Panettone is the traditional Italian Christmas cake par excellence, and its birth is attributed to the city of Milan in the Middle Ages, although there are many legends surrounding its history. Whatever its origins, panettone is now highly regarded throughout Italy, France and the rest of the world – particularly as a gift at Christmas. Ultimately, it is baked in a 6.7x4½ inch (17x11.5cm) tall cylindrical paper mold, which gives the panettone its signature tall, round shape. You can also use a coffee can or a 7x3 inch (18x7.5cm) or individual paper molds.
The cake usually is best eaten a day after it has been baked. It can be enjoyed alone or paired with many drinks. Its flavor and texture also make it ideal for French toast, savory nougat (see recipe) and bread pudding.
Makes Three 1.7 lb. (800g) or 30 Individual Panettone / 2.6 ounces each (80g). Make 4 days Ahead.
Make a day ahead or weeks if using rum. Combine all ingredients together and refrigerate overnight.
In a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment, combine water, yeast, flour and salt. Mix in low speed for 3 minutes and 5 minutes on medium speed until smooth. Form a ball and transfer dough to a greased container, cover with plastic wrap or wet kitchen towel and let rise until it has triple in size for about 3 hours. Punch down the dough and shape into a ball and refrigerate overnight. Take the starter out and let sit on the counter for 2 hours prior mixing dough.
Use a heavy duty mixer with a 7qt/L bowl. In a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment, pour in milk, egg yolks, vanilla, sugar, salt, flour, and yeast. Mix for 3 minutes on low speed. Add starter and mix for another 5 minutes on low speed. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a dough scraper. Increase the speed to medium and knead for 10 minutes more, scraping down the sides of the bowl as often as necessary; it prevents dough from overheating during a long kneading time. Add butter and mix on low speed for 10 minutes more or until completely smooth. Add the chilled marinated dried fruits; mix until just combined.
Cover mixer bowl with a wet kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let dough rise for 3 hours or until it has tripled in size. The dough can however sit in the refrigerator overnight to be baked the day after but it will take more than 10 hours to proof.
Deflate dough on the countertop without the use of extra flour. Divide into desired sizes. Shape into tight rounds and place in greased paper mold.
Let proof, covered for about 2 hours at 77ºF (25ºC).
Position the rack in the lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 350°F (180ºC) with an upside down baking tray inside. Lower temperature to 325ºF (160ºC) if using a convection oven. For a glossy finish, brush top with egg wash and carefully score the top panettone using a razor blade or a sharp knife and add a chunk of butter in the center if desired.
For individual panettone, cut top using scissors, sprinkle some pearl sugar and drizzle some egg wash to get a bursting effect.
Place large panettone on a baking tray and bake for about 35 minutes (bake no more than 2 panettone at the time).
Pierce the just-out-of-the-oven (large panettone only) with 2 large and thick bamboo skewers and hanging it upside down; it keeps the panettone from collapsing while it cools; it will take a few hours at room temperature. Better served a day after. Panettone can keep for a couple of weeks wrapped and put it in a sealed container. Buon appetito!