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Failed Panettone with Pasta Madre

synkronize's picture

Failed Panettone with Pasta Madre

Hi all 

I attempted Panettone few days ago using Pasta Madre and unfortunately trouble started during dough 1 when I incorporated egg and sugar emulsion. The dough would not soak up the emulsion mix and as I mixed it on low speed for a while more thinking it will somehow incorporate, the dough started to tear and eventually the gluten was all torn and it became this sludge consistency. 

has anyone encountered this problem before? I’m trying to troubleshoot so that I can attempt it again but have reached a road block in terms of what could be the cause. Needless to say I was quite disappointed as a lot of ingredients got wasted. My guess so far is that it could be:

1) PM not ready (altho it smelled ok and double during refreshment). I received this PM from someone so I’m feeding it with a different flour. Not sure if that could be the cause

2) Dough 1 total weight was around 570g and mixed in a 8 litre planetary mixer. Could this be an issue - ie too big mixer?

If it helps, I provide my sequence below and hope someone can share some light or experience 


1) 8:30am remove PM from fridge, slice and soak in sugar water for 10 mins. 

2) take the core of the PM and feed 1:2:40%

3) 6:30pm soak overnight in plain water (Aircon room)



1) 9am : scrape what’s left from the tub and do first refreshment (1:1:45%) and remaining 2 refreshment done at 1:15pm and 5:15pm

2) at 9:40pm mix dough 1. 

- flour and water and PM - 10 mins, no problem as dough was smooth and stiff 

- add egg+sugar emulsion - first addition (like 10%).  Eggs failed to incorporate with dough. Even at speed 1 prolong mixing the dough gluten eventually broke and disintegrated 


clazar123's picture

There are so many pieces of info missing that it is next to impossible to begin answering. Don't assume anyone knows what YOUR recipe and YOUR handling is. Spell it out.

RE: PM-what flour was it fed and what flour did you feed it?

Why soak in sugar water?

Why soak the PM in sugar water and then just take the core to feed?

How cool is the air conditioned room? Was it at least 80F?

Why soak the fed portion in water?

Friday:9AM-What do you mean by "scrape what’s left from the tub". Which tub? The remainder (not core) of the 1x fed PM? The PM that sat from 8:30-6:30PM in an aircon room? The part that sat overnight in water?

Was the dough being mixed by your mixer or was the arm swirling only the top layer? If it was only 570 G why didn't you just mix it by hand when it didn't seem to be incorporating?

What does "fed 1:2:40% mean. I have not seen this notation format before.

Please use more words and provide a recipe and technique. I'm not seeing what you are trying to describe and since no one else responded, I would say others were also scratching their heads. People here love to help but have to have at least basic info to go n- even though it seems so tedious to type all that stuff out.

mwilson's picture

Pictures are always helpful..

Probably your madre was "too strong" 

Usaaguy's picture

I was using Andrea Tortoro's Panettone recipe but not his Lievetro Madre recipe.  I used my mature starter and began the process of three refreshes in Tortora's recipe to make the mother dough.  The first two refreshes went fine. The third refresh seemed dry but ratios were correct. However when I put the completed mother dough (after the three refreshes)into the first panettone dough, it would not combine.  It simply clumped up into little "gum balls" when I added the yolks.  My first guess is that the yolks were very cold, right from the fridge.  Is this possible? Any ideas?....thanks

mariana's picture

Probably, your flour is too dry and needed more water compared to Andrea's flour which is 15% moisture (my flour, for example is only 5% moisture and needs more water in pasta madre refreshments, otherwise, it is so dry that it cannot ferment properly).

Also, when you incorporate your pasta madre into he first panettone dough, do not mix everything at once. First, chop your pasta madre into pieces and combine it with some water from the first panettone dough list, adding water little by little and mixing it, massaging it, to hydrate its gluten, to make pasta madre soft and fully extensible, stretchy and strong. Later, incorporate all other ingredients from the list: blend flour, butter, yolks and sugar into paste and add it to the softened PM little by little while kneading it.

First panettone dough in Andrea's panettone recipe:

400g of strong white flour

170g of butter, soft

190g of natural yeast, from the third refresh

200g of egg yolk

150g of water, at 28C

175g of caster sugar

Usaaguy's picture

Thank You Mariana, I will have to throw out my first panettone dough since it has so many clumps of PM in it. It won't rise, probably because all the leavening is tied up in those clumps!!!  However, I will keep my remaining mature PM and redo the first panettone dough.  The third refresh on my discarded first dough was hydrated at only 16% (as called for in Tortoro's recipe) and as I was kneading it I could tell it was much drier than the previous refreshes.  Are you suggesting that I increase the hydration at that point?  When I try the first dough again, I will take your advice  and break up the PM and combine it with the water first before adding the rest of the ingredients. Thanks for replying to the post.

mariana's picture

The sum total of all flour added to the PM as you refreshed it three times is 140g, while the sum total of all water added is 60g. This results in 42 - 43% hydration of the final lump of PM which is OK if  your flour is 15% moisture, but impossibly low if your flour is drier than 15%. My PM needs at least 55% hydration or else it won't even form a cohesive ball of dough. It won't ferment properly either and will not leaven panettone dough! It's because my Canadian bread flour is both very strong and very dry, it needs more water. It might be the same in your case.

When mixing your first panettone dough, please do not add all water from the list of ingredients to the bits of PM, and do not add all water at once. Add water little by little until pasta madre's consistency is like soft bread dough and you can windowpane it with ease. Then stop. Incorporate the remaining water later on, after all of the enriching ingredients (butter, sugar, yolks mixed with flour into a rough paste) have been incorporated into the PM.

SueVT's picture

Mariana is right, your flour may still be quite dry from winter low humidity. I have had to add about another 10% water to each lievito madre refresh to produce the kind of pliable result required.  The usual maintenance refresh should be 40 to 43% hydration, so I am adding more water to prevent dryness. The production day refreshes should be 47 to 50% hydration to permit rapid growth, so be sure to add enough water to produce a slightly softer LM dough.

I have Tortora's recipe but have never used it, so I can't comment on his hydration requirements, but I have never had any issue incorporating lievito madre into panettone dough. Your primo impasto mix should begin with just flour and water, or you can dissolve the sugar in the water first... that should be well developed before adding the LM. You can do one or two hours autolyse on the dough before adding the LM to allow gluten to develop without overheating the dough for subsequent mixing.  Then adding the LM in pieces should be easy in the next step.


Usaaguy's picture

Thank you Mariana and SueVT.  I am  in Tampa where the temp is 95 and humidity very high so hard to imagine that my flour is dry....yet I agree that seems to be the problem. I do use KA Bread Four which has a 13% protein.  I will incorporate your recommendations and give it another go...thanks again. BTW, I have made many starters and LM but never this specific recipe.....

SueVT's picture

I agree, if you live in  Florida, you probably didn't get dried out flour. FYI, for LM, I use All Trumps by Gold Medal, and Pasini panettone flour for the impastos. 

Best regards, Sue

mariana's picture

Unless you bake outdoors and keep your flour outdoors in an open bag, I bet that your flour in Tampa does not have the standard 15% moisture content that a freshly milled commercial flour has. Air conditioning naturally brings air humidity down to about 40% and flour moisture content to below 10%. 

The air in my city is not dry either, but in my apartment it is at the 25-35% relative humidity level all year round, so my flour is very dry.

Good luck with your panettone! Godspeed.