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Italian Panetone di Natale

Panettone is an Italian type of sweet bread loaf originally from Milan. It contains candied orange, citron, and lemon zest, as well as raisins, which are added dry and not soaked.The origins of this cake appear to be ancient, dating back to the Roman Empire, when ancient Romans sweetened a type of leavened cake with honey. 

A legend tells of a story that takes place in the 15th century when Ludovico il Moro was the Duke of Milan. It begins, one evening when the Duke’s cook was asked to prepare a delicious banquet, for himself and a number of nobles. The cook was successful in his feast, however, he had forgotten about the dessert in the oven, which had burnt by the time he realized.

The cook was in despair but thankfully the little kitchen boy, Toni, suggested using the sweet cake he had made for himself in the morning using flour, butter, eggs, lime zest, and raisins. The cook was afraid he had no other solutions, so agreed to offer the cake to the guests. They both nervously stood behind the door to see the reactions of the Duke’s friends.

To the cook’s relief, everybody loved the cake. The Duke enjoyed it so much that he asked for its name. The cook responded “L’è ‘l pan de Toni”, meaning ‘the bread of Toni’. The name has since evolved to Panettone.


5 tablespoons warm water
2 (7g) sachets dried active baking yeast
500g – 1lb 2oz plain flour
125ml – 4 1/2 fluid oz warm milk
125g – 4 1/2 oz caster sugar
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
325g – 11oz mixed glace fruits
2 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons orange zest
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cream

1. Warm a small bowl with hot water and pour in the warm water. Sprinkle on 1 sachet yeast. Leave to stand until yeast has dissolved. Stir in 60g – 2 1/2oz of the flour, cover with cling film, and leave it to stand for 30 minutes, or until doubled. Sprinkle remaining yeast over the warm milk and leave it to stand until the yeast has dissolved. Beat together the sugar, eggs, egg yolks and vanilla. Stir in milk-yeast mixture. Add the water -yeast mixture and stir until it is all combined.

2. Mix the butter and remaining flour until crumbly. Slowly pour in the egg mixture and beat on high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until dough has an elastic consistency . Beat in fruits and orange and lemon zests. Place the dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with cling film, and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 2 to 3 hours.

3. Fold moulds to form a 7cm cuff. Brush inside and out with melted butter. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work board and knead to knock back the air. Divide the dough into 3 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place into the prepared moulds. Place bags on a baking tray about 10cm apart and cover loosely with cling film. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled again in size, about 2 hours.

4. Heat oven to 200 C – Gas 6. Cut an X in top of each loaf . Mix egg yolk and cream. Brush tops of loaves lightly with egg wash.

5. Place baking tray in bottom third of the oven. After 10 minutes, lower heat to 190 C – Gas 5. Bake for another 30 minutes; if tops get too brown, cover with foil. Loaves are done when a wooden skewer inserted into centre comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

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