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 Panettone (Italian Christmas Bread)

   Panettone Photo
Category: Holidays - Christmas, Desserts
Servings: 8 - 10
Total time: 4 hrs
Level: Intermediate
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An authentic Italian recipe from our kitchen to yours. Buon Appetito!

Ingredients for Sponge

- 1/2 cup flour

- 2/3 cup warm milk

- 3 1/2 teaspoons active yeast

- 1 1/2 teaspoons honey

Ingredients for Dough

- 3 1/2 cups + 1/4 cup flour, divided

- 3 eggs

- 2/3 cup sugar

- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

- 1 1/2 cup raisins

- 1/2 cup candied citron pieces, diced (optional)

- Zest of 1/2 of a lemon

- Zest of 1/2 of an orange

- 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

- 1 teaspoon salt

- All of the sponge


1.  In a bowl, add the raisins, cover with water and heat in the microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute. Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir the raisins; then, set the bowl aside for 30 - 45 minutes.

2.  In the meantime, prepare the sponge for the panettone. In a microwave safe bowl, mix together the milk and honey. Heat the mixture until it becomes warm but not hot, about 90 seconds. You should be able to dip your finger in the mixture and hold it there comfortably. When warmed, whisk in the yeast and the flour and mix until the ingredients are dissolved. Set aside for 8 - 10 minutes until the yeast activates. You will know it has activated when the mixture becomes foamy and begins to rise. It will rise rather quickly.

3.  While waiting for the sponge to rise, in a large mixing bowl, add the 3 1/2 cups flour, sugar, zests, and salt. Mix well.




4.  Once the dry ingredients are mixed thoroughly, make a well in the center of the bowl by pushing the flour mix up along the sides of the bowl. Then pour all of the activated sponge into the well.

5.  Add the melted butter, eggs, vanilla, and the almond extract.

6.  Using a heavy duty spatula or wooden spoon, begin mixing the flour into the well. Continue mixing until all of the ingredients are combined well and it begins to form a shaggy dough. At this point, turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and continue kneading the dough by hand until it becomes a pliable ball (about 8 minutes).

7.  Form the dough into a ball. Place it into a clean, oiled bowl and let it rise, covered with a damp cloth, for about 90 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

8.  Drain the raisins; pat dry lightly and set aside.

9.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

10.  Turn the risen dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead it for 2 - 3 minutes and then roll it out into a rectangle measuring roughly 4 inches long by 6 inches wide by 1/4 inch high.

11.  Toss the raisins and citron pieces in the remaining 1/4 cup of flour to coat well. Place the coated fruit in a strainer to shake off any excess flour as necessary and then pour the fruit over the top of the dough.

12.  Distribute the fruit pieces evenly over the dough; then proceed to first roll up the dough lengthwise into a log.

13.  After rolling the dough into a long log; then, starting from one end, roll the log into a round. It will look somewhat like a giant cinnamon roll.

14.  At this point begin to form the roll into a ball in your hands. As soon as it starts to form, place the dough back on the work surface. Clasp your hands lightly behind the ball of dough and gently pull the dough towards you with your hands, letting the dough scrape against the worksurface. Repeat this process until the dough forms a smooth, round ball on all sides. This will seal all edges of the dough and create a firm, nicely round ball. If some fruit pulls through the dough, that's fine. Just add it back in as necessary.

15.  Place the ball into a panettone form (a round casserole dish, a Dutch oven or a 10 inch round cake pan with high sides will also work well) and let rise, covered, for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

16.  Once the dough has risen, place it on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, lower the temperature to 375 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes.

17.  Remove the panettone from the oven. It should be dark brown on top and the bottom of the bread should sound hollow when you tap it. If it does not seem ready, place it back in the oven at 375 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes.

18.  Let the panettone cool for at least 1 hour prior to serving.