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Il Panettone Milanese -- Milanese Panettone

Milano's Panettone!Never made a panettone? To begin, some words of advice, which will be obvious if you have already made a panettone, but will help if it's your first time:

  • Work the dough, if possible, with a dough mixer of the kind also used for making bread dough. Beating times with a mixer are on the order of 20 minutes, whereas hand-beating will require about 50.
  • The room where the panettone is made must be warm, about 72 degrees F (22 C). The flour should also be warm, about 68 F (20 C); what's generally used is 00 grade (very fine all-purpose flour) and extremely dry. If it has been wet where you are, you may want to dry your flour in an oven, as it absorbs moisture unless it is tightly sealed. The water used should be warm, about 76 F (24 C).
  • Don't forget a pinch of salt, because it stimulates rising.
  • Commercial bakers use a sour dough starter (i.e. wild yeast). Home recipes generally call for baker's yeast.
  • The baking time will depend upon the size of the panettone. Assuming an oven temperature of 400 F (200 C), half an hour will be sufficient for small to medium-sized panettoni, whereas larger ones will require considerably more. Home ovens are best suited to small-medium-sized panettoni.
  • If you want the surface of the panettone to be shiny, slip a bowl of water into the oven when the panettone is half-baked to raise the humidity.
  • Commercially sold panettoni are taller than they are broad. To obtain this effect at home, you'll have to put a ring of heavily buttered thick paper around the dough when you put it in the oven, or use a panettone mold. If you instead want a panettone that's wider than it is high, like a normal bread loaf, simply put the dough in the oven. If you choose this course, you will want to put the dough on a pizza stone or similar.

Having said all this, here we go.

For the first rising:
5 ounces (140 g) fresh yeast cake (or biga; ask your baker for this)
3 1/3 cups (400 g) flour
3/8 cup (90 g) unsalted butter
5/8 cup (110 g) sugar
6 yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
4/5 cup (200 ml) tepid water
For the second rising:
2 1/3 cups (280 g) flour
5/8 cup (110 g) unsalted butter
7/8 pound (400 g) sultana raisins
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 yolks
A little flour for dusting the work surface and mold

The afternoon before you plan to bake the panettone, begin by cutting the butter into a casserole and melting it over a very low flame or a double boiler; keep it warm enough to remain melted. Dissolve the sugar in about 2/5 cup (100 ml) of warm water.

Put the melted butter, salt, and yeast cake in a mixing bowl (or better yet the bowl of an electric mixer) and mix well. Next, add, while mixing briskly, the yolks and sugar, and -- still mixing briskly -- sift in the flour. Should the dough be quite stiff add a little more water. Continue to mix briskly for about 25 minutes, throwing the dough against the sides of the bowl, until it has become smooth, velvety, and full of air bubbles. At this point put it in a lightly floured bowl large enough for it to triple in volume, cover it with a heavy cloth, and keep it in a warm (85 F, 30 C) place for about 10 hours.

Wash the raisins, picking over them to remove sticks and whatnot, drain them well, and set them on a cloth to dry. Note:You can also use a combination of raisins and finely diced (not minced) candied citrus peels.

When the time is up, turn the dough out on your work surface (or return it to the mixing bowl) and work in the flour, vanilla, yolks and honey. Mix with considerable energy for about a half hour, then work in all but 2 tablespoons of the butter, which you will have melted as before, and a little water (just enough to make an elastic dough), to which you will have added a pinch of salt. Continue working the dough until it becomes shiny and dry, and at this point add the fruit, working the dough to distribute it evenly. At this point you can divide the dough into pieces of the size you want; if you want to make your panettoni by weight, use a scale and figure that they'll decrease in weight by 10% during baking.

Lightly grease your hands with the butter and round the balls of dough, then put them on a board or plate and let them rise in a warm place for about a half hour. At this point lightly butter your hands again and put the panettoni in panettone molds (or put rings of stiff paler around their bases). Return them to their board and put them in a warm (68-80 F, 20-30 C, depending upon the season), humid spot to rise for about 6 hours.

Heat your oven to 380 F (190 C). Cut an x into the top of each panettone and put 2 tablespoons (30 g) unsalted butter over the cuts. Put the panettoni in the oven, and after 4 minutes remove them and quickly push down on the corners produced by the cuts. Return them to the oven and bake them until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out dry.

When chefs remove their panettoni from the oven they put them upside down in special panettone holders to keep their flanks from collapsing. In a home situation this is not practical, and you'll simply have to cool your panettoni on a rack.

My Comment: It's easy to understand why Michele Franzan, who writes for Gola Gioconda, a Florentine food magazine, suggests that you buy your panettone from a first-rate baker. And a last note: Andrea writes, "I had been searching for a panettone that tasted like [my grandfather's] but never found one until I got a bread machine and a little book called "The Bread Machine Cookbook" by Donna German, put out by Nitty Gritty Books. The recipe for panettone tastes exactly like what my grandparents made. In addition to the traditional candied fruit and nuts and raisins it includes lemon rind. That must have been their secret ingredient. And it comes out perfect every time I make it." A little lemon rind will be a nice touch.

A Somewhat easier, more modern Panettone Recipe
Other Milanese recipes
Other ideas for Panettone and Pandoro
Classic Italian Recipes

Panettone Ripieno
A rich, light filling for a panettone: Perfect for Christmas Eve.

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