Ginger-Scented Panettone

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Complex

  • Makes 1 tall 9 inch 23 cm cake, about

    16

    servings

Appears in

This is a revved up version of the traditional Italian Christmas cake. Originally a Milanese specialty, panettone is now popular all over Italy and excellent versions are made by both industrial and artisanal bakeries. I make one version or another of panettone around Christmas—it reminds me of my childhood when we hardly ever ate anything that wasn’t Italian. A good panettone is moist and flavorful. In Italy it is almost always made with sourdough starter—flour and water that ferments and develops organisms that produce lactic acid, among other things, thus retarding staling and preventing mold from forming. You can bake a perfectly good panettone at home, by just using an envelope or so of yeast from the supermarket. The version here is a new one I like a lot—most other people like it, too, because it omits everyone’s least favorite ingredient, candied fruit. See the variation for a more traditional approach to flavoring.

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Ingredients

Sponge

  • 4 teaspoons (about envelopes) active dry yeast
  • ½ cup warm water, about 110°F (45°C)
  • ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)

Dough

  • 10 tablespoons ( sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated or chopped ginger, see Note
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • ¾ cup golden raisins
  • ¾ cup crystallized ginger, cut into -inch (1-cm) dice
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, for brushing the panettone when it comes out of the oven
  • Confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling
  • One 9-inch (23-cm) springform pan, buttered and lined with a disk of parchment or buttered wax paper cut to fit

Method

  1. To make the sponge, whisk the yeast into the water in a small bowl. Thoroughly stir in the flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside while you prepare the other ingredients, about 20 minutes.
  2. Combine the butter, sugar, salt, lemon zest, ginger, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Place the bowl on the mixer with the paddle and beat on low to medium speed until well mixed, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating smooth after each addition.
  3. Remove the bowl from the mixer (leave the paddle in the bowl) and scrape in the sponge. Place the bowl back on the mixer and beat on low speed until the sponge is incorporated. On lowest speed, beat in 2 cups of the flour. Beat in the egg yolks, beating smooth afterward. Beat in the remaining cups flour and continue beating until the dough is smooth, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
  4. Add the raisins and crystallized ginger to the bowl and beat the dough again until they are evenly distributed—the dough will be very soft. Scrape the dough into a buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature of the room.
  5. Use a large rubber spatula inserted between the bowl and the dough to fold the dough over on itself, from the outside in, all around it. Invert the dough to a floured surface and round it slightly (see boules. Slide your hands under the dough and drop it into the prepared pan. Gently press the top of the dough to make it flat and even. Cover the pan with buttered plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it fills the pan, about 1½ hours.
  6. About 20 minutes before the dough is fully risen, set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F (180°C).
  7. Bake the panettone until it is well risen, deep golden, and a toothpick or the point of a small knife inserted into the center of the cake emerges clean, about 40 minutes. Cool the panettone in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold it onto the rack, turn it right side up again, and brush it all over with melted butter. Cool the panettone completely.

Serving

Dust the panettone lightly with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. Serve the panettone around the Christmas holidays with tea or coffee.

Storage

After the panettone has cooled, double wrap it in plastic wrap and keep it at room temperature for a few days. Freeze for longer storage. Defrost and bring to room temperature before serving.

Panettone Alla Milanese

Omit the fresh and crystallized ginger. Reduce the amount of golden raisins to cup, and add cup dark raisins and ½ cup diced citron or candied orange peel.

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