Every day till Christmas, we're bringing you 12 Days of Baking: 12 all-new baking recipes to lift holiday spirits -- from breakfast pastries to dinner rolls, and all the desserts you can handle.
Today: Our Shop Manager Christina DiLaura shares her grandmother's epic holiday panettone.
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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.
Our recipe dates back to the late 1800s Florence, where my grandmother’s sister’s mother-in-law was an award-winning baker. Of course the story goes that she never used a recipe and no one has ever been able to make it as good since.
While my grandma was smart enough to write down the measurements for this edible heirloom, there were some parts of her recipe that did not get recorded. My grandma had a special heavy wooden chair that lived in the basement 364 days of the year. On panettone-making day, the chair was ceremoniously brought up to the kitchen where she placed a huge stockpot atop the seat and got to work mixing all of the ingredients with her special oversized wooden spoon.
After my parents married, my mom began helping on the big day and made the mistake of suggesting it might be easier to mix the large batch, of what is quite sticky dough, with her hands. To which my grandma promptly replied, “Oh no, honey you can’t do that, you have to use the spoon.” Deviate she did not.
My grandmother has since passed on, but my mom has heroically carried on the tradition of making our annual panettone. Our recipe is different from many you’ll find in stores, which often include candied fruit. We prefer a mix of dark and golden raisins with pine nuts, but of course you could make it however you prefer. After all, my mom ditched the wooden spoon and has been hand-mixing since taking over the panettone helm.
This recipe makes about 16 pounds of bread, which my mom breaks up into four large 2 1/4 pound loaves and four smaller 1 3/4 pound loaves. She gives everyone in the family a loaf and also freezes a few. You could easily cut the recipe in half, but your friends and neighbors will thank you if you don’t!
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 4-5 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
Some people were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, mine was wooden. With an Italian heritage on one side and a Lebanese heritage on the other, good food was never hard to find. I grew up with Sunday dinners at Grandma’s, big pots of sauce simmering away on the stove all day and hand cut pasta drying on the rack in the basement. The perfume of lemon, garlic, garden grown herbs and other fresh ingredients always scented our family kitchens. So it is no surprise that my love for fresh, hand-prepared food is something I now love to share with new and old friends. Because of that, I put on my apron, sharpened my knives and started a blog and NYC supper club called [email protected] to continue spreading the good food love.