Panettone, with levain option

This is a repost during my tenure @  Luigi, pain et delices, in Lasalle, Quebec.  It was a time of great enjoyment, as I had my own test kitchen, to experiment , and create items for sale at the pasticceria….NO questions asked. If you’re a dohhead, like me, then it doesn’t get any better than this!!!

Yes, today was the day. When we left off , on Saturday, I had left 6 large panettone, at room temperature,  in 6 lb tomato cans, because they hadn’t proofed sufficiently to bake. Now, if I were so inclined, like my oldest sis, and gifted with her knack for composing verse, perhaps I would wax poetic when referring to these baked towers of aromatic perfection.  Panettone, when properly made….Are marvelous.  I am always amazed, that a mass of  flour, liquid , a few flavorings, and a piece of old dough, (levain, in almost any form), can be mixed into a cohesive mass, and then once proofed, can be left, unattended  for DAYS, before baking it.  These panettone, were made at 0200, Saturday morning, and baked at 1200 Monday afternoon.  The tops    are a little darker than I would have liked……The oven is programmed to bake at 350F, I usually like 320F for large panettone,  for about an hour. These bad boys were done in 45 minutes, and I had to COVER them for 30 of those 45.  All things considered:  First crack at a panettone, in a new oven, traditional dough, (no yeast), and in coffee cans, the poor man’s mold!!  Notice the irregular crumb of a levain-based product. The  enrichments make the dough….Feathery, and light, with hints of citrus, and liqueur….The Italians got it right, veramente!   Too bad Lena isn’t here to critique them,  ma che cosa vuoi fare, eh?


Here is my recipe:

Panettone Milanese

The following recipe, is one that I adapted for myself. It is merely a tweaking and or hybridizing of the traditional recipe. No Sacrilege is intended, if you don’t appreciate a certain ingredient contained herein! The taste is rich, aromatic and comforting. I believe that sourdough, levain makes everything taste “Other worldly” , in my humble opinion.

The starter is a 2 step process, to obtain maximum leavening power. The first feeding is as follows:


50g  white mother culture

150gr strong flour, (at least 14% protein content)

150ml h20


Allow at least a 12 hour activation of the above feeding, as we want a very active 1st starter…


From this feeding, harvest 75g of levain, and to it add:

225g strong flour

200g Buttermilk

This will be your leavening, so we want to get it very active, and bubbly. Depending on your ambient room temp, it could take up to a day. In most cases , 12 hours usually does it.

Main dough


1000g Bread flour or any high protein flour, at least 14% .

600g whole eggs, at room temp

250g soft butter

100g golden sugar

15g sea salt

10g Limoncello or liqueur

10g vanilla

I like to combine the flour and  eggs, and give this an autolyse, (rest), for 30 minutes or so. This rest period actually cuts down on the mixing time, therefore giving a nicer, lighter final product. That being said, I simply place the other ingredients atop the barely mixed doughy mass, as it rests. Once the autolyse has been completed, mix until you obtain a very sticky but elastic dough….It may take 15 minutes, because the dough is very soft. When you can windowpane the dough, add the peel and raisins, and incorporate.

Bulk ferment for 12-24 hours, again depending on your temperature. The dough will increase 2-2.5 times, and will then be divided into 900g pieces. I suggest 6lb tin cans, because they produce a nice-sized product, and they are perfectly symmetrical!  Panettone molds, of course are ideal, as they look very professional too. I like to place a parchment circle in the bottom of the can, it prevents the dreaded “Stuck bottom syndrome”, a scenario that can cause even the most polite, nun-like folks to erupt in a string of epiphets , and sailor-like cursewords!  Save yourself the grief, and use the parchment circle.  I am not averse to proofing the final units in a proof box. The bulk of our flavor has been obtained, and certainly a nice 90-100F proofing will not hurt anything. The humidity level should be maintained, for we don’t want the panettone to dry out.  Just prior to insertion into the fourneau, I like to slash a cross, with a sharp knife , or razor blade, and place a nice 2oz hunk of butter right smack in the middle, so that as it bakes the butter will ooze down onto the browning crust…MMMMMMMM! The panettone is ready when the internal temp reaches 180F.  Ideally, once they are removed from the oven, they should be unmolded, and skewered right thru the middle, then inverted to cool. It prevents the loaf from getting the dreaded collapsed sides.. However,   if you are not gifting the units, you can cool them on a wire rack, and tolerate a wee bit of “Pisa lean”!



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