Cranberry and Cinnamon Pannetone

Pannetone, like Lebkuchen, is one of those foods which just gets me excited about Christmas. For the family Christmas, my aunt would bring a huge pannetone over from the continent, which could never be big enough for the whole family. I’d get up in the morning after they arrived, find half of it already gone, and sit down to a generous icing-sugar dusted slice with the morning coffee, and catch up with relatives. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without pannetone, so when I hosted my “Oxmas” meal for a number of friends this last weekend, I decided to give making one a go.

Pannetone is remarkably similar to brioche. Both are bread-based, with lots of eggs and butter to make a richer dough. Also, as with brioche, the baking process is particularly important as well. The large amount of fats in both of these breads interfere with the development of gluten networks, which is why the dough ends up light and fragile (for more information see here). It is therefore important to let the gluten network develop (and the bread to rise a little) before incorporating all of the butter, to end up with the right texture of bread. If you are using a sourdough starter (which I didn’t), then you won’t have quite the same problems, as the gluten network is in some sense more well established.

There are a couple of key differences though. Pannetone is traditionally made with a sourdough starter, the dough kneaded three times, and left for several days to give the bread the delicate texture. According to Larousse Gastronomique, pannetone contains raisins and candied orange and lemon peel. It seems I’ve taken a few liberties with these identifying characteristics of pannetone, not using a sourdough starter, and putting in my own fruit, but you can adapt the recipe below for a more traditional cake if you want.

Another thing of interest is the mold to use for baking the pannetone. I looked through the ones I have, and with a lot of silicone bakeware, none of them looked like they would support a large bread which is expected to expand a lot in the oven. Because I was feeling creative, I decided to use a large metal castle mold (roughly like this) I had bought a few years ago to make chocolate castles. I was a little concerned that the dough wouldn’t expand very well in the mold, as it was quite compressed, and the textures might be different at different parts in the cake. But this was not to be. The pannetone was light and fluffy everywhere, and, apart from a few cranberries in the turrets, the shape worked very well. Who doesn’t want a castle pannetone this Christmas? Not me.


Cranberry and Cinnamon Pannetone

This recipe is based on one from BBC Good Food. I’ve left out the white chocolate, because I don’t think the flavours match well, left out the mixed peel, as I don’t like it, and added some cinnamon, to make it more Christmassy.

500g strong white bread flour
2tsp dried active yeast
100g golden caster sugar
200ml milk
3 eggs
2tsp vanilla extract
200g butter, the best quality you can afford
200g dried cranberries
1tbsp cinnamon
icing sugar, for dusting

1. Make the dough. Warm the milk to hand hot. In an electric mixer (or by hand), combine the flour, yeast, sugar, milk, eggs, and vanilla extract. Knead for 3 minutes, then set aside in a warm(ish) place for an hour. Get the butter out of the fridge.
2. Incorporate the butter. Cut the butter into small pieces. Put the dough back into the electric mixer, and, at a low speed, gradually add the pieces of butter until incorporated into the dough. Set aside again for another hour.
3. Cook the pannetone. Preheat oven to 160ºC. Add the cranberries and cinnamon to the pannetone dough, and put the dough in a mold. Leave to rise for another 30 minutes. Cook in the oven for 45 minutes, then put on a rack to cool. Dust with icing sugar to serve.



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