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Panettone, or Italian Christmas bread, is a wonderful recipe from Italy that is ideal for Christmas. Although there are lots of ingredients and steps needed to make traditional Italian panettone, this recipe is straightforward to follow. Serve this sweet bread baked with dried fruit for Christmas breakfast or brunch, for dessert, or as a snack whenever you like. Similar in texture to brioche, this buttery traditional panettone is sweet and delicious.

An Italian panettone, a festive Christmas bread, is sitting on a cutting board.

Follow this panettone recipe to make the most delicious loaf, which is delicious sprinkled with powdered sugar or toasted and spread with a little salted butter.

Planning a party? You might like this Italian beef braciole stuffed beef, this Italian burrata stuffed tomato appetizer, or even these Italian canestrelli cookies.

A panettone Christmas bread sitting on top of a cutting board.

Why You’ll Love It

Straightforward:  Although it might not be the easiest recipe ever created, it’s well worth making panettone, and you should find the instructions straightforward.
Versatile: Panettone can be served for breakfast, brunch or as dessert. You can make it into bread and butter pudding, use leftover panettone to make a trifle or enjoy it as a sweet snack.
Delicious: There’s no denying traditional panettone is really tasty. The dried fruit and citrus flavors pair wonderfully with the vanilla, and then you have the beautiful crunch of Belgian pearl sugar in every bite.

Ingredients for Italian Panettone

For the panettone dough starter, or pre-dough, you need yeast, bread flour and warm water. For the panettone itself, you need an orange, dried cranberries and raisins, orange liqueur, egg yolks, white sugar, vanilla extract, bread flour, salt, an egg, and some Belgian pearl sugar (here).

The ingredients for a panettone Christmas bread are laid out on a marble table.

How to Make Panettone

For more detailed instructions with weights and measurements, jump to the printable recipe card.

Make the panettone dough starter:  The day before making the loaf, combine the bread flour, yeast and water put the mixture in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill it overnight.
Prepare the dried fruits: Remove the orange zest from the orange and set to one side. Squeeze half the orange juice into a bowl, then add the liqueur and dried fruits and microwave until hot.
Mix the panettone dough: Rub the orange zest with the sugar, then add to a stand mixer bowl and add the starter, egg yolks, orange zest mixture, and vanilla extract, then mix well with a dough hook attachment.
Add more ingredients: Add the flour and salt, and mix some more, then add the butter a bit at a time, mixing until the dough is smooth. Add the candied fruits and juices and mix in.
Let the panettone dough rise: Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let the dough rest.
Fold the dough: Turn the dough out on a greased surface and stretch it out and fold it over itself several times, then put it in a panettone mold (here), cover and put it somewhere warm to make the dough rise.
Make an egg wash: Whisk the egg which some water, then brush this over the panettone and cut an X-shape on top, before sprinkling over the Belgian pearl sugar.
Bake it: Cook the panettone on a low oven shelf, covering the top with aluminum foil if it gets too dark.
The finishing touches: Poke a pair of skewers into the loaf and unmold it, then let it cool completely before serving.

A piece of panettone bread dough with cranberries on top of a marble countertop.
An Italian Christmas bread, known as panettone, adorned with festive reindeer figurines.

Substitutions and Variations

Use candied orange peel instead of the raisins if you prefer, or add more orange juice if you aren’t using orange liqueur. You might also want to add chocolate chips or other add-ins.

A slice of panettone bread is sitting on a cutting board in front of a Christmas tree.

It’s best to use bread flour or panettone flour, as all purpose flour won’t give the same texture. If you can’t find Belgian pearl sugar, you might be able to find Swedish pearl sugar which will work at a pinch but is smaller in size.

An Italian panettone, a loaf of bread with cranberries and powdered sugar, perfect for Christmas.
A slice of panettone bread with powdered sugar on top.

How to Serve Panettone

Enjoy this panettone recipe as it is, sprinkled with powdered sugar or toast it and serve with butter. If you’re making this as a Christmas treat, consider making other festive favorites too, such as chocolate covered cherries or reindeer donuts.

An Italian panettone, a traditional Christmas bread, sitting on a cutting board.

How to Store Leftover Panettone

Store:  Keep leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.
Freeze: Freeze panettone whole or in slices for up to several months, then thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

A slice of Italian Christmas bread, known as panettone, on a table.

Italian Christmas Bread FAQs

Why is it sometimes called 24 hour panettone or an overnight panettone recipe?

Panettone has to be started the day before, as you need to prepare a sourdough starter and let that sit overnight.

What can you do with stale panettone?

If your panettone recipe is starting to dry out, you can toast it or used it to make French toast or a French toast bake.

A panettone bread with cranberries on top.
A slice of panettone, an Italian Christmas bread, on a cutting board.

Italian Panettone Recipe

5 from 28 votes

Panettone Italian Christmas Bread Recipe

By: Bella Bucchiotti
This traditional panettone recipe, or Italian Christmas cake, has an orange-scented sweet dough enriched with fruits and raisins.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Rest Time: 12 hours
Total Time: 13 hours
Servings: 10

Ingredients 

Pre-dough or “Starter”

  • 8 Ounces water, warm
  • 20 Grams yeast
  • 8 Ounces bread flour

Panettone

  • 1 orange
  • 4 Ounces dried cranberries
  • 3 Ounces golden raisins, dried
  • 50 millilitres liquor, orang, Jameson Orange or Grand Marnier
  • starter, recipe above
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ¾ Cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla flavoring
  • 12 Ounces bread flour
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • ½ Cup Belgian pearl sugar

Instructions 

  • Start this recipe the night before you want to bake the Panettone. Make the starter by mixing together 8 oz warm water, 20 grams yeast, and 8 oz bread flour. Place this sticky dough into a bowl that is about twice the size of the dough (the dough will be rising), and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Set the dough in the fridge overnight.
  • In the morning, zest the orange and set the zest aside. Slice the orange in half and squeeze the juice of only one of the halves into a bowl. Add the orange liquor, cranberries, and raisins to the bowl of orange juice and mix together. Place the bowl in the microwave and heat for about 1 minute or until the mixture is hot to the touch. Set aside.
  • In a new bowl, mix together the orange zest and the granulated sugar. Using clean hands, rub the zest and sugar together.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixture, place the starter, egg yolks, sugar zest mixture, and vanilla. Use a dough hook and mix on medium high speed until mostly combined.
  • Add the flour and salt, then mix again. Once the flour has incorporated, add the butter 2 tablespoons at a time while the mixer is running.
  • After all the butter has been incorporated, knead the dough in the mixer on a medium to medium high speed until the dough is very smooth, this will take about 8-10 minutes.
  • Add the soaked fruit along with the juices into the dough, mix until combined.
  • Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let the dough rest and rise in a warm location for 30-45 minutes.
  • After the rest, gently turn the dough out onto a lightly greased surface, you may also grease your hands lightly. Very gently, to save as much of the air/rise in the dough as possible, stretch the dough just a bit, taking the top of the dough and folding it on top of itself to meet the bottom. Then do the same fold going from right to left, left to right, and bottom up to the top. Gently place the dough ball into the panettone mold, seam side facing down.
  • Cover the panettone and set in a warm place to rise. Once the dough has reached the top of the panettone mold you may move on to the next steps. The amount of time that this will take greatly depends on the warmth in the room, it could take 1 hour, it could take 3 hours, keep your eye on it, the warmer it is the faster it will rise.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • After the dough has risen, make an egg wash by mixing together 1 whole egg with about 1 tablespoon of water. Gently brush the top of the dough with the egg wash, then slice an “X” into the top with a sharp knife. Sprinkle the top with the Belgian pearl sugar.
  • Bake in the preheated oven at 375°F on a low shelf. Check on the panettone frequently to ensure the top is not burning or browning too much. If you find the top is browning too much, lay tinfoil over the top to protect it. The panettone is done when the interior has reached 200°F, this will likely take 30-45 minutes.
  • When the panettone is done baking, remove from the oven. Carefully stick two wooden or metal skewers through the panettone near the bottom, then cautiously flip the panettone upside down laying the ends of the skewers on supports taller than the panettone (cans of soup, stacks of books, and candle holders all work well). Watch the panettone carefully for the first bit to make sure the top is not breaking away from the body of the panettone, add small supports under the top of the panettone if necessary. Let cool completely.
  • Serve the panettone the same day or next day for the best texture, cut right before serving. Save leftovers in an airtight container.

Nutrition

Calories: 384kcal | Carbohydrates: 75g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.002g | Cholesterol: 114mg | Sodium: 248mg | Potassium: 185mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 30g | Vitamin A: 184IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 35mg | Iron: 1mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

This Italian Christmas bread is really delicious and a traditional panettone recipe is a great idea for your Christmas table. You will need quite a few ingredients, as well as a stand mixer and a panettone mold (here). It’s a sweet, fruity, buttery bread similar to brioche, and has candied fruit and a splash of orange liqueur to give it the distinctive taste a traditional panettone recipe is known for.

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Bella Bucchiotti

Bella Bucchiotti is a Canadian-based syndicated food, travel, and lifestyle writer, photographer, and creator at xoxoBella. She founded xoxoBella in 2015, where she shares her love for food, dogs, sustainability, fitness, crafts, outdoor adventures, travel, and philanthropy to encourage others to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places, and stand for a cause. Bella creates stress-free and family-friendly recipes for weeknight dinners and festive feasts.

 

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