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Panettone, originally from Italy, is a festive bread that can be found on holiday tables all over the world. It is characterised by its softness, sweetness and rich flavour brought by candied fruit. With a few tricks, you can also prepare it at home.
Panettone, the traditional Italian Christmas bread, originated in Milan and has a history dating back to the Middle Ages. Its roots are surrounded by legends and anecdotes. One of the most famous stories tells of a baker named Toni who created a rich bread in order to win the heart of his beloved. This bread, called ''Pan de Toni'' (Tonet''s bread), eventually became known as panettone.
In the 20th century, panettone underwent a transformation when new baking processes were introduced, allowing mass production and distribution. This change helped to make it popular throughout Italy and later throughout the world. Panettone is characterised by its high, fluffy texture, which is the result of the long leavening of the dough. It is traditionally filled with dried fruits such as raisins and candied orange peel.
Today, panettone is a popular choice during the holidays, not only in Italy but all over the world, with many bakers and pastry chefs adding their own unique touch with different fillings and flavourings.
The key ingredients of panettone are the basis for its unique taste and texture. Traditional panettone includes:
Wheat flour: The basis for the dough, which ensures the correct structure and fluffiness.
Yeast: Important for the dough to rise, yeast gives panettone its characteristic light texture.
Eggs: They add rich flavour and the characteristic yellowish colour.
Butter: Contributes to the rich creamy texture and flavour.
Sugar: For sweetness and fine texture.
Raisins and candied fruit: Traditionally, raisins and candied citrus peel are used to add sweetness and aroma.
Lemon and orange peel: Grated peel adds a fresh, aromatic touch.
Vanilla and/or aromatic spices: Such as vanilla, cardamom or cinnamon, which enrich the flavour.
These ingredients combine to create the classic panettone flavour, which is popular all over the world. Many bakers experiment with additional ingredients such as chocolate chips or various nuts to add a unique character to this traditional Italian delicacy.
One of the key elements that gives panettone its unique texture and flavour is the Italian yeast called ''lievito madre'' or mother yeast. This yeast gives panettone its characteristic sour aroma, while allowing it to remain fluffy for longer.
Each day, a portion of the mother yeast is cut off and flour and water are added to nourish it. This allows the yeast to stay alive and can be used whenever desired.
Making panettone is a lengthy process that takes three days. We will describe each step in more detail below.
The first step in the preparation of the panettone is to make the pre-test. This is done by dissolving the yeast in the water, adding the flour and mixing well. The dough is then kneaded and left to rise for 8 to 10 hours at room temperature between 20 and 22 degrees.
Ingredients for the pre-dough (biga):
100 g white flour
60 g water
a small piece of yeast (about 1 g)
Dissolve the yeast in the water, add the flour and mix to form a dough.
Cover the dough and leave to rise for 8-10 hours at room temperature (20-22 °C).
The next morning, prepare the panettone dough. In a food processor, combine the flour, egg yolks, water, sugar and butter. Mix for about 10 minutes until you have a pliable dough. The dough then rises in a covered bowl for 12 to 15 hours.
160 g of predough
300 g white flour
2 egg yolks
120 g water
100 g of sugar
65 g butter
Mix the water, flour and pre-fat. Knead for 3 minutes.
Add the egg yolks, sugar and butter. Knead for 7 minutes to make a smooth dough.
Let the dough rise for 12-15 hours in a covered bowl.
Second kneading and shaping stage (evening of the same day):
Dough from the first phase
150 g white flour
70 g sugar
3 egg yolks
70 g milk with vanilla
12 g salt
65 g butter
Grated peel of one large lemon (or two small lemons)
150 g candied orange peel, other fruit or dark chocolate
Boil milk with vanilla, cool.
Mix the ingredients, add the butter and salt. Knead for 3 minutes.
Let the dough rise for 2-3 hours.
Divide the dough and shape into balls, which are placed in moulds (14 cm in diameter).
Rise for 20 hours at 20 °C.
On the last day, shape the dough into a ball and carefully transfer it to the paper moulds. Leave the dough to rise for a further 20 hours to allow all the characteristic aromas to develop.
Once the dough is ready, rise it again for six to eight hours and then bake it in the oven at 170 degrees Celsius for about 45 minutes. After baking, turn the panettone upside down and leave it to cool.
Preparing panettone is a long and difficult process that requires a great deal of patience and skill. Nevertheless, the result is worth all the effort: a soft, fluffy cake with candied fruit, indispensable on any festive table.
If you want to add a touch of originality to your panettone, you can experiment with different types of candied fruit or add dark chocolate chunks. Whichever version you choose, don''t forget the most important ingredient: the love of baking.