The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

First Try: Panettone

pmccool's picture

First Try: Panettone

Friends of ours are fond of panettone, so I thought that I would try making some for them as a Christmas gift.  After much browsing, I decided to use the recipe for Il Panettone Milanese, located here:  One of the things that drew me to this one is that it uses a naturally-yeasted biga, instead of commercial yeast.  I figured that my sourdough starter (which isn’t especially sour) would yield a good biga and it did.


I should say at the outset that I am pleased with the result, especially since the recipe yields two panettone that are in the medium to large range; one for the friends and one for the baker.  There are some things to address, but it is a very satisfying first attempt.  Here's a picture: Panettone


However, I’m not sure that I would use this specific recipe again, since it does have a few quirks.  For instance, the directions for the second-stage dough don’t say when to add the egg yolks (I put them in with the rest of the wet ingredients) and they call for water that isn’t in the ingredient list (I chose not to, since there was no indication of quantity and it looked like a repeat of the instructions for the first dough).  The recommended baking temperature is 380F, while Reinhart’s formula recommends a baking temperature of 320F.  Since I was improvising with soufflé dishes (one glass and one ceramic) in lieu of panettone molds or papers, I dropped the temperature to 360F and still wound up with rather dark crusts, even after covering them loosely with foil.  The recipe gives no indication of baking time, other than that a skewer should come out clean after inserting into the panettone.  I pulled them out of the oven when the internal temperature reached 185F, which took almost 1-1/2 hours.


I gave a slice to an Italian acquaintance from Milan and asked for a critique.  The first thing that she noted is that my panettone is denser than what she is accustomed to Italy.  While I followed the directions and allowed 6 hours for the second rise before baking, it didn’t achieve that almost lacy sponginess of a traditional panettone.  There are probably five factors at play.  First, additional time for the second rise would probably have helped.  My acquaintance says that a friend of hers bakes it frequently and allows it to rise to a point where it is almost ready to collapse.  While mine had more than doubled in size, it hadn’t yet reached the wobbly stage when it went into the oven.  Second, by baking it in soufflé dishes, the dough had room to expand sideways quite a bit before being forced to expand upward.  A regular panettone mold would have encouraged more vertical expansion, which may have improved the texture.  Third, this is a very rich dough, especially with fats (a pound of butter and 12 egg yolks!).  Fourth, there is almost 2 pounds of fruit in this recipe.  With that much fat and that much fruit weighing it down, the dough is going to need every bit of help it can get to fully expand.  The last factor, and I don’t have a way to address it, is that Italian bakers have a special rack for inverting and suspending the panettone as it cools.  That keeps it from settling and reducing in volume before it is cool and firm.  I didn’t notice much, if any, settlement which isn’t too surprising since the crumb wasn’t as spongy as it should have been.


Her second observation was that the candied fruit peel was somewhat bitter.  I had noticed that both the orange peel and the lemon peel that I purchased used the full thickness of the peel.  Since the white pith can contribute bitterness, that is probably the culprit.  I’ll opt for making my own candied peel from just the zest of the lemon and orange in future attempts.


The third observation that she made was that the finished bread was drier than the panettone to which she was accustomed.  I had expected it to be very moist because of all of the butter and eggs.  Maybe the recipe writer meant it when she said to add water to the second dough.  If only she had said how much!  A wetter dough might also have been able to expand more during the final rise.


The good news is that the flavor was very close to what my acquaintance knew and loved, so she was happy to have the slice that I brought for her.  I’m happy to know that my first attempt is close to the mark on this most important point.  Almost everything else can be tweaked and adjusted to get closer to a traditional panettone’s texture. 


Best of all, my friends were delighted to receive their panettone.


helend's picture

Have you candied peel before PMCCool? If you have I'd be very interested in your recipe/technique. If you haven't I have and would be happy to share ideas.


PS Your panettone looks great! :)

pmccool's picture

Thanks, HelenD.  It tastes good, too.


I have not made my own candied peel previously, so any tips would be appreciated.  From looking at some recipes on the web, it seems like a simple proposition.  That's usually an indication that I don't have a clue about what I'm getting into.



helend's picture

Hi PMcCool

Sorry I am only just replying but you know ... Christmas, New Year, family, in-laws .... this is the first time I've been onto the site for ages. BTW Happy New Year all!!

Anyway, candied peel - and indeed candied fruits, angelica and ginger, not difficult BUT slowwwwww. There is some nice chemistry going on (which I don't fully understand) that is basically an osmosis - the gradually increased strength of the sugar syrup acts to draw out water from the fruit cells and draw in the sugar to preserve the fruit.

My indispensible guide is "Bulletin No.21 Domestic Preservation of Fruit and Vegetables" by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1962) courtesy of my Mother and I am fairly confident no-one in the British Government will mind if I share their guidance with you!


Candied peel.

With a hydometer

  • Oranges, lemons or grapefruit should be thoroughly scrubbed (in v hot water if waxed), halved and the pulp carefully removed.
  • Boil the peel for about an hour (grapefruit peel should have the water changed several times) then drained.
  • Dissolve one lb of sugar (or PREFERABLY 8oz sugar, 8oz glucose in 1 pint water to 46brix at 100f then brought to boil and poured over the peel.
  • Soak the boiled peel for 24 hours then on each successive day, drain off the syrup, add 4oz sugar (or glucose on alternate days) to make the strengths as below, then bring to the boil and submerge peel again for 24 hours.
  • 2nd day, 49 brix; 3rd day, 51; 4th day 55; 5th day, 59; 6th day 65 brix.
  • On 6th day the peel must sit for 3 days and can sit for 2-3 weeks before being removed and dried for use.

Without a hydrometer

  • Prepare fruit as above but quarter the peels and simmer in enough water to cover for approx 2 hours until tender toppping up the water as necessary.
  • Add 2oz sugar for each orange or lemon used, stir until dissolved and bring to the boil.
  • Leave to cool with no lid on pan
  • Next day bring pan to boil and simmer a few minutes before leaving to cool.
  • Next day repeat but simmer until the peel has absorbed nearly all the syrup.
  • Drain and dry.

I don't have a hydrometer but have one method one by adding approx 4 oz sugar/glucose each day with fine results.

The process is essentially the same for fruits both fresh and canned. (canned do not needs to be simmered until soft and the syrup used with water to make up the initial ratio given above). I got great results with fresh pineapple and kiwi fruit sliced as well as peaches, apricots and pears (each fruit has to be candied separately) and gave it as christmas presents some years ago.

Have fun! Helend


PS Brix is a measurement of the percentage weight of sugar in solution - as the density varies by temp of solution, the 100 degrees F is used so the sugar is dissolved

dburkej's picture


Thanks for the tips.  The instructions on that recipe leave a lot to be desired. 


Can you explain to me exactly the steps you used to integrate the ingredients in the second stage.  I got through the first stage without much problem (though there, too, it wasn't clear when or how much water to add).  But the second stage was another matter and I ended up having to throw the whole thing out.  The instructions seemed to say to integrate the flour first, but the first stage dough was not moist enough to take it all.  I tried adding the yolks, but they would not integrate, they just slimed around the outside of the dough ball (maybe I just wasn't patient enough).  Anyway, I want to try again (have to use up all of this candied fruit)  :>) but I could sure use your suggestions.  Thanks!!


pmccool's picture



Like I said, that recipe has some quirks.  I elected to incorporate the egg yolks for the second dough at the beginning of that stage, along with the honey and vanilla, before adding flour.  And yes, it took a lot of stirring (by hand, in my case) before they were absorbed by the dough.  What you missed out on by stopping at that point was the joy of trying to incorporate the last of the butter, which is the last of the additions following the flour (not including the phantom water).  After what I went through with stirring in the egg yolks, I elected to knead in the melted butter.  What a bother!  The dough really doesn't want to absorb anything more and the melted butter makes both the dough and the work surface very slippery.  Consequently, there was much pushing and slipping around and muttering under one's breath about recipe developers.  Eventually, everything came together and I was able to complete the bread, not to mention a strenuous upper-body workout.  Even so, I'll be looking for a different recipe for my next attempt.  I wish you well in your next try.



loretta's picture

You can make your panettone molld. Take a look here:

Your panettone looks great!

sylvstr540's picture

Thanks for sharing this site. We were thinking about buying a pan or baking paper to try a panettone, but maybe we can use this site instead! 

loretta's picture

This is an home sistem on how you can cool it: It say it would be better to use wooden knitting needle.
hefetc's picture

Hi PMcCool!

Thanks so much for this! I love the results of your Milanese friend's critique.

 I was going to try to revive this topic here, but realized after the fact that no one would find it since it's a reply to an older blog post. Instead, I made a new forum topic here.