As part of my degree I was lucky enough to spend a year studying in Italy. The town I lived in wasn’t what you’d consider to be pretty, it’s certainly not on the tourist trail but it is in the region of Emilia-Romagna which produces many of Italy’s best-known food exports – parmesan, balsamic vinegar, Parma ham, ragù alla bolognese, mortadella, pancetta, tagliatelle and much, much more. So, as you might expect, most of my year was spent eating as much as possible, trying as many new foods as I could manage. One of my favourite discoveries (and there were lots!) was panettone. Around Christmas, all over Italy, panettoni start appearing in stores, stacked high in bright, colourful boxes. You can get all sorts of flavours: chocolate, coffee, lemon, vanilla filled with thick custard and the ever-classic dried fruit and almonds. My friends and I demolished cake after cake and when we got back home I wanted to recreate the taste of Italian Christmas.
As much as I loved the shop-bought cake filled with custard, it wasn’t exactly traditional. Of course I’m not sure how traditional this version is but it takes me back to my home-away-from-home and went down very well with colleagues and family alike.
Although this doesn’t require a huge amount of effort (especcially if you have a stand mixer) from start to finish you’ll need a good 5 hours. Most of the time the dough will be happily rising in a warm place so you can put your feet up/pop out to the shops/wrap some presents but you do need to have a good window of free time to make this.
(Adapted from BBC Good Food Magazine)
- 500g plain flour
- 2 x 7g sachet of dried yeast
- 100g caster sugar
- 200ml milk
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 200g butter
- 150g candied mixed peel
- 150g sultanas
- toasted, sliced almonds
- pearl or demerara sugar
Mix together the flour, salt and caster sugar in a large bowl. Warm the milk to hand hot and, in a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and vanilla. Set aside 2 tbsp of the eggs and save for later. Add the milk and the eggs to the flour and stir to form a soft dough. Keep stirring for a few minutes until the dough becomes smooth. Cover and leave to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Cut the soft butter into small pieces and stir into the dough until combined. This requires some elbow grease if making by hand! Leave to rise for another hour.
Butter a deep, 20cm cake tin and line the base with baking paper. Make a collar for the tin that extends 10cm out of the top of the tin. Stir the sultanas and mixed peel into the dough, form into a ball (the dough will be quite wet) and place in the tin. Leave to rise for 30 mins and preheat the oven to 180°C.
Before baking, brush the top of the dough with the reserved egg and sprinkle with almonds and sugar. Bake for 45-50mins. The panettone will keep well for a week or two if wrapped well. It also freezes well. If, somehow, you end up with stale leftovers, panettone makes amazing bread and butter pudding.