If there’s one iconic festive sourdough product that has captured the imagination of bakers worldwide, its got to be panettone! A delight to eat for its flavour, aroma and its typically highly aerated texture. Coming up to Christmas its a fitting baking challenge that if done correctly is very rewarding.
The quest of making a really good panettone ‘artisan’ style – without the emulsifies, preservatives and bottled aroma concoctions – has been gaining ground in internet baking circles for good reason. It’s a challenge for bakers and chefs all over the world.
I’ve been meaning to write up on it for a while but other things have been pressing and urgent and making panettone is needless to say demanding on ones time. It takes several days to execute properly. Short and long fermentation times of various stages make it a test of not only skill but stamina!! Anyway, this year, however, I procrastinated no longer.
I decided to use Iginio Massari’s formula. Iginio is a well known and celebrated pastry chef and confectioner from the city of Brescia in Italy. He is ranked up there with heart surgeons and rock stars!!
So I entered a modified formula based on Iginio’s formula into Bread Boss with all the different fermentation stages and production stages. For panettone some ingredients need to be incorporated as a group with others. What I mean by that is that since the panettone dough is so rich and soft, some ingredients must be mixed in gradually. This is true of the “first yellow dough” (sourdough stage) and the final dough. In Bread Boss we can separate ingredients into stages and groups to keep track of which portions belong into which dough stage.
Lets look at the entire Final Dough to get an idea how it looks assembled. In view mode this screenshot is seen last as its made last – Bread Boss shows the formula in the order of being made so naturally the first thing to be made is shown first – but it’s helpful look at the final to see its complexity.
The green ingredients are categorised as non-dough ingredients in Bread Boss which means they scale separately to the dough. For example the Amaretto topping doesn’t influence the dough formula but is still necessary in the final dough.
The Amaretto topping is a more modern phenomenon with panettone, the traditional style is to slash with a knob of butter added to the top just prior to entering the oven. But I like the sweet and tasty topping.
Looking at the final dough above: at the top of the list are the blue stages which consist of the production stages. These are the grouped ingredients, or if the formula requires, ingredients separated to be added at a specific time or step. The first of these production stages is the First Dough which contains 3 stages that are sub formulas. These first 3 stages of the First Dough are repetitive “conditioning” steps of the starter to enhance it’s yeast activity and keep the formation of acids by lactic acid bacteria (LAB) low in volume. Traditionally, three repetitive stages are used but sometimes one or two extra stages may be needed if your starter has been neglected in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
Let’s have a look at the screenshots of my phone so you can see how the formula is separated into groups.
Then comes the “First dough” or “first yellow dough” as some like to call it. “Yellow dough” because this is the first stage that is highly enriched containing egg yolk, sugar and butter.
Add the flour and starter to the mixing bowl. The water, egg yolk and sugar can be combined to form a liquid stage. In Bread Boss I set it up as a Production Stage to be prepared called “Liquid first dough” and half of it can be added to the flour and starter. Once a dough forms small amounts can be added a bit at a time until it is all incorporated into a smooth dough. With a planetary mixer like a Hobart or a Kitchen Aid I usually do this on first or slow speed. Then I can put the mixer onto the second speed as I add the butter in lumps a little at a time. All up it might take 5 or 6 lumps added half a minute apart. The butter should to be cold but soft. Finally when all the butter is thoroughly mixed in and the dough has developed elasticity it can be folded to form a smooth top surface skin and allowed to ferment approx 18 hrs at 25-26°C. But length of fermentation time isn’t a cue for the ripeness of this dough. The real cue is to at least triple in volume before it’s ready for the final dough. On one occasion the first dough took more than 18hrs to triple. I had to leave it an extra 12 hours before it tripled. In that particular case the background temperature was too low. Temperature is important in all fermentation, as readers of this site will know, but with the first dough fermentation of panettone it’s very important since a temperature that’s too warm can produce excessive acids.
The first dough conditions the gluten protein so that it’s mellow, supple and very extensible, this allows us to get that highly aerated volume in panettone . Only strong or high protein flours are used to make panettone.
Half a day and over night made this dough quintuple in volume, so I was pleased. It looked like I was on track for the correct volume and texture that’s characteristic of panettone.
After setting the first dough to ferment I conditioned the raisins by washing and rinsing them in water several times until the water was clean. Straining them to allow excess water to drain away and store them in the fridge until needed the next day.
The next phase was to assemble the Final Dough by building the final dough production stages which consisted of the following Liquid Final Dough, Sugar Final dough, Butter Final dough and Aroma Final dough.
The water listed in the liquid final dough is added after the other ingredients of this stage are all incorporated. Adding this water then – after the other liquids are added – enables us to ensure the dough has the correct consistency. It has an adjusting function. The dough should be soft and somewhat viscous.
To start with, the flour and mature first dough are added to the mixer, with a small amount of the liquid final dough to form a smooth paste. Add the remainder of the yolk and honey. Very soon after this point, I added the sugar final dough. Salt was added soon after. When all those ingredients are incorporated the aroma ingredients were added.
Incorporate the butter in much the same way as with the first dough until the dough is elastic and well developed. This is where a small amount of water can be added to effect the desired consistency and viscosity. If it doesn’t need more, then fine, don’t add it or add only as much as you need.
The fruit is folded through on slow speed as it’s soft and we don’t want to break it, only distribute it evenly, so keep an eye on the mixer and judge it visually.
By now the dough should be glossy, soft but elastic and strong. Allow to bulk ferment for 1 hour, then divide into 700g pieces for 45 minutes of intermediate proof.
Panettone papers have designated sizes and although the ones I used were for 750g dough weight I used 700g dough pieces.
After 45 minutes, tension the dough by rounding it on the bench much the same as you would for any soft, well developed bread dough for final moulding. Moulding panettone for the first time can present a challenge but using care and importantly the correct technique makes it easy.
After 8 hours of final proof, the amaretto prepared a few minutes earlier to piping consistency, is piped on the top surface and topped with almonds and pearled sugar.
The dough should be half to 3/4 of the way up the paper sides, as a good panettone has lots of ovenspring or expansion in the oven.
The armaretto is easy to make, just add the ingredients to a mixing bowl and whisk until its a smooth viscous paste able to be piped. Add more or less egg whites for the consistency you want.
Dough pieces topped with armaretto will really “jump” in the oven if the dough has been conditioned correctly by the fermentation stages with a well conditioned starter.
Every oven is different so the finer adjustments of temperature and time comes with knowing the idiosyncrasies of your oven. I baked on 170°C for approximately 45 minutes.
On exiting the oven the bamboo skewers are put into the bottom sides immediately so they can hang upside down preventing them from collapsing, to allow the crumb to set. Overnight is best away from drafts. This “hanging” also allows the moisture, that dissipates as baked goods cool, to be retained within the paper mould and eventually equalise throughout the entire crumb. This contributes to the pleasant mouth feel of well made panettone.
Nicely expanded panettone, with its pleasant characteristic flavour and aroma, is an achievement and the work involved makes the reward that much more satisfying!!
Good luck with your Christmas baking and enjoy the festive season from us at Bread Boss.