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A Challenging Panettone

Flour.ish.en's picture

A Challenging Panettone

Didn't know making panettone was a challenge until I read a recent article on the New York Times referring to this traditional Italian bread as "the Mount Everest of baking."  I tasted an exceptional piece of panettone made by Jim Lahey. Met him on his book tour in New York city when he spoke about his new book The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook. How difficult could it be to make the panettone armed with a detailed five-page recipe in the cookbook? This is what I've found.

Bread bakers deal with this process everyday: 1) prepare a preferment, 2) mix the dough, 3) bulk ferment 4) shape the dough, then 5) proof and 6) bake the bread. A fairly linear approach going from start to finish; done it, been there many times before. There are a few indispensable things to keep in mind. Among them, you'd need: a lively stiff starter, a stand mixer, panettone molds and long metal skewers. None too daunting. What I was not prepared was how long every stage of the process took. How many times I thought nothing good could possibly come out of this?

I'm starting to understand climbing Mount Everest requires endurance, a clear and focused mindset, a firm belief that you'll reach the destination and the discipline to ward off negative thoughts and resist messing around unnecessarily. It dawns on me that a recipe is just a set of guidelines; it's what we do with it that matters the most to the final outcome.



This Jim Lahey's recipe works, unequivocally. It's perfectly balanced. I have to keep reminding myself to stop messing around on the edges. It may take longer than 24 hours to get the preferment ready, 15 minutes at high-speed in the stand mixer to emulsify, 48 hours for the dough to quadruple during the bulk rise, 7 hours to get the dough to rise to the top of the panettone mold and 55 minutes to bake and several more hours for the inverted panettone to cool completely.

Who knows the unrelenting waiting game, especially if you haven't done it before (or you are type A like me), is the secret to a successful panettone? The panettone is weightless, cotton-candy airy, delicate, indulgent and far better than anything I've ever bought. More important, it's not about the bread. It's about a long and arduous journey, while keeping the hands and impulses (after all, I'm the master of the universe!) from interfering the dough and leaving it alone. Yes, sometimes it may take longer than you believe is sensible. That's the real challenge and a humbling experience.

Happy holidays to you all!


P.S. I have given these breads as gifts, therefore no crumb shots. I have another batch waiting.... Will post the interior pictures in a day or two.


Finally, some crumb shots. Not too shabby. Certainly, there is room for improvement!



Floydm's picture

Fantastic! May I feature this on the homepage for a bit?

Flour.ish.en's picture

Floyd. It's my pleasure and the least I can do to be of service to this wonderful Fresh Loaf community. Keep up the good work!

Abelbreadgallery's picture

Wonderful. I show you mine.

Abel, Mexico.

Flour.ish.en's picture

That looks fabulous. Does it use a natural starter or yeast? Thanks for sharing. 

bread1965's picture

All that and then as I scroll down anticipating crumb, slightly drooling at the thought of cotton candy panetton , I get "sorry, no crumb shot"!  Ugh.. torture!

But here's the thing..

Every year I think I should climb the mountain.. this year was no exception and I read that NY Times article you mentioned and even posted it here.. but I always think to myself - do I have three days to be at home to make this?

How difficult was it to make and leave the house ?..

Working Monday to Friday, I don't know that I could fit it into a two day weekend.. thoughts?

Flour.ish.en's picture

about leaving the house. It may take a few days from start to finish, but the longest stretch is the 55-minute baking time in the oven. The rest is just waiting with very little active time involved. If you are making this bread for the first time, a two-day weekend may not be enough to get it done. Plan it over a long holiday weekend. Hope this helps!

Thaichef's picture

Good Morning: 

I love great bread and Panettone is the top of my list. I usually buy mine at the grocery store and thought that it was good until I traveled to Italy and went to a "real" Panettone top bakery store.  They make nothing but Panettone.  I saw a picture of the owner meeting  the Pope and presented him with two loaves of the Panettone. I did not know that they eat it with pistachio jam  which heightened the enjoyment of eating it to the max. So after reading the recipe for about 10 times I decided to make it in America. I followed every step as the recipe said and met with total failure. When I hung up my newly baked Panettone ,the whole dough fall to the ground. I screamed , cried, throw a tantrum and that was the first and last time that I made it. Looking at your picture "may" restore my faith and I may try it again. Thank you, I really enjoy your post. 



Flour.ish.en's picture

as well as spectacular failures with this recipe too. I know it's a challenging bread to make. Even when I make two batters the same way side by side, you can get very dissimilar results. I scratched my head without a clue. I know it has to do with gluten development or lack thereof. Well, that keeps me humble and motivates to get better at it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience with the panettone. I'll post picture once I cut open a good one on Christmas day. Happy holidays!

inumeridiieri's picture

one thing.

panettone is done with two doughs or three doughs. 

There is a big difference between preferment and double dough.

Unfortunately I can not explain it in English but I'm sure about this.

In Italy the first dough is called biga and serves to raise the final dough, also the taste of the panettone benefits.

I do not mean to criticize you but just to suggest a new line.

Congratulations for your panettone.



Russ's picture

I believe that's just a difference of language. Preferment is a general term in English and biga is one of the types of preferments. 

inumeridiieri's picture

Preferment=flour water yeast and sometime salt   Panettone biga/1 dough = flour water natural yeast/sourdough buter eggs sugar. 


Flour.ish.en's picture

See below.

Flour.ish.en's picture

that's my understanding from learning baking at KAF in Vermont, the way Jeffrey Hamelman explains the concept of pre-ferments in a broad generic sense.

Flour.ish.en's picture

I'm certainly not very familiar with panettone; this being my first stab at this iconic Italian bread for the holidays. Every supermarket you step into, they sell panettone and it's getting increasingly popular. I love its tender and light texture and want to try baking one myself. 

I followed Jim Lahey's recipe in his new book, which just came out last month. Lahey's recipe calls for his so-called "Jim's biga" as an integral part of the panettone final dough. I called it pre-ferment loosely, referring to all kinds of pâte fermentée, poolish and biga. I know I should be more specific and use its Italian name due to the origin of the bread. You are right for insisting calling it the term most Italian bakers would use. Please tell me more about the process, I want to learn baking what locals traditionally do with this type of bread.

Merry Christmas!

inumeridiieri's picture

Sorry for my bad english ...

I do not understand Jim Laehys's recipe.
Can you explain how it is divided?
Is there only one dough or two doughs?
The difference is made by the first mixture.
In Italy some masters (Morandin) use to make 3 consecutive doughs.


Flour.ish.en's picture

only in Lahey's recipe. The biga is added to the sugar and eggs mixture, followed by the flour. Details of the ingredients, process and time schedule can be found in the spreadsheet here:

I want to know more about making the panettone with three doughs. It sounds very interesting.


inumeridiieri's picture

Sorry but is dificult for me translate the recipe.

Try to see what you can translate of this recipe and if you want to translate it for everyone.
Ask everything you do not understand.
Thank you

From here

Panettone a Tre impasti (ricetta Maestro Morandin Rolando)
le dosi sono per circa 6 panettoni da 750 gr.

Primo Impasto ore 18.00 circa(l’ora è solo indicativa)
232 gr Zucchero
125 gr Acqua a 30 °di temperatura (1 parte)
190 gr. Tuorli (1 parte)
250 gr Lievito madre rinfrescato tre volte (faccio un post specifico)
500 gr Farina panettone (io uso quella del Molino quaglia W370-390 ma vanno bene anche altre di pari forza)
190 gr. Tuorli (2 parte)
85 gr Acqua a 30 ° di temperatura (2 parte) 70 gr se si usa solo burro solido
180 gr. Burro
100 gr. Burro liquido (110 gr se si usa solo burro solido)
Totale primo impasto gr. 1.852

Mescolare zucchero, la prima parte di acqua e di tuorli nell’impastatrice con un frustino a mano in modo da sciogliere lo zucchero. Aggiungere il Lievito spezzettato e la farina ed Impastare sino alla formazione della maglia glutinica in genere 25/30 minuti poi aggiungere la seconda parte di tuorli e di acqua e formare nuovamente la maglia infine aggiungere il burro liquido e solido assieme e formare il cosiddetto velo.
Mettere in un contenitore e lasciare triplicare a 26 gradi, ci impiega circa 12/15 ore, senza coprire ma spalmando sulla superficie della massa, burro sciolto nelle mani
L’impasto durante la lavorazione non deve superare i 26/28 gradi in quel caso metterlo in congelatore per abbassare la temperatura.

Secondo Impasto ore 11.00 circa

1.852 gr Primo impasto fatto raffreddare un po’ in abbattitore o congelatore.
380 gr farina Panettone
187 gr Tuorli d'uovo
125 gr Crema pasticcera (inserisco ricetta alla fine)
150 gr. Zucchero
200 gr Burro
50 gr Burro Liquido (oppure 70 gr di burro solido)
se necessario aggiungere acqua ( a volte è duro)
Totale gr. 2.944

Impastare il primo impasto serale con la farina Panettone sino a formare maglia e solo allora aggiungere il resto (ci vuole a seconda dell’impastatrice da 15 a 20 minuti). Una volta formata la maglia aggiungere assieme tuorli e crema pasticcera. La crema pasticcera piuttosto densa aiuta la formazione della maglia e dell’alveolatura grazie all’effetto della gelificazione de latte con l’amido. Fare assorbire bene e aggiungere lo zucchero. Formare la maglia ed inserire il burro liquido assieme al burro solido. Se troppo duro aggiungere un po’ d’acqua .
Lasciare duplicare (non triplicare) a TA oppure a 26° (cambia solo il tempo) ci vogliono circa 5 ore a 26° sempre scoperto spalmando sulla superfice del burro con le mani.

Terzo impasto ore 16.00 circa
Importante abbattere la temperatura a 20/21 gr inserendo il secondo impasto in congelatore per una ½ ora.

2.944 gr secondo impasto
380 gr. Farina Panettone
187 gr. Tuorli d'uovo
80 gr. Crema pasticcera
125 gr. Zucchero
50 gr. Burro
50 gr. Burro Liquido (oppure 80 gr burro solido)
22 gr. Sale
Totale gr. 3.838
1.250 gr. Frutta (uvetta – canditi)
se frutta + ciocc. 1/2 + 1/2
Totale gr. 5.088

Impastare il secondo impasto, raffreddato, con la farina Panettone sino a formare benissimo la maglia e solo allora aggiungere il resto. Una volta formata la maglia aggiungere assieme tuorli e crema pasticcera, Fare assorbire bene e aggiungere lo zucchero. Formare la maglia ed inserire il burro liquido assieme al burro solido, sale e vaniglia. Infine quando la maglia è perfetta aggiungere la frutta.
Una volta terminato mettere nel contenitore (puntatura) per 1 ora in modo da rilassare l’impasto.
Passato questo tempo stagliare il peso giusto per i pirottini, lasciare riposare qualche minuto in modo che faccia la “pellicina superiore” poi pirlare, inserire nel pirottino e lasciare lievitare sino a che la parte esterna (non la calotta) raggiunga 1 cm sotto il bordo del pirottino.
Glassare o scarpare come di consueto e procedere alla cottura.

Cuocere in forno sino al raggiungimento al cuore di 92/93 gradi inserendo una sonda solo verso fine cottura di solido quelli da 750 impiegano circa 40 minuti.
Se possibile prima di inserire in forno passare in frigo o abbattitore o congelatore per raffreddare cosi sviluppano di più il volume. La temperatura di cottura andrebbe alzata gradualmente (con il Fal non è possibile ma nel forno normale si) esempio 10 minuti a 125° altri dieci a 140 poi 150 ed infine 170 sino a fine cottura. Sarete sorpresi come questa progressione fa sviluppare di più il panettone
Capovolgere i panettoni su due assi infilando la base con degli spilloni e lasciare raffreddare per almeno 12 ore.
Inserirli in appositi sacchetti se si vuole conservarli per più di una settimana spruzzare dell’alcool alimentare a 95 ° nel sacchetto prima di mettere il panettone.


Burro Liquido
Il burro liquido (non fuso) è un buro burro chiarificato – ossia un burro anidro (quindi al 99,9% di materia grassa) privato dell’acqua e delle proteine del latte. Conferisce maggiore sofficità, alveolatura e profumi al lievitato. Nel caso non ci fosse si può sostituire con una maggiore quantità di burro solido togliendo il 15% di acqua. Oppure usare lo stesso peso , l’impasto finale sarà meno grasso.

Crema pasticcera
Questa ricetta dà circa 2.400 gr di crema pasticcera, per il panettone ne seve circa 200 gr. quindi divederla per 10
1 litro latte intero
500 gr. Panna
350 gr. Zucchero
300 gr tuorlo
300 gr. Amido /fecola quindi
Portare a bollore latte e panna ed aggiungere la battuta di tuorli zucchero fecola diventa come la polenta, non serve ulteriore cottura.

pairs4life's picture

The OP is right.  Unlike all of the other lievito madre/starter panettone recipes I have looked at, all referenced somewhere on this site, Lahey mixes the lievito madre/starter with all of the other ingredients at the same time.  It is one dough.  It does seem odd.  I can't wait to try it for ease of steps.

 All of the other recipes have the lievito madre/starter added to some ingredients.  And that 1st dough, with the lievito madre/starter is then set aside for about 12 hours to increase in volume.  It is then all mixed with the final ingredients, including citron, sultanas, etc., rested (briefly), kneaded, shaped, and left to rise again in molds prior to baking.

Lahey also does not have refreshments of his lievito madre/starter unlike all of the other panettone recipes I have read and used with lievito madre.  I am going to give his a go while making another round.  Half way through the 2nd refreshment.  I simply pulled a piece of lievito madre from the fridge for the Lahey recipe and I will give it a go.


He calls his lievito madre/starter for all of his breads a biga.  I thik Reinhart calls his barm in BBA.  I am a new hobbyist.  I have not reviewed enough books to understand why folks use these different names but it is clear that they all mean where wild yeast are used to leaven.
Will report back.

pairs4life's picture

I am reporting back.


The Lahey Panettone is perfect for beginners.  It is leavened only with wild yeast/starter/lievito madre/biga(Lahey's term) and it is only one dough.

It performed as he said it would.  And I had an illness so it was not baked last Sunday as it should have been. Instead it was baked 5 days later on Thursday.  It was not cut and served until today.  

I look forward to baking it again according to his schedule.

oitroi's picture

I am in the process of making the Starter first (Jim Lahey recipe) but It seems hard to success because too much hydrated. I have seen so many “Starter recipe calls for 100% water + 100% Flour”, but in Jim new book “The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook” that the “Starter recipe calls for 100% water + 50% Flour”, it seems weird and I have heard so many bad comments about Jim’s direction for Starter.

Can anyone recommend me the recipe for Starter in order to make Jim’s Panettone, Must use his recipe for Starter or I can use other recipe with less hydrated.

Thank you very much and looking forward to hearing from you.

Ciarli's picture

Those italian cookers are real time killers! Ive been made and eaten pound cakes for years, in english style, and it can prepared in half an hour. once I tried panettone cooking it all the day. The taste was superior but the ingredients cannot be matched with those of the pound english cake!