After getting some great advice from the group I have been baking panettone this holiday season with considerably more success than in previous years. I have written out directions for my use next year and have added them here in case they are of interest to anyone else. I will post some pictures separately. Thank you all for your shared expertise!! Charlotte
(from Breadtopia and Wild Yeast Blog)
I use the recipe (omitting the instant yeast since that makes my first dough ferment too quickly) and the general instructions for creating a firm “sweet” starter set out in Wild Yeast Blog. However, I have substituted the specific ratios for the day-of-bake starter builds and the instructions for mixing the first dough set out in Breadtopia.
It usually takes me about 2-3 days to convert my regular liquid starter (which often has been sitting in the refrigerator unfed for one to three months) into a sufficiently active and sweet firm starter to begin Day 1.
Measure all ingredients for first and second doughs
Prepare dried fruit—Measure out the raisins/currants. Add equal parts rum and water to cover and stir. Let them sit out, covered, at room temperature for 4-5 hours.
DAY 1 at 9:00 PM
Prepare the First Dough
Measure temperature of starter and room to determine temperature of water [generally, based on my prior experience water should be 110 F (43C)degrees + to achieve DDT of 76F (24C)].
Add the flour, sugar, water, diastatic malt and starter, broken up into pieces, into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the dough just comes together, around 3 minutes. Although this dough starts out very stiff, you'll eventually add a lot of egg yolks and butter, which will soften it considerably.
Switch to a dough hook attachment and continue mixing on low/medium low speed for another 10 or 15 minutes, until the dough is smooth.
Start adding the softened butter, a little at a time, waiting until it is completely absorbed before adding more. This will take some time.
[Make sure you do not over work the dough any time during the mixing by checking its temperature frequently. If the dough temperature reaches 79°F (26°C), place the mixer bowl, dough and hook in the freezer for 10 minutes to cool it down before resuming.] [This has never been an issue for me—the dough temperature does not increase as I mix it. I use an old kitchen aid and never go over speed 2.]
After the butter is fully incorporated, add the egg yolks, a little at a time, waiting until they are fully absorbed before adding more.
Continue mixing until the gluten is fully formed and the dough is smooth and shiny in appearance. The dough needs to pass the “windowpane test” before you are done. The dough processing may take 30-45 minutes or more to complete.
DAY 1 at 10:30 PM
Ferment First Dough
Place first dough in a large container with straight sides that can accommodate triple the current volume of the dough and cover it with a well-fitting cover or with plastic wrap. Mark the initial dough level so you can tell when it has tripled. If you are using a covered bowl without straight sides, take a small piece of dough and put it in a straight-sided glass, cover it with cling wrap and mark its level. You will use this piece to determine when the dough has tripled in volume. Place the dough (and glass with dough ball, if used) in a warm place to rise for around 12 hours, preferably at around 85F (29C) (could take 8 - 15 hours). [For me it takes around 8 hours if I start fermentation in my oven at around 90F (32C) with a cup of boiling water and let it drift down to low 70s F (22C) over night.]
DAY 1 at 11:00 PM
Drain the raisins/currants and gently squeeze out the extra liquid. Distribute them evenly on a cookie sheet lined with several layers of paper towels. Cover with several more layers of paper towels and another cookie sheet with a few weights on top to help pull any extra liquid out of the rehydrated dried fruit. (Alternatively, you can just roll the dried fruits up in paper towels.) Let them sit out overnight at room temperature.
DAY 2 at 7:00 AM
Start softening the butter
Check on the first dough to see how it is rising. Depending on the temperature, it could take anywhere from 8 to 15 hours to triple in volume. You may have to adjust the times listed below accordingly, depending on your rising environment.
DAY 2 at 8:00 AM
Prepare second dough
Measure temperature of first dough and room to determine temperature of water [generally, based on prior experience water should be 110F (43C) + to achieve DDT of 76F (24C)].
To the first dough in the mixer bowl, add the flour, salt, egg yolks, orange zest, vanilla seeds, Fior de Sicilia and 35% of the water. Mix in low speed until the ingredients are just combined, about 3 minutes.
Turn the mixer to medium speed, mix for a minute or two, then continue to mix while slowly adding the sugar, in about 5 or 6 increments. Mix for one to two minutes between additions.
Continue to mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and the gluten is almost fully developed.
Turn the mixer back to low speed and add the butter. Mix for a minute in low speed, then in medium speed until the butter is completely incorporated into the dough and the gluten has reached full development.
In low speed, add the honey, and about half of the remaining water. Mix until the water is fully incorporated.
Add the remaining water and mix until it is fully incorporated.
In low speed, add the raisins/currents and candied peels/ginger, mixing just until they are evenly distributed.
DAY 2 at 10:30 AM
Second Fermentation, Shaping and Final Proofing
Place the dough in a lightly oiled container (preferably a low, wide one, to facilitate folding).
Ferment at warm room temperature for about one hour, folding the dough after the first 30 minutes. If the dough seems very loose, fold it at 20-minute intervals instead.
Turn the dough onto a buttered surface. Divide the dough into 500-gram pieces and form each piece into a light ball.
Allow the balls to rest (may be left uncovered) for 20 minutes.
Skewer the molds.
Shape the dough into tight balls and place into the skewered molds.
Proof covered at 80F for 4 – 6 hours (or about 12 hours at room temperature), until the tops of the dough domes are cresting just above the top of the molds and the sides are 1/2 inch or so below the tops.
As soon as the sides rise to about 1to 3/4 of an inch below the top of the panettone molds, uncover the molds and leave the dough open to the air to form a thin skin and preheat the oven to 350F (177C), with the rack in the lower third of the oven.
DAY 2 at 3:30 PM (or later depending on rising time)
Prepare Glaze and Bake
Optional step: To mix the glaze, whisk all ingredients together. Pour, brush, or pipe the glaze evenly onto the top of the loaves. Sift powdered sugar generously over the tops, then sprinkle with pearl sugar and garnish with whole blanched almonds.
If you leave the panettone unglazed, use scissors to snip an X into the top of the loaf and tuck a pat of butter inside.
Place the loaves directly on the oven rack and bake for about 35 – 45 minutes, until the tops are dark brown and the internal temperature is 185F (85C). If the tops are already quite dark after 25 – 30 minutes, turn the heat down to 325F (163C).
While the panettone is baking, set up hanging apparatus. When the bread is done, hang them as quickly as possible.
Allow the panettone to hang for at least four hours, up to overnight.