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Author Notes: We don’t deviate much from the past when it comes to the DiLaura Christmas morning menu. Since my earliest memories of Santa Claus and pink bikes with baskets, Christmas morning always starts with a buttered slice of my Grandma DiLaura’s toasted panettone. The smell of sweet anise wafting from downstairs is a sign that ‘ole St. Nick has done his job. This family edible heirloom originated in the late 1800s in Florence and was passed down through word of mouth, until my grandmother finally jotted down the ingredients. Once a year she pulled out her big wooden spoon and lovingly made a generous batch by hand, sharing a loaf with family and friends – a true symbol of Christmas. —cdilaura
Makes 16 pounds of bread (about 8 loaves)
- 5 cups whole milk
- 4 cups sugar, plus 1/4 cup for yeast
- 1 pound unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup shortening (or use all butter)
- 1 teaspoon anise oil (if you can't find oil, substitute 4 teaspoons anise extract)
- 9 packets non-instant yeast
- 5 pounds all-purpose flour, plus 5 cups (plus 4-5 more cups for kneading)
- 6 teaspoons salt
- 8 large eggs
- 15 ounces golden raisins (soaked in hot water to plump if dry)
- 30 ounces dark raisins (soaked in hot water to plump if dry)
- 1/2 pound pine nuts
- 1 egg yolk, plus 1 tablespoon water for brushing tops
- In a medium saucepan, scald milk with 4 cups sugar, stirring often. Then add butter and shortening (or all butter), and melt, stirring often.
- Remove from the stove and add anise oil or extract to milk/butter/sugar mixture. Let cool slightly.
- Dissolve yeast and 1/4 cup sugar in enough warm water to cover (1 1/2 to 2 cups) and let double in volume.
- In a large bowl, mix 5lbs, plus 5 cups flour and salt. Add raisins and pine nuts.
- Add slightly cooled milk to flour mixture. Add eggs and mix together with large wooden spoon. Add yeast mixture and mix well. Grease your hands and mix and knead for about 5 to 10 minutes in the bowl (adding 4 to 5 cups flour as needed). Dough will be very sticky.
- Grease sides of bowl, cover with plastic wrap and towels, and let dough rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until doubled.
- Grease loaf pans -- we use four large (9 5/8 x 5 1/4 x 2 3/4) and four small (8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 5/8). Lightly squeeze to release any air bubbles (important if you don't want holes in your bread) and shape dough and put in pans. Cover with greased plastic wrap and towels and let rise for 1 1/2 hours.
- Bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes.
- If using multiple oven racks, rotate loaves, then lower oven to 325 F and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until top is a medium golden color.
- After bread is baked, brush tops with egg yolk and water mixture and return to oven for about 5 minutes. Using a thermometer test the internal temperature -- the bread is down when it reads 190 F.
- This recipe is a Community Pick!