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I started experimenting with panettone last year. I did not do it intentionally… it was an act of desperation.  I had made lievito madre– mother yeast or bread starter that I was keeping for months, and needed to feed at least once or twice a week.  I had to do something with the part you need to give away or throw out.  It was invading my cucina! I ran out of people to give it to, and did not like throwing it away.  Then I found out I could use my lievito madre to make panettone. Yeast still had to be added, but the lievito madre added flavour and texture to the dough and helped it stay fresh longer.  I adapted this overnight panettone recipe, replacing 1 cup of flour with 1 cup of my starter.  It was pretty good.  This year, I no longer have my starter, plus I lost all of my recipe experimentation notes. Mannaggia!  So I had to start all over, but luckily my panettone turned out better.  This time I used a biga (BEE•gah), a sort of ‘mini starter’ that ferments overnight.  After trying a lot of different things, I can finally post the recipe, just in time for Natale.  Traditionally, panettone is made with uvetta and canditi-raisins and candied citrus peel.  I love panettone, and canditi, but I usually end up picking out the raisins, so I used dried figs soaked in grappa instead.  If you like raisins, they do grappa well too!  Panettone dough needs to rise 3 times, so this recipe is not recommended for the inpatient or inexperienced bread baker.  Be sure to read my notes at the bottom.  My previous post Panettone details the history of this lovely dolce.

Panettone con Fichi, Noci e Arancia/Panettone with Figs,Walnuts and Orange:

Make a biga the night before:

  • 100 g 00 flour or all-purpose flour (200 ml, ~¾cup)
  • 100 ml milk (85g, a bit more than ⅓ cup) at room temperature
  • 1 (7 g) package active dry yeast (not quick rise or instant) Lievito di birra is what I used*
  • 15 g honey (10 ml, 2 tsp)

In a glass bowl or measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in the milk.  Add honey, then flour.  Cover with a tea towel and leave overnight or longer. It should be bubbly and doubled in size

Soak fruit: 250-500 ml (1-2 cups) chopped dried figs (or apricots, cranberries, raisins or other mixed dried fruits).  Cover with 30ml (2 tablespoons or 1 ‘shot’) of grappa and soak overnight.

Make the dough the next morning:

  • Biga made the night before
  • 400g flour (~800 ml, 3 ¼cups)
  • 60 ml white wine (¼ cup, 4 tablespoons)
  • 100 g sugar (120 ml, ½ cup)
  • 100 g butter at room temperature (125 ml, ½ cup, 1 ‘stick’)
  • 6 g salt (1 tsp)
  • 3 eggs (plus one extra yolk if the eggs are small)
  • 5 ml (1tsp) Fiori di Sicilia (or 1 tsp vanilla extract or ⅓ a vanilla bean and 5 drops of orange oil) **

Make a well in the center of the flour. Add the biga and other ingredients.  Mix with a wooden spoon.  Knead by hand on a floured surface for 10-20 minutes or electric mixer 10 minutes followed by a few minutes by hand. Cover bowl with a tea towel and let rise for a minimum of 3 hours.  Longer is better*

Add fruit and canditi:

Deflate the dough and pull it into a rectangle. Top with:

  • Grated rind of 1 large orange
  • Drained figs or other dried fruit soaked in grappa
  • 125-250 ml (½ to 1 cup) Canditi-candied citrus peel
  • 125-250 ml (½-1 cup) chopped walnuts

Roll dough up into a log, then knead on a floured surface to evenly mix in the fruit, nuts, and canditi. Shape into a ball.

Place the ball in a 750g panettone paper mold, a metal coffee can lined with parchment paper, an 8 cup glass pyrex measuring cup lined with parchment paper, or a new terra cotta pot. Whatever you use, make sure the sides are tall enough to allow for the dough rising. Let rise 4-5 hours*** I had to let mine rise overnight in the oven-turned off with the light on.

Slash a cross on top of the panettone and place a small square of butter in the middle

Bake panettone in a preheated 190° C (375° F) oven for 45-50 minutes or until the top is done.  If the top is becoming too dark, cover with a piece of aluminum foil

Cool panettone upside down to prevent falling.  I could not find bamboo skewers, so I used my bamboo knitting needles to skewer the bottom then hung it upside down over a large pot. I don’t know if this step is really necessary, but after all this work, I am not willing to find out! It also looks cool.  See photo:

The panettone should keep fresh for 5 days in a plastic bag- if it lasts that long!


Amounts can vary depending on temperature, humidity and type or size of ingredient.  I have included ml and cup measurements in brackets, but measuring ingredients by weight is the most accurate.

Fig and chocolate is also a nice panettone combination.  For best results, freeze the chocolate pieces before adding to the dough.

I made my own canditi-candied orange peels, using the instructions on Domenica’s postIt was easier than I thought and I won’t be buying canditi any more!

*Lievito di birra is beer yeast.  It is available from some Italian supermarkets in packets.  Use ‘active’ dry yeast, not instant or quick-rise.

**Fiori di Sicilia is a vanilla citrus mixture that smells like panettone in a bottle. It can be hard to find and expensive.  Vanilla extract and orange oil is a good substitute.

***Dough rising times are variable, especially in colder weather. If you are having difficulty getting your dough to rise, there are some things that can help.

  • Place the dough on the counter while a pot of water is simmering on the stove
  • Place the dough in the oven (turned off) with the light on
  • If really having difficulty, preheat the oven to a ‘keep warm’ setting, then turn it off and place the dough in there.
  • Abbia pazienza-Just be patient!

Buon appetito e Buon Natale, Cristina