Sourdough Panettone (beginner-friendly)

sourdough panettone
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Beginner friendly, simplified version. Can be made in one-day if you plan ahead. No need of gluten powder. This recipe doesn’t use a pasta madre or a commercial grade bread mixer.

Let’s make a no-fuss Panettone. The famous Italian sweet bread that is enjoyed all over the world over Christmas and New Year. I still remember learning to bake the yeasted version at Bakery School back in Melbourne. I hated the strong orange blossom scent that was used and made a mental note at that moment to never use the essence ever again. So yes, I don’t use orange blossom water but I do use fresh Orange zest and orange juice (as a soak) instead. This, I find, adds a more natural fragrance and freshness to the bread.

sourdough panattone

Panettone really is a brioche like bread with lots of butter, eggs (or egg yolks) and dried fruit (soaked overnight). There are million different ways to making this bread and I will just mention the two most commonly used or talked about methods. These are rough explanations just to give you a basic idea about what to expect.

Traditional method: Traditionally, this bread is made (leavened) using a very strong stiff levain (pasta madre) which is being prepped ahead of time. Usually flour + water/milk + bit of butter and eggs is mixed with the pasta madre or the levain and kneaded to a smooth glutenous dough. This is called the “first dough”. This is then slow fermented overnight (10 hours or so) until tripled. Then on the second day, everything else (rest of the butter, eggs, sugar, a little flour etc) are added and mixed until you get a silky dough. Soaked fruit is then mixed in. This silky dough or the “second dough” is then divided, pre-shaped, shaped before being placed in molds and proofed. The proofed bread is then baked.

Everyday method: You can use commercial yeast (instant yeast/active dry) and make this bread in a shorter period of time. Here you would bloom the yeast with some flour and milk/water (sponge). Then add the rest or the flour, sugar, salt, eggs (or yolk) and mix until a firm dough is developed. Then add the soft butter and continue to mix until a silky, elastic dough is developed. The soaked fruit is then added and mixed just until incorporated. This dough is then bulked until double. Then it is divided, pre-shaped and shaped. Shaped dough can then be placed in molds, proofed and baked.

Other ways you can make this bread;
– use instant yeast and add sourdough for flavor
– make a stiff levain using commercial yeast and use that
– use liquid sourdough levain
– use sourdough levain and mix everything in one dough and bulk as a single dough
– use instant yeast and slow bulk/ferment the dough in the fridge (retard)

sourdough panettone
soft crumb

So as you can see there are many ways to achieve the same flavorful bread but with slight differences. The slower the dough is fermented the more flavorful it will be. At the end of the day, all these methods will produce a delicious, light and fragrant bread that anyone will gobble up without a complain.

So this is why I came up with this process. If you don’t feel like spending a lot of time and energy but still want to capture the flavor, texture and incorporate some of the traditional ways, then you are at the right place.

I will be using a sweet stiff levain for this bread, which you can make using your active fed sourdough starter that you already have. I use this same type of sweet stiff levain to make other sweet sourdough bread like brioche, cinnamon rolls, babka etc.

As usual lets break down the process into steps and talk about them separately.

mature starter

Making of the sweet stiff levain:
make sure your starter is fed and is active. Then use some of this to make the levain.
Mix everything and knead into a tight dough ball. Place in a jar, cover and let this double/triple. Usually takes about 10-12 hours

Note: If your stiff levain didn’t grow much within 12 hours or if it smells very very acidic, I suggest you re-feed the levain. So you take some of the stiff levain that you just made and mix it with flour, water(you might need a little extra water this time) and sugar just like before and knead into a tight dough ball and let it ferment. If the first didn’t grow, probably this second one will. You can of course repeat the process until you get a satisfactory stiff levain. Normally, if your sourdough starter is well maintained (regularly fed and refreshed) making a stiff levain will be very easy.

candied peel

Fruit :
The dried fruit need to be soaked at least for 8 hours. The longer the better. Overnight is my recommendation. Depending on your schedule you can decide when to start soaking.
Soak : Orange juice to cover the raisins + 1 tbsp rum(optional)

Candied peel is a must. I use homemade candied peel. If you have extra time, try making them yourself from the Orange peel that gets thrown away anyway. There are plenty of recipes on the internet.

soften butter

Leave the butter out of the fridge to soften up. Cube it to make the process faster.

mold and sticks

tools:
-a stand mixer is required (it is a very soft dough and hand mixing would take forever) I’m using a KitchenAid artisan mixer
-panettone mold and two bbq skewers
-metal bench scraper, plastic (flexible bowl scraper)
-food grade probe thermometer

large molds – 6-5/8″ x 4-5/16″ ideal for 1Kg of dough

Why Skewers:
This bread is hung upside down as soon as it comes out of the oven. This is how the bread is going to cool for at least 4 hour (preferably overnight) or longer. If you don’t do this, delicate and soft crumb structure will collapse under it’s own weight. If the bread collapses the crumb will be dense and will not turn out as light as it should be.

Panettone mold size:
There are various sizes of molds out there. I developed this recipe to fit a W-71/2 inch and H-41/2 inch mold. This recipe will produce a dough that weighs roughly 1.2 kg. If you have other sizes, here is the formula to know the dough size that fits each mold:

dough weight in grams = volume of the mold x 0.4 (or 0.37 for a shorter dome)
Volume = (Width in cm / 2 x Width in cm / 2) x 3.14 x Height in cm

eg:
a mold of W 5.1″ (13cm) x H 3.35″ (8.5cm) will need roughly 500g dough;
dough weight = (13/2 x 13/2) x 3.14 x 8.5 = 1,123 x 0.4 = 449g

a mold W 7.5″ (19cm) x H 4.5″ (11.5cm) will need roughly 1300g dough;
dough weight = (19/2 x 19/2) x 3.14 x 11.5 = 3259 x 0.4 = 1300g

Adding slightly more or less (about 50g) dough isn’t going to be a problem. If you like really domed top that looks like a mushroom adding slightly more dough will get you there. It is personal preference.

Here is a link to smaller molds that I sometimes use, especially when gifting.

hydrated dough

Mix the dough:
Add everything except the butter and the fruit in the bowl of a stand mixer and start to mix on law speed. Using a paddle attachment is easier.

Flour:
Use strong bread flour that has at least 13% gluten. Most bread flour in the super markets has a gluten % closer to this. KingArther Bread flour is a good reliable option if you can find it.

developed dough

Develop the dough:
When everything is mixed (hydrated), scrape the bowl and increase speed to medium (2 on KitchenAid) and continue to mix. You can switch to dough hook at this time. Mix until a stretchy dough is developed ( about 5-8 minutes)

adding butter

Adding butter:
Once the dough is developed (when you can see some elasticity) start adding soft butter and continue to mix. You might feel like it’s too much butter, but it’s not. keep mixing and if necessary scrape and push down the dough to encourage butter incorporation.

sticky dough

Develop a silky dough:
When all the butter is added, the dough will be sticky. Continue to mix until the dough is silky and stretchy. It will be less sticky and start to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Will take about 8-10 minutes. Dust the bowl with flour to encourage dough pulling from the walls.

silky dough

Hand knead (slap and fold):
Butter or oil the bench top and scrape the silky dough out. Grease your hands and perform a few slap and folds so the dough will start to feel stronger. Once it feels firm and less sticky, it’s time to bulk/ferment this dough

smooth dough

Coil folds:
perform 3 coil folds at 30 minute intervals to further strengthen the dough

place in a bowl

Fermentation:
Place the dough in a well greased bowl, cover with a lid and leave to ferment (roughly until doubled in size). The time may vary depending on the room temperature and starter strength. Don’t place in a too warm place as that would cause the butter in the dough to melt and leak out.

bulked dough

Bulking may take 8-10 hours. when it is doubled in size and looks airy and puffed up, it’s done. I have left it to ferment for 12 hours and it didn’t affect the taste much. So it is okay to give it a little extra time!

Note: If your dough is doubled in size but if it is already too late in the day to continue, you can place it in the fridge until next day morning. Let it come to room temp and continue with the rest of the process. I usually start mixing the dough in the evening because then I can let the dough ferment overnight. Temperature in my apartment is around 70°F-72°F (20°C-22°C) so if I leave the dough to ferment around 7-8 pm it will be ready by 8am next day. If you mix the dough in the morning you can place it in the fridge and then pull out around 8pm and let it ferment overnight. You decide how you’d like to proceed.

soaked raisins

Prep the fruit:
By the time the dough is fermented(bulked) you should have the fruit ready. Drain the excess liquid and use paper towels to take away as much moisture as you can. You can mix the zest and the peel with the drained fruit now and set aside.

Note: Grease your hands (use either melted butter or oil) before handling the dough from this point onwards.

adding fruit

Adding fruit:
Grease the bench top again and bring the dough onto it. Now stretch the dough as wide and as thinly as possible without tearing. Then scatter the fruit evenly.

roll the dough

Roll the dough:
Then roll the dough from one end to another. Try to be gently with the dough.

fruit added

Place the dough in a bowl, cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

pre-shaped

Pre-shape:
If you want, divide the dough into smaller pieces at this stage. Then pre shape the dough in to a smooth ball. Let this rest for about 20 minutes. If you don’t divide, you can skip pre-shaping but it will help shaping the dough and gives a better rise.

prepare the mold

Prepare the mold

Lightly grease the mold if it hasn’t got a non-stick surface.
Insert the skewers as shown in the picture closer to the bottom. (about 1 inch from bottom). Make sure they are parallel and leveled.

Note: It’s easier to have the skewers inserted before the dough goes in. In most bakeries, they bake the bread and then insert the skewers or their special equipment. At home this can be hard, as the bread is pretty hot and while trying to insert the skewers, you might accidentally squash the bread or it may deflate. So it is easier to have them inserted beforehand. But you can try other ways and find something that works for you.

place the dough in the mold

Final proof:
Now shape the dough again into a tight ball. Basically you gently stretch the dough and tuck it under using your hands or a metal scraper so the surface is elastic and smooth. Once shaped place in the prepared mold/molds. Let the dough proof covered until it domed slightly over the top.

proofed dough

Proofing may take about 5-8 hours. Again depending on the room temperature and your starter strength. When it domes, just above the top, it is done proofing.

decorate the top

Baking:
Once the dough is proofed, preheat the oven. Place a rack on the lower third of the oven. Once the oven is ready, brush the top of the dough with milk+egg and sprinkle your choice of topping and bake.

Baking:
Takes about 1 hour for this size of dough. the internal temperature should read above 195°F (90°C) for the bread to be considered done.

Note: It is critical to bake the bread properly, if not it might be raw in the center and too heavy for the skewers to hold once tipped over. Use a probe thermometer to check the internal temperature. Check at 50 minutes mark and continue to bake until done. If the top is burning, cover with a piece of foil.

Note: There are several ways to decorate the top.
– score a cross and place a knob of butter in the center
– egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar
– egg wash and sprinkle with almond flakes
– egg wash and decorate with blanched whole almonds
– glaze made using eggs and almond meal
– leave it plain is always an option too

another way to score the bread

This one is scored and I have placed a knob of cold butter in the center. To score, you can draw a cross on the skin (it shouldn’t cut deeper than 2 mm) and peel off the skin.

cooling

Cooling:
Once baked, remove the bread from the oven and hang upside down using the skewer edges. Leave upside down until completely cooled or over night.

Use something stable and heat resistant. I have used glasses, just to show you how it is done and this bread is already cooled. I would not destroy a hot bread while trying to photograph it LOL 🙂

baked bread

Once completely cooled, you can either slice and enjoy or place in a plastic bag and tie for freshness.

This bread tastes better when rested for a day as the flavors develops further. You can place the cooled bread in a plastic bag and tie to keep it fresh for 2-3 days. Place in the fridge to keep longer.

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6 comments

  1. Where can I find a panettone mold that’s the size your loaf is designed for? I see I could use a 6″ springform cheesecake pan — but how would I hang that upside down?. . .

  2. How can I make this with commercial yeast (active dry) I was hopeful you would provide a measurement for that as well! Would I just use 15 grams in place of the mature starter? Thanks!

    1. I haven’t done that myself and so I am a little reluctant to answer you question. May I suggest that you look up for a yeasted recipe on the internet. You must have better luck that way.
      Happy baking
      Cheers!

  3. Hi Vindi, really looking forward to trying this having had mixed/good results over previous years., I love the detail of temperatures, sizing and other elements, something lacking in other recipes. One question on step 8., I read this as one coil fold every half-hour, totalling three, is that correct or is it three coil folds every half-hour, totalling nine? Many thanks!

    1. It is three coil fold at half hour intervals. This process will add more layers to the dough (almost like laminating)
      Sorry about the late reply

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