Journey to Panettone: A Tale of Triumph and Ingenuity

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By: Henry Hunter

The Beautiful Panettone

For months, Donna May, one of our esteemed group experts, has been on a quest to master the art of Panettone. Often referred to as the “Louis Vuitton of bread,” Panettone is a luxurious Italian holiday bread that has captivated Donna’s imagination. Initially, she was puzzled by this comparison. Was Panettone expensive, exclusive, or simply a luxury item? It wasn’t until she got her hands in the dough that she understood: Panettone is a luxurious experience, from its silky dough to its unique aroma.

The Challenge: Making Panettone with What’s On Hand

Donna set out with a clear goal: to make Panettone using only the ingredients and tools she already had in her kitchen. She didn’t want to buy anything special for this project. Her first task was to create a strong starter. Instead of using the traditional Pasta Madre, she opted for a stiff starter, feeding it three times before proceeding. She meticulously planned her weekend around this bread-making adventure.

The Ingenuity: Crafting Baking Molds

The recipe Donna chose yields two 800g Panettones. She decided to make one large loaf and several mini Panettones for her Christmas gift baskets. Using her cruffin tin and leftover baking cups, she prepared molds for the smaller loaves. But the challenge lay in creating a mold for the larger 800g loaf. Enter origami! After a couple of failed attempts and a much-needed break to clear her mind, Donna successfully crafted a parchment paper mold held together with baker’s string.

The Innovation: Hanging the Panettone

To prevent the Panettone from collapsing, it needs to be hung upside down after baking. Donna had to think on her feet. She couldn’t find her wooden skewers and her wooden dowels weren’t pointed. Finally, she remembered her metal grilling skewers and decided they would do the trick. As for where to hang the Panettone, she ingeniously used her largest stock pot, ensuring it was safe from her pets.

The Execution: Baking the Panettone

Donna mixed her first dough and let it proof for 14 hours, wrapped in towels. The next day, she mixed the second dough, incorporating the first. The dough was like silk—luscious and shiny. After bench resting, she portioned out the dough into the molds and baked them to perfection.

The Outcome: A Journey Worth Celebrating

Was it the “perfect” Panettone? She thinks not, but it was a triumph in Donna’s bread-making journey. Despite some minor setbacks, like a bit of collapse, the bread turned out light and airy. Donna plans to invest in actual Panettone molds for her next bake, but for now, she’s celebrating this small yet significant accomplishment.

A Journey to Mastering Panettone

Panettone, often referred to as the “Louis Vuitton of bread,” is a luxurious Italian holiday bread that’s as challenging to make as it is rewarding to eat. This recipe is a culmination of my journey to create a Panettone using a stiff starter and ingredients readily available in my kitchen. The process spans over two days, but the result is a luscious, airy bread filled with rum-soaked raisins and chocolate chips.

Stiff Starter Recipe


• 57g wet starter

• 57g water

• 113g King Arthur All-Purpose Flour


1. Mix all the ingredients and cover the bowl.

2. Leave it at room temperature overnight.

3. Repeat these steps three additional times, discarding all but 57 grams each time.

First Dough (Day 4 Morning)


• 250g King Arthur Bread Flour

• 130g water

• 70g sugar

• 70g stiff starter


1. Dissolve the sugar in water.

2. In a stand mixer, combine the sugar-water mixture, flour, and stiff starter.

3. Mix until you reach a windowpane stage, approximately 8 minutes.

4. Add 65g egg yolks, one at a time, until fully incorporated.

5. Add 110g unsalted butter, a quarter at a time, until fully incorporated.

6. Continue mixing until you reach the windowpane stage again. Total mixing time should be around 25 minutes.

7. Transfer to a proofing container and cover with plastic wrap.

8. Allow to bulk ferment until tripled in size, approximately 14 hours without a proofer.

9. Refrigerate overnight if needed.

Second Dough (Day 5)


• All of the first dough

• 120g King Arthur Bread Flour

• 30g honey

• 62g egg yolks

• 120g unsalted butter, room temperature

• 80g sugar

• 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

• 7g salt

• 180g rum-soaked raisins (patted dry)

• 189g chocolate chips


1. In a stand mixer, combine the flour, honey, salt, and all of the first dough.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, butter, and vanilla bean paste until well incorporated.

3. Add the egg yolks to the mixer, one at a time, until fully incorporated.

4. Add the sugar-butter mixture in quarters until fully incorporated.

5. Transfer the dough to a clean work surface.

6. Incorporate the raisins and chocolate chips through stretch and folds.

7. Shape the dough into a ball and rest uncovered for one hour.

8. Divide the dough in half and shape into rounds. Rest for 30 minutes, uncovered.

9. Place the dough in molds and proof until it rises to an inch below the top of the mold.

10. Allow the dough to form a skin by setting it out uncovered.

11. Score an ‘X’ on the top and add a pat of butter.

12. Bake at 300°F for 50 minutes, checking for an internal temperature of 203°F.

13. Hang the Panettone upside down for 12 hours to cool.

A Note to Donna May

Dear Donna,

Your journey with Panettone is an inspiration to all of us in the “Baking Great Bread at Home” community. Your ingenuity, resilience, and passion for bread-making shine through in this project. We’re all incredibly proud of what you’ve achieved and can’t wait to see where your bread journey takes you next.

Warm regards,

Henry Hunter

Founder of Baking Great Bread at Home

As we approach this holiday season, let Donna’s story be a reminder that challenges are just opportunities in disguise. Happy baking to all!

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