My husband used to live in northern Italy, where a Christmas fruitcake called panettone is traditional. Last Christmas, I had a bite of an imported cake and thought it was delicious, but I certainly wasn’t about to pay $37 for a cake, no matter how Italian it was. So I resolved to someday make my own.
This Christmas I looked at numerous recipes, and the one I finally settled on is from King Arthur Flour’s website. They also have a blog post about making it, which I found very helpful. I made some modifications to the recipe, and it turned out even as well as I had hoped, which is little short of miraculous. In fact, it was my favourite of all the things I baked this Christmas. I highly recommend it.
As suggested in the Flourish post, I used a bread machine to make it, which worked very well. The dough is sweet and rich, but rises well. They don’t give a specific amount of time for kneading the fruit into the risen dough, so I will say here that five minutes on the dough cycle were sufficient.
I made the biga, the overnight starter, on December 22nd, and made the dough and baked it on the 23rd. I served it on Christmas day–it takes forethought to have it ready in time, but it’s lovely to have something ready to eat on Christmas with no fuss on the day.
My changes to the ingredients: I omitted the fiori di sicilia (which provides some of the citrus flavour), because I didn’t have any. For the fruit, I used dried cranberries and pears, which I soaked in about a 1/3 cup of lemon and orange juice. I added 1 tablespoon lemon zest and 1 tablespoon orange zest. This made the cake smell heavenly, and soaking the fruit made it juicy and tender.
My husband said it smelled perfect, and that its taste and texture were just like the panettone he had eaten in Italy. In fact, it is in the way of becoming a new tradition for my family–it was quite a crowd-pleaser and my dad declared I am now stuck making it for Christmas breakfast for the rest of forever!
All the steps (mouse over or click for captions):
The biga, or starter
The fruit, soaking while the dough rose
The risen dough
Adding the fruit
Fruit fully blended in
The greased and floured bundt pan
Ready to rise
Fully risen and ready for the oven
Freshly turned out of the pan
After having been brushed with butter
A dusting of powdered sugar completed the look
My one idea for improving it, which I will try next year, is brushing it with a glaze of lemon juice and powdered sugar after its first serving (including over the open ends), to seal in the moisture.