Panettone, the tall, dramatic Christmas cake-like bread filled with dried fruit and almonds and wrapped in brightly colored packages, can be found in most grocery stores during the holidays to eat around Christmas. But is panettone cake or bread?
What is Panettone
It’s made with a rich, slightly sweet, and eggy yeast dough, falling somewhere between cake and a bread. Once a hard-to-find specialty item, the most famous panettone bread originated in Milan, where it has been made for centuries. While the wrapping is alluring and the packages are convenient, quality varies. The very best panettone is the one you make at home with Orchard Choice® or Sun-Maid® California Dried Figs. Add some chocolate and candied orange peel to the cake and you end up with something uniquely yours. Who wouldn’t want a slice of it with coffee on Christmas morning, or really, just about any time during the holidays when friends drop by?
How Do You Make Dark Chocolate Panettone Bread
This two-day bread project offers a lot of satisfaction for the effort, and the time involved is mostly rising time. The buttery dough is very soft. It starts with a sponge (starter), and after an initial yet relatively short rise, you mix in the eggs, butter, and the rest of the dry ingredients. It goes into the fridge overnight for its second, long rise. By the next day, the butter is cool and the dough is easy to handle, so folding in the fruit is also much easier than trying to mix into soft dough.
Roll out the cold dough into a large rectangle and spread it with bits of dark chocolate, golden and dark fig pieces, and candied orange peel before shaping it. Place it into a 7-inch paper panettone mold. (If you can’t find a mold—available online or at many specialty shops like Sur La Table—you could make it in a deep, nine-inch cake pan lined with parchment. It may not be as imposing as the tall panettone, but it will taste divine and no one will be the wiser.)
The third rise can take a long time (up to 6 hours), so be patient with it. You don’t want it to rise too quickly, but if your kitchen is cold, you can place it in a cold oven with a loaf pan of warm water. Once the dough reaches the top of the mold, it’s ready to bake.
Homemade Panettone Bread for the Holidays
Homemade panettone bread is best eaten within a few days of baking, but drier slices can be toasted and spread with butter, or turned into bread pudding or French toast. Do something special for your family and friends this year—make this luscious panettone and raise a glass to celebrate the season.
Dark Chocolate Panettone Bread with Figs
- Stand mixer with paddle attachment and dough hook
- 7-inch Paper Panettone Mold or (9-or 10-inch round, deep cake pan lined on the bottom and sides with parchment paper)
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 1/2 cup water
Fruits, Nuts & Chocolate
- 1/2 cup Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid California Mission Dried Figs
- 1/2 cup Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid California Golden Dried Figs
- 1/2 cup best quality candied orange peel
- 1/3 cup dark rum (such as Meyer's)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate (60-70%)
- 1/2 cup whole almonds with or without skins
- 4 cups (480g) all-purpose flour, plus a little more as needed
- 5 large eggs
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) room temperature unsalted butter, cut into slices, plus 1 tablespoon cold butter for the top of the dough
- Vegetable oil spray, for the dough
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir flour and yeast together until blended. Add water and mix well. It should be the consistency of thick cake batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes, or until doubled. (If using active dry yeast, place the water in the bowl first, stir in yeast, and let stand until bubbly, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour.)
- In a small bowl, stir fruit, rum, and vanilla extract together. Cover with a plate and let soak overnight. Measure almonds and chocolate and set the measuring cup on top of the plate (so you don’t forget about them!)
- Measure flour and salt into a bowl, stir together, and set aside.
- With the paddle attachment on medium speed, one at a time add eggs to the bowl of sponge, incorporating them after each addition. Mix in orange zest, sugar, and vanilla until combined.
- On low speed, gradually add about 2 1/2 cups of flour. When incorporated, mix on medium-high speed for 3 minutes. The dough should be very soft and stretchy. On low speed, gradually add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour until incorporated.
- Switch to the dough hook. Knead on low speed for 8 minutes, or until dough is very smooth and elastic. Stop two or three times to push dough that creeps up on the dough hook back into the bowl.
- With the mixer on low speed, gradually add butter, a few slices 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 2 tablespoons additional flour. The dough still should be very soft and sticky and will just barely pull away from the sides of the bowl, but not the bottom.
- Pat the dough in the bowl into a ball. Spray lightly with vegetable oil spray and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the dough. Refrigerate for 8 hours or up to 2 days.
- Turn 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 too exact.) Drain fruit. Spread fruit, almonds, and chocolate evenly over the top. With a rolling pin, roll over the fruit, chocolate, and nuts to embed them into the dough.
- Fold the long sides of the dough into thirds (like a letter) and then fold the bottom half of the rectangle to meet the top to form a square. Pat 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 and round it into a ball.
- On a baking sheet, place the panettone mold. With the seam side down, place dough into the mold. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 2 hours (or up to 6 to 8 hours if the room is cold), until the dough reaches the top edge of the mold.
- 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 350ºF.
- Just before baking, use a sharp, serrated knife to cut a shallow cross from edge to edge over the top of the dough. You are scoring the surface, rather than cutting into it deeply. Place the cold pat of butter in the center of the dough.
- Turn the oven down to 325ºF. Bake panettone for 30 minutes. Place a piece of foil loosely over the top to keep it from overbrowning. 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 190°F. (Poke it through the side of the bread 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. To store, wrap it in foil. The panettone is best when eaten within 2 to 3 days.
Recipe and photos by Sally Pasley Vargas