This is the typical Italian Christmas pastry. Made from a rich yeast dough with raisins and candied fruit, the panettone originated in Milan but is now made all over Italy.
Though a popular cake, panettone is seldom made in the home. Large-scale manufacturers like Motta and Alemagna make the bulk of the panettone produced in Italy, and even pastry shops sell these packaged versions, made with natural yeast for superior freshness.
This recipe, which I have used for close to ten years, makes an excellent home-style panettone. While it does not have the shelf life of a commercially made panettone, it keeps perfectly well for several days. To ensure maximum lightness, allow the dough to ferment, then proof slowly and for as long as necessary. Rushing the process will produce a leaden texture.
For the sponge, heat the milk to lukewarm, whisk in the yeast, and stir the yeast mixture into the flour. Cover and allow to ferment at room temperature for about 45 minutes, until almost tripled in volume.
For the dough, beat the butter with the salt and sugar until light. Add the flavorings and beat until smooth. Add 2 eggs, then continue beating until the mixture is emulsified and smooth and looks like buttercream. If the mixture remains curdled, warm the bottom of the mixing bowl in a pan of warm water for a second or two and continue beating; rewarm the bowl as necessary until the mixture is smooth. Add one-third of the flour and mix in, then another 2 eggs. Repeat with another third of the flour, the last 2 eggs, and the last third of the flour. Beat in the sponge and beat the dough smooth.
Mix in the candied peel and raisins just until incorporated. Place the dough in a buttered bowl and allow to ferment until double, up to 2 hours.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and deflate by folding it over on itself several times. Divide the dough into 2 pieces and shape each into a ball. Place each piece of dough in a well-buttered
Slash an X in the top of each panettone with buttered scissors and bake at 375 degrees for about 50 minutes. Unmold immediately and paint all over with the melted butter. Cool on a rack.
Double-wrap each panettone in plastic and store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.
© 1990 Nick Malgieri. All rights reserved.