Panettone for Christmas (and every other day !)

This panettone tastes nothing remotely like the dry version that you buy in the supermarket. It is rich and buttery, filled full with dried fruit and dusted with icing sugar. Definitely a breakfast for kings. If there is any left over (which I doubt), it makes a great panettone pudding – I have not posted a recipe yet because there is never any left !

My version is a quicker version than the Italian traditional way, meaning that there is no starter to be made. This way it can be made in the morning and cooked in the evening ready for breakfast the next day. I would not be tempted to bake it first thing, unless you enjoy getting up really early ! It may seem daunting but the machine does the hard work and then you leave it to sit in the fridge or on the work surface for most of the day, then into the oven for an hour or so.

It will keep for a week or so if wrapped well in clingfilm or cellophane, but it is best eaten fresh.

 Ingredients
500g white bread flour
7g salt
50g caster sugar
14g instant yeast
140 ml warm milk
5 eggs
250g butter (this needs to be nice and soft, not fridge cold)
90g dried cherries
120g currants
30g mixed peel
220 g dried mixed fruit (one with pineapple, cranberries and apricot from Waitrose is fabulous for this)
Vegetable oil for greasing a large bowl

You will need a 18cm loose bottomed panettone tin, base lined and well greased with butter all the way up the tin.

Note: 1f you want you can soak the dried fruit in a little brandy (a desert spoon)or other liqueur to plump it up, but it is not necessary. Some grated zest of orange or lemon added at the same time as the fruit is also good for extra flavour.

Method
Put the flour,sugar and salt in the mixing bowl of a free standing mixer with the dough hook attached. Add the yeast to the other side of the bowl to the salt and sugar, so that it does not impair the yeast. Add the eggs and the warm milk to the bowl and mix slowly or around 3 minutes, then turn up the speed and mix for another 7 minutes. When the dough is very stretchy, check it by stopping the mixer and pulling the dough to ensure that you have long strands. Another method is to take a chunk of dough the stretch it with you hand, you should be able to see through the dough (the window pane test).
Add the butter, cut into cubes and mix agin for another 7 minutes. Stop the mixer a couple of times and scrap the chunks of butter that have escaped back into the dough. Once the time is up, check that the butter is fully incorporated into the dough, if not continue mixing for a couple more minutes.
Add all the fruit to the dough, and mix again until all the fruit is distributed fully throughout the dough. You may need to stop the mixer, and incorporate the remaining fruit by hand, by kneading the dough gently by hand in the bowl.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Form into a ball, and put into a large oiled bowl. Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 2 -3 hours (or longer it won’t matter), until doubled in size.
Remove the dough from the fridge and turn onto a floured work surface. Kneed the dough briefly to knock all the air out, then shape into a ball and place in the panettone tin. Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to rise. This will take around 4 hrs depending on the warmth of your kitchen.
When the dough is just peeping over the edge of the tin, it is ready to bake.
Heat your oven to 180c/160 fan. Brush the top of the panettone either with butter or additional beaten egg (this gives the bread a lovely shine).
Bake for 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 160c/140c fan and bake for a further 45 minutes. It may need more or less depending on your oven.But you can tell if its cooked by inserting a skewer into the bread in the middle right to the bottom, it should come out clean.
If the top looks like its getting too brown, cover the top with foil as the top maybe brown but it may not be cooked through. Once its cooked take out of the oven and cool in the tin for at least 15 minutes.
If you remove it from the tin too early it has a tendency to cave in on one side due to the weight of the top bearing down on the bread.

Dust with icing sugar and serve for a very indulgent breakfast.

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