MARIO BATALI: Panettone, the Italian Christmas classic made at home
Q: Fruitcake seems so outdated. Any modern twists on this classic holiday gift?
A: Christmas morning in our home means panettone. Cooking breakfast for my boys brings me unsurpassable joy every day of the year, but Christmas is one occasion when I prefer to reheat and relax. On Christmas Day, I like a stress-free breakfast -- it's one less thing to cross off the list. Panettone is perfect for family breakfast or as a gift for friends. The beauty is its simplicity.
Panettoni are small loaf cakes that originated in Milan during the early 20th century. Today, however, we enjoy this sweet, leavened fruitcake all over the globe around Christmas and the New Year holidays. While panettoni are most commonly filled with candied fruits and raisins, I relish the simplicity of dried currants and a hint of orange zest.
The aisles at Eataly in New York and Chicago are piled high with panettoni starting in November, but they never fail to disappear before Christmas.
My non-yeast version of panettone is so quick that you and the kids can make it within an hour of delivering it to friends. (We opt for making a dozen in the week before Christmas and then pop them in the oven to reheat before eating.) Your modern-day fruitcake will appear so elegant that they'll have no idea it took barely any planning at all.
I love to serve this dish with fresh mascarpone and homemade jam. (I'm breaking out the summer raspberry jam I reserved for this exact moment.) However, if you're snowed in this blustery season or pressed for time, cream cheese or butter and your favorite commercial jelly will do just fine.
Here's wishing you the happiest of holidays. Salute!
Excerpted from "The Batali Brothers Cookbook" (ecco, 2011)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dried currants, soaked in warm water for 1 hour and drained
Grated zest of 2 oranges
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, cream the butter with the eggs and yolks until pale yellow, 3 to 4 minutes. Switch to the dough hook attachment and, with the mixer running, add half of the flour. Add half of the milk and mix for 1 minute. Add the remainder of the flour, followed by the remainder of the milk and then all of the sugar, and mix for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Butter and flour an 8-inch panettone mold or other deep cake pan, such as a charlotte mold.
Spread the dough out into a rough square on a floured work surface. Sprinkle with the currants, orange zest, cream of tartar and baking soda, and knead for 5 to 10 minutes to incorporate. Place in the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. The top will be cracked. Unmold the cake onto a rack, then invert and allow to cool. Serve sliced into wedges.
(Mario Batali is the award-winning chef behind twenty-four restaurants including Eataly, DelPosto, and his flagship Greenwich Village enoteca, Babbo. In this column, Mario answers questions submitted via social media and by people he encounters daily in Downtown Manhattan. Keep asking!)