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Holiday Breads
Mary's Panettone (with live yeast, vegetable oil, raisins, lemon zest, rum and vanilla)
Originated from: Southern Italy
Occasion: Easter & special times
Contributed by: Mary Melfi

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Panettone (makes 2)

2 oz. "live" yeast, proofed in 1/2 cup warm milk and 2 teaspoons sugar*

10 "large-sized" eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
7 cups all-purpose white flour
2/3 cup vegetable oil
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons, thoroughly mixed (by hand) with 3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup raisins
1/8 cup candied fruit, chopped (optional)

For egg wash
1 egg yolk, beaten
1 tablespoon milk

*2 packets of dry yeast (16 g) can be substituted if live yeast is not available

Equipment needed: two round and tall light-colored aluminum baking pans about 9 inches wide, greased and floured


o Crumble 2 oz. live yeast in a bowl; add 1/2 cup warmish milk and 2 teaspoons sugar (P.S. If the milk is too cold, it won't work, if it is too warm the yeast will be killed, so getting the right temperature for the milk is extremely important.) Mix well until you have a smooth mixture. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let the mixture rest until it starts to foam up and doubles in volume -- about 10 minutes.

o Meanwhile, place eggs, sugar, vegetable oil, rum and vanilla in an electric bowl mixer (e.g. a Kitchen Aid). Beat ingredients for 3 to 4 minutes.

o In a separate bowl, add 3/4 cup flour.

o Add the (proofed) live yeast to the 3/4 cup of flour. Mix well (by hand).

o Add the 3/4 cup of flour and the live yeast mixture to the egg-sugar-oil liquid mixture. Beat in the electric bowl mixer at medium speed for about 2 minutes.

o Gradually add more flour (about 4 cups) to the egg-sugar-oil mixture until a thick batter is produced, beating at medium speed for about 3 minutes.

o When the four cups of flour have been added, and the batter has become far too thick for the regular mixing handles, change to dough hooks.

o Add the remaining 2 1/4 cups of flour (The dough should be quite soft, not as soft as a cake batter, but certainly softer than bread dough.).

o Knead the dough for about 8 minutes at low speed (If the speed is too high the machine will get hot and the motor might burn out).

o Turn off the machine, and add the grated lemon zest and raisins (as well as the candied fruit if using) to the dough ball and mix well by hand.

o Knead the dough (mixed with the grated lemon zest and raisins) for another 2 minutes (P.S. If one adds the raisins and/or candied fruit at the start of the kneading process some will get damaged; also, if one adds the lemon zest with the rum and egg mixture earlier in the process strangely enough the flavor of the lemon gets diluted).

o Divide the kneaded dough into two portions (Making 2 small-sized panettone rather than one large one is recommended as the larger the panettone is, the harder it is to get its center cooked through without burning its outer surface).

o Grease and lightly flour two tall & round light-colored aluminum pans. (P.S. Light-colored aluminum pans conduct heat less efficiently than more expensive dark-colored baking pans which actually is a good thing, as the bottoms of the panettone are less likely to get burnt by their use. Some home cooks use angel cake pans to do their panettone as this will ensure more even baking. However, the "traditional" panettone does not include a hole in the center, but rather, it resembles a tall sponge cake.)

o Place the divided dough in the greased and lightly floured tall pans. (P.S. The tripling of the volume of the dough is highly important as the success of this cake rests on it -- the kneaded dough should cover about 1/4 of a tall pan when placed in it and by the time it is ready for baking the dough should rise to nearly the top of the pan.)

o Cover the pans (P.S.Some home cooks use pan lids, some use tea towels and some use both; some home cooks also cover the pans with blankets. There is no "right" way of doing it -- meaning, what is right for one home cook is not right for another -- basically what should be done all depends on the temperature and humidity of the room the dough is resting in. Ideally, the temperature of the room in which the dough is rising should be between 80 F degrees to 84 F degrees. Also, the room should not be drafty -- windows should be closed. Some home cooks place the dough in their ovens, but they do NOT turn on the oven, as this would kill the yeast, and ruin the panettone. If the dough placed in the turned-off oven does not rise after three hours, some home cooks will boil water on the stove burners in the hope of increasing the temperature in the oven. Others will place the covered dough in an area of a room where there is an abundant amount of sunlight -- this is useful in the winter months, but in the summer months when the temperature is over 84 degrees F this is not a good idea. Making a good-tasting panettone rests less on the skill of the home cook, and more on the conditions of the room in which the dough is placed to rest. Doesn't seem fair, but so it is.)

o Let the dough rest until it nearly triples in volume. The process can take anywhere from 6 to 8 hours for live yeast (Live yeast works like fast-rising dry yeast -- the process is very quick, still, it's worth waiting 6 hours because the dough will keep rising higher and higher). If one is using traditional dry yeast the process might take anywhere from 8 to 16 hours.

o When the dough has risen, preheat oven to 325 F degrees.

o Beat an egg yolk with 1 tablespoon milk (P.S. Most panettone egg wash mixtures don't include milk, but including it does make it less likely that the tops of the panettone get burnt).

o Brush the tops of the panettone with the egg wash mixture.

o Place the panettone on the bottom rack of the oven.

o Bake until the panettone are thoroughly cooked through -- about 25 to 35 minutes, depending on the size of the pans and the "real" temperature of the oven used (P.S. If the tops of the panettone look as if they are starting to burn after the first 20 minutes, cover the tops with some aluminum foil.)

o Remove the cooked panettone from the oven; keep them in their respective pans and let them cool for about 2 hours.

o When the panettone are cool to the touch, remove them from their respective pans. If they are to be served in the next day or so, place them in clear plastic bags, tie the bags with twisters, and keep them in the fridge. If the panettone are to be served in a week or so it's best to place them in clear plastic bags, tie them with twisters and then freeze them until needed as panettone dry very quickly.

o Serve at room temperature.


After a number of failed attempts to make panettone from a variety of recipes, I tried to come up with my own variation. My take on the recipe will not produce the best-tasting panettone on this side of the Atlantic, but the recipe is relatively easy to do, and the result should be satisfactory. Photo and notes: Mary Melfi.

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