Family traditions are important to me, especially those that celebrate my Italian heritage. Each holiday, I try to find an Italian recipe I can incorporate into my own little family’s traditions. This year, I tried my hand at a panettone bread recipe. My grandparents are from Italy and my dad speaks nostalgically about my grandmother’s cooking. Unfortunately, my grandfather died before I was born and I was very young when my grandmother died. I have faint memories of her, but missed out on the opportunity to learn her cooking and baking secrets–and very few of her recipes survived her. Prior to this holiday, I had never heard of panettone bread. My Italian friend told me about it because she picked up a loaf to bring to a Christmas party. I asked my dad if my grandma made panettone when he was a kid, and he told me no. Despite the fact that he hadn’t enjoyed this bread as a child, I still wanted to give it a try. I searched and searched for a good recipe. I settled on this recipe but adapted it to suit our taste preferences. We chose to use orange zest instead of lemon because I read oranges are more traditional. I also thought oranges would taste better with the cherries and apricots. If you’re intimidated by the thought of making bread from scratch, don’t be! It was actually super easy to make and turned out so well. The bread is super moist and the addition of the honey butter on the top of the loaf created just the perfect touch of sweetness. Are you looking for other Italian recipes? Check out my Italian Easter Cookies and Italian Wedding Cookies.
Traditional Italian Panettone Bread Recipe
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted (optional)
1 tablespoon honey (optional)
In a medium bowl, combine yeast, water, and sugar. Cover and let stand 10 minutes, or until foamy. Add eggs, yogurt, vanilla, orange zest, and salt and mix well. Stir in flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough forms into a manageable ball. Place dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary, until dough is soft and pliable, but not sticky. (You may need up to 5 cups of flour.) Place dough in a large, lightly pan-sprayed bowl and cover. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spray an 8-inch round cake pan with non-stick spray. In a small bowl, toss dried fruit with confectioners’ sugar. Punch down dough in the bowl, transfer to a floured surface, and knead in the fruit.
Form dough into a ball, place in the prepared cake pan, cover loosely with a dish towel, and let rise for 30 minutes. (Loaf may rise above the pan sides.) Brush with melted butter, if desired. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Once done, brush the top of the loaf with an equal mixture of melted butter and honey.