My favorite light display
Thanks for patiently waiting for the recipe. This one is based on a King Arthur Flour recipe from their huge baking book. However, I've adapted it to reflect more of the taste I find in the panettoni I find in Italy. I highly recommend using their Fiori di Sicilia flavoring, which you can find at www.bakerscatalogue.com as it is THE right flavor. Otherwise, use equal parts orange, lemon and vanilla extract to achieve that elusive panettone taste. I urge you to seek out really good candied orange peel or make your own. That vile fruitcake stuff they sell at Christmas time should be against the law and using it will ruin this.
Unless you have baker's biceps, you really need a heavy-duty mixer to get through this formidable dough. Making the biga ahead of time, instead of just relying on yeast doing its job in an hour or two, makes a big difference in rising when a bread like this is so dense with sugars and fats.
If you don't have a traditional panettone pan, you can use a pandoro pan or tube type pan to avoid a doughy center. If you want to be totally traditional, specialty cooking supply stores sell the typical waxed, brown papers to hold the dough in the pan and help force a high rise.
And, should you have leftover panettone ... Jamie Oliver has a recipe for Christmas panettone bread pudding that is the definition of decadence! Rich, rich, rich. We've had it as our Christmas Eve dinner dessert finale four times and I recommend it. For the recipe, go here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/jamie-oliver/panettone-bread-and-butter-pudding-recipe/index.html
HOLIDAY PANETTONE BREAD
For the Biga (starter):
1 1/2 c. unbleached flour
1/2 c. water
1/2 t. instant yeast (SAF is a good one)
3 large eggs
1/2 c. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 1/2 c. unbleached flour
1/3 c. sugar
5 t. instant yeast
1 1/2 t. salt
2 t. pure vanilla extract
1/2 t. Fiori di Sicilia extract, OR 1/4 t. EACH of pure orange and lemon extract
3/4 c. golden raisins
1/4 c. European style candied orange peel
1/4 c. pine nuts (optional)
For the Biga:
Combine the flour, water and yeast, kneading briefly to make a stiff dough. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a towel and let rise at room temperature overnight. Alternatively, if you want to start it farther ahead, you can place the dough in the refrigerator and cover with plastic film and allow it to rise for up to 24 hours.
For the Dough:
In the bowl of a heavy mixer, combine the biga with all the remaining ingredients, except the fruit, nuts and pearl sugar. Knead the dough until it's smooth - it will be sticky at first, then come together nicely. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, covered, in a warm place and let rise for an hour.
Remove dough to board and knead in the fruit, just until the dough accepts the fruit. Don't overhandle! Let it rest for ten minutes or so, then shape into a long log and cut in half. Place each half into the panettone pan lined with the paper or lightly greased or a lightly greased tube pan. Press pearl sugar into the top of the dough, about 2 T. each loaf. Return to a warm place to rise for 2 hours. It may not rise much, but it will become puffy and soft.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 45 minutes, tenting with foil if it seems to be browning too much on top. Remove from oven and turn onto a rack to cool. Once cool, store in airtight container.
**Note: if you want to make small loaves, bake at 325 degrees F for 20-25 minutes. Watch carefully, as they tend to bake quickly and you don't want them to be dry. Instead of pearl sugar, you can dust with powdered sugar while still warm (not hot).