This new-and-improved overnight panettone recipe is so delicious! You'll love this lightly sweetened, Italian Christmas bread with dried fruit. My version has rum-soaked raisins and apricots, plus citrus zest and orange extract.
Behold, my new-and-improved panettone! I spent weeks researching and experimenting to come up with a moist panettone recipe that tastes more like a sweet brioche bread than cake.
It's airier than my previous version and studded with extra fruit. The dough is richer and more tender. The bread is slightly sweeter, and the citrus flavor pops better.
I'm thrilled to include this Italian dessert bread in my collection of bread recipes!
I hope you try this panettone (pahn-ay-toh-nay), which means "large loaf of bread" in Italian. In my family, we jokingly call it "Tony's bread!"
You'll need to start this recipe the night before and carefully follow all of the mixing instructions the next day. Don't worry, I've got lots of step-by-step photos and tips for you!
Keep in mind that making panettone in less than 24 hours will produce a result that's a cross between sweet bread and pound cake. It would take several days to replicate the kind of panettone sold in stores!
See the card at the end of this post for the full recipe, but here's an overview.
Bread Flour: I used to use all-purpose flour, but discovered that bread flour makes the panettone rise better. It also produces more of a bread texture instead of a cake-like texture.
Instant Yeast: I use instant yeast (affiliate link) in the majority of my bread recipes, because it rises in less time than active dry yeast. It's a helpful shortcut for this homemade panettone, which already takes about 15 hours, including the overnight rise.
Raisins & Dried Apricots: I used to only use dark raisins in my panettone but found that adding bits of dried apricots as well brings more of a classic panettone flavor. You can experiment with other dried fruit, but be sure to soak them in rum or water to plump them first.
Rum: Use white or dark rum to soak the dried fruit overnight. It brings moisture and delicious flavor to the panettone. If you need to skip the alcohol, use water.
Eggs & Yolks: Panettone is similar to brioche bread, which features eggs in the dough. In my new and improved panettone recipe, I added two yolks besides the two whole eggs to create more of a brioche texture and less of a cake texture.
Unsalted Butter: Using salted butter can hinder the yeast, so it's important to use unsalted butter for panettone. We'll still need to add salt to the dough so it's not bland.
I ended up tripling the amount of butter in this improved panettone recipe to provide better texture and flavor. There are 12 tablespoons total for a batch of two panettone bread loaves.
Lemon & Orange Zest: Panettone can be bland if you don't add enough flavor elements. Zest one lemon and one orange to give the dough a nice aroma and intensify the citrus flavor.
Sugar: Besides adding sweetness, sugar helps liquify the panettone dough during mixing. It's key to producing a stretchy, taffy-like dough that's needed for moist panettone.
Extracts: We're using a combination of vanilla and orange extracts. I've always used vanilla here, but when I worked on improving my recipe, I found the addition of orange extract provides a nice boost of flavor.
How to make panettone
See the card at the end of this post for the full recipe, but here's an overview.
- Make the panettone starter by stirring bread flour, yeast and cool water until combined. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Soak the raisins with dried apricot pieces in rum. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight.
- The following morning, take out the risen starter and leave it at room temperature for an hour before using it.
- Drain excess rum from the plumped fruit. You can reserve the alcohol to drink or discard it.
Make the panettone dough
Use the dough hook attachment for all of these steps. See the full recipe card at the end of this post for more details.
- Add the risen starter and room-temperature eggs and yolks to the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Mix until combined, then add flour. Mix until the dough forms a ball.
- Add the sugar and salt.
- Mix until the dough is shiny and smooth. Mix in the extracts. Add one pat of softened butter at a time.
- Mix after each addition of butter, stopping to scrape down the hook and sides of the bowl as needed. Add ⅛ cup of extra flour if the dough is sticking too much. Knead for 8 minutes.
- Add the raisins and apricot pieces and mix until incorporated well.
Prep the dough for baking
- Place the dough on a greased sheet pan. Spray your hands and the dough with cooking spray.
- Stretch the dough on each side and fold it in half to incorporate air. Stretch it again and fold it over.
- Use a dough scraper or straight-edged knife to divide the dough in half. Place each half into a greased, 5-inch-wide panettone mold. Cover the molds with large bowls and let the dough rise for an hour at room temperature.
- When the dough has risen, brush the surface with a beaten egg.
- Use a straight-edged knife to score the surface with an "X" shape. Bake the panettone molds on a sheet pan at 350 degrees F until browned and cooked through.
Cooling the baked panettone
- Test if the panettone is done by inserting a cake tester down the center to see if it comes out clean.
- Hang each panettone loaf upside down to cool between two tall containers or canisters. Do this by inserting two wooden skewers into the lower section of each mold and resting the protruding skewers on the canisters.
- It's important to soak the dried fruit so it doesn't pull away moisture from the panettone.
- Brushing the panettone with egg wash before baking provides moisture and a nice sheen.
- Hanging panettone upside down while it cools prevents sinking and helps to add some height to the Christmas bread.
Equipment used in this recipe
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- Stand mixer with dough hooks - There's quite a bit of kneading required to incorporate air into the dough, so it's best to use a stand mixer.
- Dough scraper - You'll need one of these or a straight-edged knife to divide the dough.
- Paper panettone molds - You'll need two, 5-inch wide panettone molds for one batch of this recipe.
- Cake tester - You need something longer than a toothpick to test whether panettone is cooked through.
- Wooden skewers - These will enable you to hang the panettone upside down between two tall containers. You'll need two skewers for each panettone.
How to serve it
Serve slices of Italian panettone with a dusting of powdered sugar. You also can toast this Christmas fruit bread and spread butter on it. Yum!
And, if you have leftover panettone, you have to make panettone French toast! Use this orange French toast recipe as a guide.
Frequently asked questions
Hailing from Milan, panettone is a fruit-studded, cake-like, sweet Christmas bread. It's served for dessert or breakfast throughout the month of December and even in early January.
Traditional panettone includes citrus zest, candied orange peels and raisins soaked in whiskey or rum. You can call it Italian fruitcake!
When you bake panettone in a paper mold, you can just cut through the paper when you slice the bread. Then you can peel away the paper.
To cut the panettone, place a serrated knife (with teeth) in the center of the domed crust and cut straight down, using a sawing motion. Make the next slice at an angle, the way you would cut a slice of pie.
Yes, panettone freezes well! Slice it first, then put the pieces in a zip-top freezer bag so you can grab a portion at a time. You can thaw it in the microwave or even toast it.
Panettone dries out quickly, so it's best to freeze extra slices the first day for maximum freshness. But you can store panettone at room temperature for up to two days if you wrap it tightly in plastic, then place it in a plastic zip-top bag.
You can briefly heat a slice of room-temperature panettone in the microwave to make it softer and less dry.
More Italian dessert recipes
If you try this Panettone Recipe, please leave a comment and a rating!
Panettone Recipe (Italian Christmas Bread)
- Mixed starter that rested overnight (room temperature)
- 2 large eggs (room temperature)
- 2 large egg yolks (room temperature)
- 2 ⅛ cups bread flour (plus up to ¼ cup more if needed)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon orange extract
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened & cut into small pieces)
Raisins & Zest
- 1 cup dark raisins
- ⅔ cup dried apricot rounds (4 ounces; cut into small pieces)
- ½ cup rum for soaking dried fruit (or use water)
- zest of one orange
- zest of one lemon
- 1 large egg
Confectioners sugar for dusting
The Night Before
- Make the starter. Add the starter ingredients to a medium mixing bowl. Stir with a spoon to combine well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight (8-12 hours).
- Cut up the apricot slices into little pieces. Soak them with the raisins overnight at room temperature by adding them to a small bowl with the rum and covering them. See notes.
The Next Day
- An hour before you begin making the recipe, take out the starter to sit at room temperature. Take out the butter to soften. Take out four large eggs; leave two whole at room temperature and separate two eggs so the yolks can sit at room temperature. (Refrigerate the whites for another use.)
- Drain the raisins and apricot pieces by placing them in a fine-mesh strainer over a small pan if you want to save the rum to drink. Zest the orange and lemon and set the zest aside. (Refrigerate the zested fruit for another use.)
- Add the starter (it will be sticky like taffy) to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the room-temperature 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks. Mix with a dough hook attachment until combined, for about two minutes. (You can start at speed 2, then increase to 3, then 4.) Add 2 ⅛ cups of bread flour and mix with the dough hook for 90 seconds (use speed 2 or 3) until the dough is combined in a ball, mostly pulled away from the sides of the bowl and sticky.
- Add 1 ½ teaspoons of salt and ¾ cup of sugar. Mix with the dough hook on speed 2 or 3 until the dough is shiny and smooth, for 4-5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the hook as needed. The dough will be softer, stretchier and ribbon-like at this point. It will be sticking to the bowl.
- Add the vanilla and orange extracts and mix in on speed 2 briefly.
- Check if the butter is soft. If not, put it in the microwave on defrost for just a few seconds. Add one piece of softened butter at a time to the stand mixer, mixing after each addition on the lowest setting, then increasing to speed 2. You may still see pats of butter that haven't blended, but that's okay for now. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed.
- If more than a three-inch circle of dough is sticking to the bowl in the center, add ⅛ cup more flour and mix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl so the dough comes together. If that's still not enough, add another tablespoon or so of flour, being careful not to add too much flour, or it will be dense. Knead the dough on speed 3 for eight minutes.
- Let the dough rest for a minute and pat the raisins and apricots dry with paper towels. Add the dried fruit and all of the zest to the bowl of dough. Knead with a dough hook on speed 2 for 5-6 minutes, until all of the fruit is mixed in well. It should not just be sticking to the surface of the dough but incorporated inside it. Scrape down the dough hook as needed.
- Prepare a clean surface on your counter (not wood) or use a sheet pan. Spray the surface with cooking spray. Spray the surface of the dough with cooking spray and spray your hands as well. Transfer the dough to the sheet pan or counter. Stretch the dough a bit to the sides, then fold it in half (this incorporates air.) Stretch the dough again and fold it in half. Use a dough cutter or straight-edged knife to divide the dough in half.
- Grease two 5-inch paper panettone molds with cooking spray. Gather each section of dough into a mound (it'll be very sticky) and place each into a panettone mold (the dough should fill the mold half-way.) Let the dough rise in the molds at room temperature for another hour, covered with large bowls so there is room at the top.
- When there is about 20 minutes left for the dough to rise, prepare the oven by removing the top rack, leaving space above the middle rack. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- When the dough is done rising, make the egg wash. Beat one egg. Brush some of it on the surface of the dough in each panettone mold. (Discard any extra egg wash.) Use a straight-edged knife to score the top of each panettone by making an X-shaped cut on the surface.
- Place the panettone molds on a sheet pan and bake on the center rack for 50-60 minutes, or until the surface is a deep brown and a cake tester placed straight down in the center comes out clean. If you have one panettone mold with more dough in it than the other, it will take longer to bake.
- Leave the panettone in the molds. Insert two wooden skewers into the lower section of each mold, 2-3 inches apart, so that the skewers are sticking out on each side by a couple of inches. Let the panettone hang upside down for about 2 hours, until fully cooled. Do this by hanging each panettone upside down between two tall glass canisters or two tall cans of bread crumbs and letting the skewers rest on the tops of the containers. This prevents the panettone from sinking and allows it to become even taller.
- The panettone is freshest on the first day. You can freeze the cooled panettone by wrapping it in plastic then placing it in a freezer bag (slice it first if you wish) to keep it fresh.
- If you prefer to store leftover panettone at room temperature, wrap it tightly in plastic. (It helps to add a wedge of apple in there to keep it moist.) Then place the wrapped panettone in a sealed plastic bag. It should be eaten the next day or two before it gets too dry. Warming it a bit in the microwave helps to make it softer. You also can make French toast with the leftover panettone.
(Recipe Source: Cooking with Mamma C. Originally published on December 6, 2017 and updated now with a new-and-improved recipe, new photos and additional information. Mixing method and folding inspired by Chef Steps.)