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Caramel apple panettone made with sweet lievito madre.

I have been developing my sweet LM for a while now, initially to help with making sourdough shokupan, but now also to use with SD brioche and panettone. I am still adding a small amount of regular LM "just in case", but as you can see, the sweet LM rises very well. The flavor of the panettone is outstanding.

Sugar is adjusted in the LM care, and some of the sugar content in the dough was moved to the first impasto, to maintain the desired sugar level. The pH of the first impasto after 12 hours fermentation at 23C was 4.87. The final rise was complete in 3.5 hours. 

I am primarily maintaining the sweet LM at room temperature (not cycling warm and cool), with the exception of when I want to store it for a few days. Then it is simply refrigerated. This LM can be easily revivied with about 10 hours at room temp after a bagnetto and feeding. Longer term storage is TBD, as I am using the LM for several baking projects, and haven't been binding it. 

I am getting better results by maintaining a sweet LM separately, vs making a one-time build of sweet LM (as is done in several popular recipes). The maintained sweet LM continues to have an elastic texture long after a regular LM would be showing gluten damage. 

The primo impasto maintained a relatively high pH, and the dough still had good gluten development after 12 hours of fermentation. Even though this is an apple panettone with a lot of additional moisture in the recipe, the resulting crumb is delicate, light and soft. 

The same LM makes excellent sourdough shokupan and brioche. I will be using it for croissants also, and hope to be able to reduce or eliminate the need to maintain a separate liquid starter.



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For those of you who are interested in Italian baking, particularly the Italian brioches, these books from Italian Gourmet are worth noting:

Un Panettone Mondiale (with English text): "The stars and all the recipes of the first international national competition on the beloved Italian delicacy".

207 pages, with lovely photography and information on all the teams. Also recipes for each team's Classic, Chocolate, and "innovative savory" panettone entries. There are some interesting approaches, and some surprises in the regional savory panettoni: the Argentinian team's savory loaf has chorizo, purple maize, wine flour, chimichurri spices and Malbec, among other things! The Japanese team's savory entry has soy sauce, sesame oil, yuzu, kombu and cheddar cheese added to the mix. 

Many of the Chocolate Panettone recipes look fabulous. Here is the Japan team's version:

While the recipes are too large for most home bakers to handle, they will scale down easily. It's a fascinating and enjoyable read.

And yes, the Italians won. I'm not giving too much away here:

Next, Colombe e Dolci di Pasqua (in Italian). If you can read Italian recipes, which happens automatically if you do it enough, this is a wonderful book. All of the most well-known Italian bakers are here, with clear and well-illustrated versions of their Colomba.

Many of the chefs have multiple recipes, too. So little time, so many Colombas:


Finally, Ezio Marinato has put together an incredible 300-page collection of his creations, from hamburger buns and pizza to laminated pastries, biscotti, lievitati and of course numerous panettone recipes. Stunning photography throughout makes you want to bake every page.

Marinato is very influential in the Panettone world; 2023's coach of the winning Italian team in the Panettone World Championship, he is one of the true masters in the field. He is a teacher at various training venues and consultant to multinational companies. 

While coffee is notoriously difficult to work with in panettone recipes, it appears that Ezio Marinato has developed a recipe for it. 

Cheers, Sue




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This is my second bake of the Gallina Limoncello and white chocolate Colomba, by far the best of my four rounds of baking. I learned a lot during these bakes, all of which I will leverage going forward.

This recipe from Luigi Gallina is nicely balanced, relatively easy to work with and is also the most delicious of the ones I've tried. It makes a cloud-like and moist crumb which is also sturdy enough to stand up to being baked in Colomba format.

Another side benefit was that the repeated baking cycles made my lievito madre really perform, and it was clearly performing well. 

It met the benchmarks, didn't over-acidify, and as a result the dough had lots of gluten development throughout the process:

I also just received some Italian granella sugar, which made the decoration more appealing. Pretty happy with these doves, and I will make them again!

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Good result with this recipe, which includes a tangzhong. I used lemon essence instead of the larger volume of limoncello, and this worked well. 

Shaping:  I placed dough as one piece in the molds, rather than the traditional wings and body approach. I did this by laminating dough into a diamond shape and rolling it from left and right into the center. This created a batard-like shape, heavier in the center. When place in the mold, I gently reach underneath to spread the dough somewhat toward the wing edges. 

Taste, crumb, texture all very good. 11 hours first impasto fermentation, 4.78 pH at the end.  Five hours final rise at 28C. 


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For my second round, I made the adjustments based on round 1, and used a different recipe to see the contrast. I developed the LM for about three days, but it was still very active from the series last week. 

I added some cocoa powder to the glaze, and baked on a stone in the regular static oven using convection for only the first few minutes. 

This time, recipe from Fabrizio Galla, faithfully followed so that I would have a baseline. It is a nice recipe, makes a dough that is easy to work with, and rises well. 

I love the flavor of this crumb. There's a small amount of lemon and orange emulsion in addition to vanilla, which is subtle but good with the chocolate.

The texture is more like a traditional panettone, very light and rich.

This dough tripled in 10 hours, as specified in the recipe. Also, final rise was 5 hours.

Here is the recipe, if anyone would like to try it. I factored it down to make enough for three 500 gram Colombas plus a little overage:


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Results of my first round of Colomba testing.

I think that results were satisfactory, but I learned several things:

1. Recipe: Colomba is not the same as panettone. I used my current panettone recipe, and the results were almost too soft and airy; Colomba is a long, flat cake, and so it needs a bit of structural integrity to be physically stable. Make sure your recipe isn't extreme in any direction.

2. Baking: Don't put the pans on a baking sheet, as the bottoms will either be burned or not as done as the rest of the cake. Because of the shape, Colomba bakes in less time than panettone. There is a balance between baking slowly enough for optimal dextrin formation, and fast enough to achieve good oven spring. Baking on a preheated stone seems like the best option to achieve both.

3. Sugar: This is a sweet cake, with a lot of top crust area. Between the glaze, pearl sugar and powdered sugar, it can become too sweet. So, reduce the amount of pearl sugar to a dramatic sprinkle.

4. Skewers: Make sure you have long skewers ready that can be placed in pairs diagonally through the pans right after removing from the oven, and have a place to hang the cakes. 


 This was a nice crumb result, for me it is more attractive than Massari's Colomba, which is made "con metodo pandoro". I can appreciate this, as a pandoro version would have a sturdier crumb. I have had the Fiasconaro Colomba Pandorata, and don't prefer it. And so, I am working with panettone dough here.

It is a light crumb and very moist; baked in 35 minutes to 93-4C. The shape of Colomba makes it important to check internal temperature in the center of the cake.  

My paper pans are small, designed for 500g of dough. I scaled these cakes at 550g, but will go higher next time. This is more of a fashion thing.

Dough development:

My Lievito Madre was out of storage for four days, and was fed twice/day, with alternating warm/cool refreshments and also alternating water and free storage. (water for warm refreshments, free for longer, cool refreshments). I use a thermoelectric cooler for both.  I find that around day three, I usually begin to see much more dramatic rising of the LM, particularly during warm refreshment (expected). I go another day before using the LM for baking. 

I did two baking-day refreshments, 4 hours each, each one rose very well. This helps to "sweeten" the LM just prior to using it to bake.

My first impasto was made with Pasini panettone flour, fermented at 22C for 10.5 hours. The final pH was 5.01. 

My second impasto was made with King Arthur Galahad flour because of this nice high pH, no worries about gluten damage in the dough. This was done to get the softest crumb, and indeed the crumb was very soft. Dough at the end of second impasto was extremely extensible and handled well. 

For the next test, I will use technical flour for the second impasto as well. (It remains to be seen whether baking on a hot stone will offset the tenderness of the crumb)

Final rise was 4.5 hours at 28C in the Brod & Taylor proofing box. Glazed, pearl sugar, whole almonds and powdered sugar applied just before baking.

Overall, this was a good test and it's always nice to eat the results! 


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I've done 25 panettone bakes this year, according to my records! How the time, and panettone, flies. Looking back on the year, I've studied, taken classes, tried numerous techniques affecting each stage of product. There have been successes and a few (thankfully) failures, bright ideas and "Oops" moments. 

I've learned from some of the best people in the business. They've been incredibly kind and helpful, as most panettone bakers are. We've all had the same struggles, and share the same goal. We all know how hard it is. I am inspired by all of them, and even more inspired by the people who are just starting out with panettone, who dream of that succulent, feathery crumb, and are willing to do whatever it takes, for however long it takes, to get it. 

Panettone is much more than a recipe; it's a system, a collection of interlinked processes with numerous interdependencies. But this difficulty also makes it very interesting.

This coming year, I hope that more people will try baking panettone, remembering that it will take a while to get positive results  😊

Happy Holidays!  --Sue


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With Callebaut Gold and white chocolate. 

This is the highest-rise panettone I've baked yet, due in part to some changes in the way I'm maintaining the lievito madre, and some alterations I'm making to the recipe to improve the first impasto.  

The crumb is soft, moist, lofty, shreddable. There is no trace of acidity, or of toughness, dryness or other common problems. The flavor comes from 1. mellow complexity from the 12-hour rise on first impasto (which tripled in exactly 12 hours at 22-24C), the Vanilla, toffee, pecans, and chocolate. 

The gluten was maintained in very good shape going into the second impasto, which was the first hint at the quality of this batch. It had lots of strength and stretch at this point:

Based on the strength of this, I went ahead and used King Arthur Galahad for the second impasto. This was to permit a freer final rise and oven spring. Mixing went well and produced an extensible dough that was non-sticky and cleared the mixer bowl:

Dough rested 30 min, preshaped and rested for another 30 min, then final shaped and raised for 4 hours at 28C. 

Glazed and baked to 94C internal temperature to ensure doneness while preserving texture/quality. Inverted overnight to set.



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This panettone is a pleasing combination of vanilla, caramel and nut flavors, enhanced with bright fruit notes.  

Baking panettone is challenging, and can be discouraging, but persistence pays off at breakfast time!

Base recipe is the Mirko Iannarelli formula 72-28% 

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This batch of caramel apple penettone is the most successful to date - 18 cm high, 1000g exactly. This is the Roy recipe, which is a lower egg yolk formula. My lievito madre has been out of storage for about two weeks.

For the first week, I fed the LM only once a day at 1:1:.40, keeping it at room temp for 12 hours and refrigerated for 12 hours. I found that this had the tendency to increase acidity very slowly, moving me toward target. 

For the second week, I fed twice a day, with a 1:1:.40 morning feeding stored at 83F, then an evening feeding of 1:1.25:.40, stored at 18C for around 16 hours. This gradually and visibly increased activity and loft in the LM.

On the mix day, I did two refreshes at 1:1:.47, stored at 85F, duration 4.5 and 5.5 hours respectively. Finishing pH was 4.13 going into the mix.

One key aspect of the mix was a 90 minute autolyse for the flour and water. I remove this from the mixer and put it in a plastic bag so that it doesn't dry on top.

I go for full gluten development after that when adding the LM. I believe that many people have failed impastos because of incomplete mixing at this point.

My first dough pH after 12 hours rising was 4.6. Last time it was 4.7, and today's panettone was far superior, so it is perhaps something to keep in mind as a factor, but not the only important one if it stays above a certain value.

I had plenty of gluten after the first rise, and plenty of gluten after completing the second impasto.

The first step of the second impasto is important also, to develop the gluten of the flour added at this point. 

The dough should rest for 1 hour before preshaping, to give the fermentation a chance to get going. Rest in a warm place. Preshape very briefly and gently and then let it rest another 30 minutes.

Final shaping should be very gentle and brief also, to permit gas to remain in the dough.

I let the loaves rise for 4 hours and 10 minutes on this batch, at 31C.

If using glaze, make it thin enough to spread and use a scaper to make a thin coating, leaving an inch all around the edge. I sprinkle with pearl sugar.

I've gone back to baking in a static oven, starting out hot for the first few minutes then turning it right down to lower heat.  I bake until internal temp is 92C.

The resulting panettone rose very well, is exceptionally light and moist, and has great shreddability. 


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