Italian Recipe for Christmas Panettone

December 14, 2020  |  By Peg Kern
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Slicing delicious homemade panettone bread for Christmas.In Italy, Christmas means “panettone” and “pandoro,” two sweet types of bread that are ubiquitous during the holiday season. I guarantee you every house in Italy has one or the other on the table at Christmas time. Today we share a recipe for our favorite, the Milanese panettone. The name comes from “pane di Tonio” (Tony’s bread), and there are many stories related to the origin that we will talk about in another blog! Try making this classic Italian Christmas recipe at home for your family and friends. It also makes a great gift!

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Italian Christmas Panettone

Two panettone loaves
Serves: 12
Prep time:
Cook time: 75 minutes
Cook method: Baking


  • 2 1/4 c flour
  • 2 1/4 c bread flour
  • 1 c sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp or 1 package instant yeast
  • 11 T butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 eggs, room temp
  • 3 yolks, room temp
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 c raisins
  • 1/2 c candied lemon peel
  • zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
  • 2 t vanilla
  • water, room temp
  • panettone pan or panettone paper (available online or at specialty food shops such as Sur La Table during the holiday season)

Christmas panettone dough Instructions:

1. First, make the biga, a pre-ferment that will sit overnight and be used to start the rest of the dough. Dissolve all but 1/2 t of the dry yeast (or all but 2 gr of the fresh yeast) in a bit of tepid water (about 1/3 c) and then mix in 3/4 c of all-purpose flour. Place in an oiled bowl, roll to coat, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit out at least one hour. Place in the fridge, and leave overnight.

2. The next day, take the biga out of the refrigerator, place it on a board, covered, and let come to room temperature (about an hour). Soak the raisins in warm water (or your spirit of choice!).

3. Mix the biga, 1 1/4 c of bread flour, 2 whole eggs,, and the rest of the yeast in a mixer on low or with your hands. (Add water if necessary, one tablespoon at a time, to get the dough to come together.) Add 1/2 c. sugar and mix. Keep incorporating, and add 4 T of softened butter. Knead until the dough is elastic and smooth, and not sticky.

Panettone dough ready to back 4. Let rise in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place until doubled (1 1/2 to 2 hours).

5. Put the dough back in the mixer, add 2 more eggs, 3 yolks, the vanilla, and the rest of the flour. Mix thoroughly, then add a pinch of salt and the other 1/2 c. of sugar. When the sugar is incorporated, add the rest of the softened butter. The dough should be smooth, shiny, and elastic (you may need to add more flour, 1/4 c. at a time, or water, 1 T at a time, to get the desired consistency). Drain the raisins and pat dry. Add the candied fruit, the zest, and the raisins. Knead for a several minutes and then place in the oiled bowl, covered, to let rise again. The dough should double in size (2-3 hours).

Panettone dough rising 6. Gently form the dough into a round boule, trying to degas it as little as possible, and place in well-buttered 1kg (2 lb or 7″) panettone pan or panettone paper, or in two smaller pans/papers (4-5″). Press it gently to make it fill the bottom of the pan or paper. Spray with oil, cover, and let rise one last time until it reaches the top of the pan/paper (about 2 hours).

7. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Place a sheet pan of water on a rack in the top position, and the other rack in the lower third of the oven. Bake the panettone for 5 minutes, then, with a sharp, serrated knife, cut a small cross on top of the loaf. Add a small pat of butter to the cut, and continue baking for 10 more minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325 and bake for about 60 minutes more for a single loaf, 40-45 minutes for two loaves, or until the internal temperature reaches 185 degrees F. If the top is browning too much, cover it loosely with foil.

Two loaves of delicious homemade panettone bread for Christmas.8. Remove the panettone from the pan immediately to cool on a wire rack (or cool in the panettone paper on a wire rack). Cool at least 2 hours before serving. Your panettone can be kept for up to two weeks wrapped in plastic, at room temperature.

Read more about our favorite Christmas traditions.

There are many fabulous Italian Christmas dessert recipes! Try also our recipe for Cartellate Christmas Pastries or Italian Caggionetti.

By Peg Kern

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