Panettone Recipe

That’s “panettone” with two t’s. Profuse apologies to my few — and getting fewer — Italian readers. Panettone has near-sacred status among the Italian-Americans I know. These are people who know how to eat — but who are frequently disappointed by the panettone they find in most stores, both here and in Italy where (they say) mass-produced versions have largely replaced the artisanal kind. Even so, they fear making their own because of the time involved.

It’s true that some panettone recipes have more assembly steps than an Imaginarium Pirate Island Playset (forgive me, Christmas is coming), but between the quick-rise, easy-bake iterations and the slow-rising, multi-day religious ritual versions there is a happy medium. Peter Reinhart strikes it in his masterful book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. That recipe is classic Reinhart: starter-based but with a commercial yeast “spike” that delivers the best of both worlds: a voluminous light crumb and a deep, satisfying flavor. I did a little fiddling with the flavors (I found the Fiori di Sicilia in the original to be too much), but otherwise this recipe is quite close to the original.

For the Sponge

7 ounces (1 cup) active (i.e. revived and ready) bread starter
8 ounces (1 cup) warm milk
4.5 ounces (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour

For the Fruit Blend

6 ounces (1 cup) golden raisins
6 ounces (1 cup) candied fruit blend (or a mix of dried fruits if you prefer)
4 ounces (1/2 cup) brandy, rum or whiskey (optional, substitute 1 tbsp. bourbon extract of you can find it)
2 teaspoons orange or lemon extract
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 large orange, finely grated

For the Dough

13.5 ounces (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1.5 ounces (3 tablespoons) granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 large egg, room temperature
1 egg yolk
1-2 ounces (2 to 4 tablespoons) warm water
4 ounces (1/2 cup) soft butter
5 ounces (1 cup) blanched, slivered almonds

The day before baking, make the sponge. Stir the ingredients together just until the flour is wet. Cover and ferment at room temperature for 4 hours before putting it in the refrigerator for an overnight sit. Meanwhile mix the fruit blend ingredients together in a bowl. Cover the bowl and let the mixture sit out on the counter overnight.

The next day take the sponge out of the fridge and let it sit for an hour before beginning the dough. Put the dry dough ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle (beater) attached. Stir the ingredients together, then add the sponge, egg and egg yolk, plus as much of the water as you need to make a dough. Stop the machine and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Switch to the dough hook. Turn the mixer back on low and add the butter. When it’s incorporated add the fruit blend. Keep stirring until the fruit is evenly distributed, then knead an additional 2-4 minutes, steadily adding in the almonds. Knead until you have a soft dough that’s still slightly sticky. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise about 2 hours.

For two large 2-pound loaves, divide the dough in half and shape it into two large balls. Place them into panettone baking papers or six-inch-round pans. Press the dough down lightly. It should be about half way up the forms. Now then, you can make much smaller panettones if you wish. You can make shallower versions in parchment-lined cake layer pans (still excellent), even mini ones in muffin tins. Either way, proof them for 2 more hours. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and set a rack in the lower third of your oven.

Bake 2-pound loaves for 1 1/2 hours. Minis for 25-25 minutes and medium-sized versions for somewhere in between. If the tops are getting too brown, cover them with aluminum foil. Transfer the breads to a cooling rack (if they’re in papers leave those on, otherwise de-pan them first). They’ll keep at room temperature for up to two weeks. That can also be frozen for up to 3 months.

53 thoughts on “Panettone Recipe”

  1. Joe, what is “Bread Starter?” How do you make it or where do you buy it? Sorry if it’s a dumb question. Thanks!

  2. Pay me no mind. I found the information on your site. I just had to click on “starter.” Silly me. D)

    1. I just added that link this very second — thanks to you! Thanks for identifying something that would have been confusing otherwise!

      – Joe

  3. Hey Joe, I thank you so much for doing panettone.
    My whole family love it, especially on Christmas
    morning. I’ve never made one myself, and I don’t
    know why. Maybe with the hustle and bustle of
    the season, there’s never enough time. Bakeries
    seem to be the only alternative. My mom told me
    that her father used to make panettone, in a empty
    tomato or coffee can! I’m so looking toward to this,
    you made my holiday!!

    1. I’ll do my best to live up to your expectations, Ben! I have a lot of fun making these sorts of rich, special-oocasion breads.

  4. The last discussion I saw on making starter-based panettone was a couple years back on Dan Lepard’s site, and involved conversations about special starters that have to be fed every four hours for days in advance, which is a bit off-putting…this looks a lot more manageable!

    1. You can really go nuts with panettone if you want to do that. There are some seriously over-complicated procedures out there. For the big-time panettone buff they might be worthwhile. However this recipe produces panettone that’s noticeably better than any mass-produced loaf you can buy. That’s plenty good in my view.

  5. joe

    when you start to feed the starter, why do you take just some of it to feed and throw away the rest? Why not feed all of it?


    1. Hey Jane! Did I call for that? I don’t remember. Usually I think I advise everyone to keep a “mother” starter in the refrigerator, one from which you take a few ounces to get a new project going. It’s not thrown away, and in fact is fed with any leftovers from the project (there are almost always some, since growing a precise amount of starter is pretty tough). Sometimes some starter gets thrown away, often in the initial growing stages of a starter, since if you keep doubling and doubling it you can end up with a huge amount of it. But I can’t find the reference. If something is unclear somewhere let me know and I’ll fix it.

      Thanks for the comment!

      – Joe

  6. A couple of weeks ago I bought sourdough starter. (I tried making my own, but it didn’t work out.) I baked sourdough bread for the first time last week, which was not particularly successful, but I’m still feeding the starter as if it were a baby so I can try again. Enter your latest project. ;>

    Last week I took a baking class with Nick Malgieri, and one of the things we made was Panettone. It was a quickie version since it was only a 4-hr class, but since then I’ve been looking at recipes so I can make it at home. I’ve been wavering between the Peter Reinhart recipe and another one by Sherry Yard. They both take two days, but Sherry Yard uses conventional yeast rather than starter. I dunno, maybe I’ll make both! I look forward to following how you do it.

    1. You’ll be happy you did, I hope, Chana! But fear not, it can take some time to get used to baking bread with a starter, since they’re quite slow compared to commercial yeast doughs. But if you make both versions be sure to let me know what you think. I think there’s big difference between the two in terms of both taste and texture. However I’d be curious to know what you think!

      – Joe

  7. My mom and grandpa would love this! I’m not too much of a fan, but they always enjoy their panettone for breakfast around Christmas time. Maybe this recipe would change my mind, though! It definitely sounds better than the Costco ones we usually get! (slightly embarrassed).

    1. I think I can safely say these will be better than the Costco variety. 😉


      – Joe

  8. Joe the lady who said you were discarding some of the starter in your instructions is right. I too thought this was what you meant. It is in a section where you say to take 3 ounces of the starter …. By the way, I would have loved to try your panettone recipe but i confess I find the instrutions for the bread starter a bit confusing for me.

    1. Sorry to hear that, Regine. Essentially all you’re doing is cultivating “wild” yeast by leaving out 50-50 mix of water and flour (by weight), doubling it every day. That’s pretty much it!

      However if you don’t want to do that, you might be able to obtain a little if you have a bread bakery in the area. Which is to say, you most be able to buy a little! Is that a possibility.

  9. Thanks for explaining that. this was your paragraph: it was the ‘pitch the rest’ that got me wondering.

    “Having gotten the beginnings of a yeast culture going, it’s time to start feeding it. This is done by “refreshing” your starter with that same 50-50 (by weight) flour-water mixture that you began with. You want to put in at least as much food as there is starter in the container. I frequently put in double the food that it needs for the first several days. Starting with a fresh container I put in three ounces of my starter (I pitch the rest) plus three ounces of water…”

  10. Just my two cents: you really do need to “pitch the rest,” or you will soon have starter growing all over your kitchen! You feed it, and it doubles (or triples) in bulk overnight, if not before. So you have to discard half before you feed it again, or you will very soon be overwhelmed with starter. You can also freeze starter, so instead of discarding half during one of the feedings, you can put it in a container and freeze it. (I did this; in case I end up killing all my starter, I figure I can begin again.)

  11. I’ve been making the Panettone recipe from Bernard Clayton. that recipe skips the starter and uses an overnight sponge. I tried to reverse engineer it to a starter base but that experiment stalled out due to non-rising dough. I’ve fixed that with gold star yeast, so now it’s time to try it with a starter again. You are also much more generous with the brandy than Clayton. Mmmm brandy…

    1. Heh…well you can put in less if you’d like, but as you point out…why? 😉

      – Joe

  12. Joe, thanks for explanation. So if I have 3oz of the starter (as per your explanation under Bread Starter), then I put 3 oz of water and 3 oz of flour. On the second day, does that mean I have to put 6 oz of water and 6oz of flour, and then on the third day, 12 oz etc. etc.????

    1. Indeed it does! That is unless you throw some away (or give some away) before it takes over your home, eats everything in your pantry and takes total control of the TV remote.

      – Joe

      1. I hate when that happens! I end up watching Martha Bakes! reruns all day! Hehehehe. 🙂

  13. I had been planning on making this for a neighbor gift and am waiting on the baking papers to arrive from KAF. I have made up a cranberry Jam recipe that tastes just like Christmas, but is Jam with Panettone a sacrilege?

    One of households I was going to bake for is LDS and so I will remove the brandy (a little extra sauce for the cook) but what would you substitute for the liquid?

    1. It’s your panettone, you should do what you want with it! 😉

      As far as compensating for the brandy, add an extra half tablespoon each of the extracts to compensate for the loss of flavor.

      – Joe

  14. Joe how may days should I feed a starter before I use the one cup portion for the panettone? Thanks

    1. It’ll need to go about a week. Six days is the average for me. You just want to make sure the starter is good and active and smells like bread, not something else. Some starters take off like gangbusters on day two or three, but much of the time that’s due to other types of microbes, often Clostridium perfringens, which some people (notably in Appalachia) use to make bread. In its raw form it can actually make you quite sick. The way to tell the difference it that it smells, quite honestly, like vomit.

      Does that help? 😉

  15. Joe,

    Two questions: how do you deal with moisture loss in your starter and hard crust that forms on the top? Due to house heating and generally dry air in winter inEurope, I think my starter looses too much moisture. Any advice?

    Second, to me it seems counter intuitive to knead delicate fruit and almonds for 2-4 mins in the machine, have the feeling that it would all end up mushed. How about kneading the dough all the way in the machine and then adding in fruit mix and kneading it in the dough by hand?

    1. Great questions, Bojana. To take the second part first, all of this can be done by hand if you prefer — or any stage of it. I use machines all the time, but you certainly don’t need to do that. However I will say that with the dough hook the nuts and fruit pieces don’t mash nearly as much as you might think.

      Concerning your starter, a crust isn’t necessarily a bad thing provided there’s enough extra starter gurgling down below. Still, you can easily solve the problem by dribbling a few extra drops of water on top of the starter, then covering the container with plastic wrap. Once the starter is truly going, you can even place plastic wrap, loosely, right on the surface of the starter. It will still grow aggressively since it doesn’t need to “breathe” as much.

      Thank you for the comment!

      – Joe

      1. Thanks. Think I will do fruit mixing by hand, for the rest, my Kenwood.
        Just noticed few bubles in my starter on its second day, am quite excited, thank you so mych for this festive recipe.

        1. I can’t say why growing a starter is so deep-down exciting. It just is! Have fun with it, Bojana, and let me know how your panettone turns out!

          – Joe

          1. Joe, my panettone turned out fantastic! I got paper from my local baker, my dough has risen beautifully, and my whole house smells like Christmas. Thanks again!

          2. Fabulous! Thanks so much for letting me know, Bo! 😉

            Merry Christmas!

            – Joe

  16. A tip for readers who have difficulty keeping or getting a starter going – use old cold boiled water from your kettle. My tap water has too much chlorine or fluoride or something in it for starter health (although it tastes just fine), but using water that’s been sitting around for a while works wonders. Same principle as leaving your goldfish bowl for a few hours after changing the water before replacing the fish.

    1. Absolutely, well said. This info is in with all the rest of the stuff in the Starter section, but it bears repeating, no question.

      Thank you, Bronwyn!

      – Joe

  17. Hey Joe,
    Where do you get your forms? Anything I can use that I could fabricate myself if they are tough to find?


    1. I got mine off Amazon, believe it or not. I think you pretty much have to get them mail order. However I know several Italian folks whose parents/grandparents baked panettone in coffee cans. You can use just aout anything. However if the paper mold is the most interesting to you, I know there are methods for folding your own out of parchment paper. Try googling it and see what comes up!


      – Joe

  18. Joe,
    Great recipe! Doubled it and got 3 medium panettones and rolled the second batch with almond paste to make 2 Stollen (Peter Reinhart’s Stollen recipe). Good baking to all.

    1. Nicely done, Gordon! And yes, PR does use a very similar dough for his stollen. It’s delicious. Have a Merry Christmas!

      – Joe

  19. In Argentina, where I’m from, I’ve been told that they use rose water instead of orange extract. What do you think about that?

    1. That would be a fine substitute. However for panettone I’ve come to believe that some orange rind is all the perfume the bread really needs. But it’s completely up to you. A little rose water, used sparingly, would be a very nice touch.

      Thanks for the email – and Merry Christmas!

      – Joe

  20. Hey Joe!

    My starter is happy and bubbly (and yes it is exciting to grow it, even though I have no idea why 🙂 ), so today or tomorrow I think I am going to try making the sponge. I have two questions, though: first of all, does the starter need to be freshly fed before using it for the sponge – I mean, do I have to fed him the day of making the sponge? And second, in your recipe you mention the 2 eggs, but then in the making of it you say “Stir the ingredients together, then add the sponge, egg and egg yolk, plus as much of the water as you need to make a dough.”… So are there supplementary egg yolks in the recipe or is it too early in the day and not enough coffee for my brain to work properly (as if it ever does, LOL)?
    Thank you,

    1. Hey Ioana!

      As long as the starter is good and bubbly it doesn’t matter it fit fell overnight, you’re good to go. As for the egg problem, I changed the recipe to an egg and yolk and forgot to make the correction. I shall do that now. Have fun and send pictures!

      – Joe

      1. First of all, Happy New Year! 🙂 I had some crazy days so I neglected to come back to the panettone story, I am sorry!
        So, the panettone – after smelling amazing and raising beautifully in the bowl, it didn’t raise that well in the pans – I used two bundt pans (one with the hollow centre and a regular one). I left it an hour more than you said then put it in the oven. The result wasn’t at all the one I expected – it had no resemblance with the fluffy, silky stuff I am used to, insted was a dense cake, very aromatic (in a good way) and not sweet at all (had to brush a sugar glaze on it to give it some sweetness). In my country there’s a traditional cake (bread? you listed panettone as bread, so let’s say a bread) that’s sort of similar, and I can’t make that one either after years and years of trying, LOL! I guess I’l keep trying – yeast doughs just won’t agree with me, but I don’t give up easily.

        1. Drat! But tell me, at what point did your results start to look different than the photos? Perhaps we can determine the problem!

          – Joe

          1. When I put them in pans for the second rise, I guess. The dough rose beautifully in the bowl but then it didn’t perform that well in the pans – in exactly the same conditions as before. And then the result, of course, which was dense instead of airy and silky.

          2. Could the dough have risen too high in the first rise? Was it more than two times the size of the original dough?

            – Joe

  21. Joe, i’m to lazy to buy myself some nuts because my house is like 15 miles from the nearest supermarket. Can i make this without the nuts?

    1. You certainly can, Nate. Some versions don’t have them at all.

      Merry Christmas!

      – Joe

  22. Just came out of the oven. Taste great, especially when smeared with butter. Kinda regret not having the nuts in it, especially toasted walnuts in it. Anyway, great recipe. I was thinking of making bread pudding with it but i don’t think it’ll last that long. Thanks!

    1. Oh, panettone bread pudding…I’ll be at your place in five.

      Nice going, Nate!

      – Joe

  23. Hi Joe,

    I can’t reply to your last message, so I’m forced to start sort of a new thread, sorry.
    I don’t think that the dough was more than two times its original size, no. Maybe a little more, but I can’t swear to it either way. I didn’t use the scale to weigh it – I take it that I really should have used it, huh? 😀

    1. Hey Ioana!

      I think that a measuring container might be useful in this situation. Some sort of plastic box with a lid that will allow you to gauge how far the dough rises by volume. That will tell you a lot about how the yeast is performing and where you are in the process. Do you have anything like that around the house?

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