them at least once ... they are wonderfully addictive when fresh.

Long skewers for hanging the bread to cool. Wood skewers will work fine but metal will better support the weight of the loaf.

Day 1 – Soak the raisins in rum, prepare the dough ... make the candied orange peel. Day 1, overnight – Let the dough rise 13 to 16 hours.

Day 2 – Second rise, bake.


1 cup raisins

1 cup rum – light or dark, your choice

2 tablespoons hot water

3 3⁄4 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon active dry yeast

1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt

1⁄4 teaspoon lemon zest – preferably Meyer Lemon

1 vanilla bean – split in half lengthwise, scrape out seeds

3 eggs – room temperature

2/3 cup warm water

1 tablespoon honey – we recommend First Sustainable Farms in Fallon

11 tablespoons unsalted butter – softened

1 tablespoons unsalted butter – melted

1 tablespoon unsalted butter – chilled

2/3 cup candied citron – candied orange peel cut into 1/4 inch pieces


1. In a glass bowl, combine the raisins with the rum and 2 tablespoons of hot water. Allow to soak at room temperature, occasionally stirring. Most of the liquid should be absorbed overnight.

2. Use a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, yeast, salt, lemon zest and vanilla bean seeds on low speed until combined.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, tepid water and honey. With the mixer on low speed, pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture. Increase the speed to medium-low and mix until all of the ingredients are combined. Add the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing until incorporated before adding more. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

4. Drain the raisins, discard the soaking liquid, and stir together with the candied citron and 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Stir this mixture into the dough with a wooden spoon. Fun Fact: The reason we use a wooden spoon is they don’t quickly heat to scalding temperatures, chemically react with acidic foods, or scratch pots and bowls, as their metal counterparts do. They don’t melt or leach chemicals or strange tastes into hot foods as plastic does. A wooden spoon can be used to stir any dish in any type of vessel.

5. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a cold oven with the door closed until it has nearly tripled in volume, 13 to 16 hours.

6. Dust the dough lightly with flour and scrape out onto a lightly floured surface. Dust a bit more flour onto the dough, fold the edges of the dough in towards the center, forming a loose ball, and place, seam-side down, into the Panettone mold. Cover with a damp, lint-free kitchen towel and let rise at warm room temperature until the dough is just above the top of the mold, 4 to 6 hours.

7. Preheat your oven to 370 degrees F.

8. Place filled Panettone mold on a baking sheet. Score a large “X” across the surface of the dough and place 1 tablespoon chilled butter in the center of the “X”.

9. Bake 60-75 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out slightly moist, not wet. Please note the Panettone will be dark.

10. Immediately after removing the Panettone from the oven insert (4) wood or metal skewers through the mold around the base of the Panettone. Hang the Panettone upside down over a stockpot and completely cool. Be sure that the stockpot is deep enough so the top of the Panettone is not touching the bottom of the pot.

11. Once cooled, store the Panettone wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. Panettone will keep at room temperature for 1 week.


2 large oranges, 1/4 inch of top and bottom cut off

4 cups sugar, divided

3 cups water


1. Cut peel on each orange into 4 vertical segments. Remove each segment (including white pith) in 1 piece. Cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Cook in large pot of boiling water 15 minutes; drain, rinse, and drain again.

2. Bring 3 cups sugar and 3 cups water to boil in medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add peel. Return to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until peel is very soft, about 45 minutes. Drain.

3. Toss peel and 1 cup sugar on rimmed baking sheet, separating strips. Lift peel from sugar; transfer to sheet of parchment. Let stand until coating is dry, 1 day.

Cynthia Ferris-Bennett is owner of Sierra Chef.


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