Every year I aspire to make a fancy holiday yeast bread, laden with raisins, citron and dried fruit. I plan to bake them for family and friends, and somehow have a warm loaf emerging from the oven on Christmas morning. It never happens. But then I came across this recipe for small panettones – those tall Italian breads often baked in coffee cans and cut in wedges. These are mixed up the day before and left to rise overnight, then baked the next day. Easy!
If you like, start this the morning before you’re going to eat it, and let it rise all day, then the second rise can go overnight. It’s OK if it sits for an extra hour or so.
It’s a sticky, soft dough – one you couldn’t knead if you tried. A stand mixer is perfect for this (you have one on your Christmas list, right?), and then time does most of the heavy lifting. Use any dried fruit you like – apricots, cherries, figs, currants – raid your pantry! The panettone will keep well for up to a week, and makes great toast.
Night-Before Italian Panettone
adapted from Chatelaine
1 cup raisins
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
zest of an orange
1 Tbsp. liquid honey
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
3/4 cup candied citron
In a small bowl, cover raisins with hot water; set aside.
In a large bowl (preferably that of a stand mixer) combine flour with sugar, salt, yeast and orange zest and stir. In another bowl, whisk eggs with 2/3 cup lukewarm water, the honey and vanilla. Pour into the flour mixture and beat, adding the butter a piece at a time, and continue beating for 8-10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. (It will be sticky.) If you’re using a stand mixer, lock it down, and be warned that it could move around on the countertop as it works.
Drain the raisins well and add them to the dough along with the candied citron. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 12 to 15 hours.
Remove plastic wrap and lightly sprinkle top of dough with flour. Turn out onto a floured counter, dust with a little more flour, fold the dough over itself and place seam-side down in same mixing bowl. Cover with a damp kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 4-5 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut the dough into 12 equal portions and place the pieces in an ungreased 12-cup muffin tin. If you like, brush the tops with melted butter or beaten egg. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped. Tip the panettone in their cups to help steam escape.
Makes 1 dozen panettone.