Panettone is not just for Christmas. This moist yeasty light bread is filled with surprises like ginger, orange peel, apricots, and rum soaked raisins. Add your own special touches of flavor. Our family first discovered Italian Panettone packaged in a pretty red box on a gas station shelf in rural Honduras. Particularly a favorite of Stephanie’s, it has become a tradition to enjoy every Christmas now. But why wait another year? Make an extra loaf to share with family and friends. Oh! Did I mention how incredible the french toast tastes with this “bread”! This recipe will make 4-5 loaves, depending on the size of pan you use. Mix and match the fruits and nuts. It is not necessary to use all of them. In fact, I just made a batch with 2 cups of dried cherries, one 10 ounce package of Ghirardelli 60% chocolate chips, and 1 1/2 cups of toasted pecans. It is a nice combination and perfect for Valentines Day. Use the flavors you enjoy and experiment with new ones.
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 cup plumped raisins (dark or golden)
3/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup orange peel, chopped
1 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup currants
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
4 tablespoons active yeast
2 tablespoons honey
4 cups whole milk
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 egg yolks
8 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
3 teaspoons sea salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Line pan (I use an 8-inch springform pan because of its high sides) with brown paper. I have seen soufflé dishes and even coffee cans used. I cut a grocery bag to line the sides and bottom and butter well. Dust with flour. Prepare the items you want to place inside. Chop apricots in small pieces. Plump raisins in hot water. Add 1/4 of dark rum to enhance flavor. If you choose to add ginger, chop into small pieces along with the orange rind, currants and cherries. It is not necessary to add all of the fruits or nuts, but I think they are fabulous.
In a small mixing bowl sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir in the honey and set aside until foamy (about 6-7 minutes). In a large saucepan over medium heat, scald the milk and sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon. Add the butter and stir until melted. Remove from stove. Add vanilla. With a mixer, add the eggs and egg yolks. Mix well. In a large mixing bowl mix the flour and salt. Gradually pour the milk/egg mixture into the flour and alternate with the yeast mixture. Use a large wooden spoon at this point to stir. Add additional flour if necessary. Dough will be sticky. Get ready to roll up your sleeves and knead the bread. Knead for 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle in the fruit and nuts. Knead a bit more to incorporate all the ingredients. Place dough into a large buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap. You can refrigerate the dough overnight and bake the next day. Allow dough to rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down to release any air bubbles. Shape dough to fit into pans about 3/4 full. Let rise again for at least one hour. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until the top is a medium golden brown. Once the loaves are cool, you can add a powdered sugar frosting by mixing 2 cups of powdered sugar with 3-4 tablespoons of milk.