Back in the days of the Roman Empire, apparently in Milan, desserts often resembled bread and they had to last. Fruit and butter were added to make the sweet dough luxurious. The original recipes took days to raise. Today, many recipes continue to use a 12-15 hour rising time. I have one that cuts this considerably by first making a biga or sponge.
This Panettone is buttery and sweet and dresses up nicely with whipped cream or as the base for a decadent bread pudding. It also dresses up your table nicely. The recipe calls for the use of panettone paper molds. I buy mine in packs of twelve from King Arthur Flour online for about $9.
3/4 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/16 teaspoon yeast
1/3 cup tepid water (about 115 degrees)
Combine the biga ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl, cover, and allow them to rest overnight, covered, (8 to 12 hours) in a cold oven. The biga or sponge gives the panettone the correct texture and helps it last longer. It also cuts the rising time later.
All of the biga
2 1/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup tepid water
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon orange oil
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 tablespoon) instant yeast
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup candied fruit such as orange peel and apricot,
1 ½ teaspoon orange zest
1 ½ teaspoon lemon zest
Combine all dough ingredients above except the fruit and zest. Knead until the dough is soft and smooth by hand or in a mixer with the paddle attachment. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for about 3 hours or until it’s doubled. Gently deflate the dough. Knead in the fruits and zest as evenly as you can.
Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a panettone paper mold with the seam side down. Place the mold on a baking sheet. Cover the mold and let the dough rise till it’s just crested over the rim of the pan, about 1-1 ½ hours, again in a cold oven. Just before placing it in the oven, cut a cross on the top of the dough. If you really want to add flavor, brush the dough with 1 tablespoon of melted butter, preferably clarified.
Bake the bread in a preheated 375°F oven for 50-60 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Remove the panettone from the oven. Place two 12-inch skewers through the paper into the middle of the panettone. Hang it upside down over a large stock pot until it is completely cooled. Like an angel food cake, handing it upside down keeps it light in the center.