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Panettone is the ultimate Italian Christmas enriched bread. It’s more than a cake or a brioche, it is a piece of our culinary history and no Italian would dream of not slicing into this delectable treat at Christmas time. However it has to be sad, most Italians buy Panettone from reputable bakeries or pasticceria, the reason being that is it mind-blowingly laborious to make. But, you know me, the baking addict, no challenge is too scary for this fearless baker!

I don’t mean to write this to discourage you from trying, but I do feel it is important to issue a warning with the release of this recipe: it is for advanced bakers only, those who understand gluten, how the bonds develop and how butter, eggs and sugar work together to create a rich dough. Also, for those who own a sturdy standing mixer!

For this reason, I have not translated my measurements in cups or oz, as I only ever work in grams and ml when it comes to this creation, and I would hate for things to get lost in translation.

Christmas is 4 sleeps away… are you ready for the challenge?

Step 1 – making the ferment

1 x 7 g sachet dried yeast

3 tablespoons lukewarm water

4 tablespoons plain flour

grated zest of 1 mandarin

Dissolve the yeast in the water and stand for 5 minutes. Add the flour and mandarin zest and mix well. Rest the soft dough at room temperature, well covered with a tea towel, for 11/2– 2 hours or until it looks bubbly and it has doubled in size.

Step 2 – Building the dough

the ferment from step 1

150 ml water, at room temperature

100 g plain flour

Work the ferment with the water, then mix in the flour with your hands or a wooden spoon until combined. Cover with a tea towel and rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

Step 3 – Building the dough

the dough from step 2

2 tablespoons caster sugar

90 g plain flour

80 g softened unsalted butter

If you have a stand mixer, you might want to get it out now. The next two stages require a lot of strong kneading and I would never attempt this by hand. Mix the dough from step 2 with the sugar, then add the flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Add the butter and knead for a further 2 minutes. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and rest at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours or until it has doubled in size.

Step 4 – Building the dough with the addition of flavourings

the dough from step 3

100 g mixed sultanas, currants and raisins

1/2 cup (125 ml) water

3 tablespoons rum

290/320 g plain flour (according to the size of your eggs. Start with 290 gr, then add more if needed)

100 g sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons honey

60 g softened butter, cut into cubes

3 eggs

grated zest of 1 orange

grated zest of 1 mandarin

80 g mixed candied peel, mixed with 1 tablespoon plain flour (to stop them dropping to the bottom of the cake)

Soak the sultanas, currants and raisins in the water and rum for 1 hour. Drain, discarding the soaking liquid.

Add 290 g flour to the rested dough and knead on low speed for 1 minute, then add the sugar, vanilla and honey and knead for a further 3–4 minutes. Add the butter, a little at a time, until well incorporated, then add the eggs, one at a time, kneading all the while. Don’t panic if the dough looks really wet at this stage – the constant kneading will make it come together. Knead in the mixer for a further 15–20 minutes (see why you’d never this by hand?) or until it looks transparent if stretched. If it struggles to come together as it is too wet, add the remaining flour, a little a time, until the dough is smooth and soft, but not sticky.

Add the grated zest, mixed peel and soaked sultanas, currants and raisins, and gently mix to incorporate them into the dough.

Tip the dough onto your cooking bench, then fold it into three and onto itself to shape a ball. Put it in an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and rest for 1 hour.

Place the dough on a floured surface and stretch it gently with floured hands to form a rectangle and fold it into three. Shape it back into a ball and rest it in the oiled bowl, covered, until it has doubled in size, approximately 2–3 hours.

Stretch and fold the dough one last time, then put it into the mould or tin you wish to bake it in. I order my supply of panettone moulds online, but you can also use a round cake tin. Grease it and flour the tin and line the sides with a 10–12 cm tall collar of baking paper. Place the mould or tin in the fridge, well tucked under a tea towel. Alternatively, put the tin in a plastic bag and put the whole bag in the fridge to prove. I often do this with bread too – it’s like a homemade proving cell!

Step 5 – Scoring and baking (finally!)
The dough, well risen in its mould
20 g softened unsalted butter

Confidence! You are nearly there …

Preheat your oven to 200°C (180°C fan-forced).

Take the panettone out of the fridge. Using a sharp knife or a razor blade, gently score the top in an X-shaped pattern. Be very careful not to score too deeply or you will risk deflating the dough! With the aid of your blade, lift up four flaps and place a teaspoon of butter under each. Close the flaps.

If this method scares you, simply slash a large X on the top and place a large knob of butter in the middle. The outcome will be just as good.

Step 6 – Cooling

Gently transfer the panettone to your oven and bake for 45–55 minutes or until evenly risen and the colour of dark caramel. A wooden skewer inserted in the centre should come out moist, but not doughy. If it looks like it’s browning too fast, cover it with baking paper, but keep in mind that the crust is supposed to be quite dark.

Take the panettone out of the oven. If using a metal tin, let the bread cool completely in the pan before slicing and serving.

If using a panettone mould, pierce two long metal skewers or knitting needles all the way through the panettone and through the paper. Hang the panettone upside-down over a large stockpot or between two objects of equal height.  Cool it for a minimum of 6 hours.

Although a bit finicky, drying and cooling your panettone this way will ensure it keeps its dome-shaped beauty and the roof will not collapse. You have come this far, you might as well go the full distance!

Panettone will keep fresh for 1-2 days and will still be delicious toasted and dusted with icing sugar after 4–5 days. It also freezes well and can be used as a base for bread and butter pudding, tiramisu and trifle.



Merry Christmas!

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Christmas Meringue Nests and Wreaths (mini X’mas Pavlovas, anyone?)

You know Christmas is in the air when you rummage the cupboard for ground cloves to be used in conjunction with brown sugar. Those two best friends create that unique scent that bring the frivolities of the holiday season ever so close. Think Christmas fruit cakes, mulled wine and puddings all sorts. Or, in this case, little festive meringues. Then, why not turning them into one of Australia’s most loved Christmas dessert, Pavlova? Topped with generous dollops of sweetened cream and scarlet berries, you have secured yourself a mono-portion of jolly Christmas spirit!


6 egg whites

pinch of salt

2 cups of brown sugar (can use white sugar for a snow-white meringue)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or paste

1 tablespoon of ground clove plus some for dusting

1-1/2 teaspoon of corn flour

1/2 tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar, or regular white wine vinegar

How to

Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until slightly frothy. Add the sugar, a little at a time and keep whisking until soft peaks form and the meringue is shiny and elastic. This will take about 3-4 using electric beaters…a lot more , and a sore arm, if doing by hand!

Add vanilla, cloves, corn flour and vinegar and mix gently to incorporate them into the meringue.

To make the nests, spoon 1 tablespoon of meringue mixture onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, create a rim so that the centre can accommodate berries and cream after baking. Allow room for rising in the oven.

To make the wreaths, dollop teaspoons of mixture to create a disk that is hollow in the middle. Again, create a dent in the middle to accommodate the topping you prefer or keep smooth if no topping is required.

Bake in a low oven (150 C, 300 F) for 35-40 minutes or until the base is set, the top is lightly cracked and bronzed  but the middle is still soft.

Allow to cool at room temperature.

Top with whipped cream or mascarpone, berries, ruby red cherries or whatever your imagination suggests.

The cooked meringues will keep well if stored in an air-tight container lined with baking paper, at room temperature for 1-2 days in hot climate and up to three days in colder temperatures.

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Italian Spiced X’Mas Slice, with figs, cranberries and roasted hazelnut

I had a pretty disastrous couple of days in the kitchen.

First, I charcoaled the left-over potato bake, then I dropped-and shattered-the just-bought, very extravagant jar of designer-worthy vanilla paste.

On the same day, as I was unstacking the dishwasher, I managed to snap the stem off two-two!– champagne flutes.

And so it was only  a natural course of event that I should burn the caramel (once again!) for my chocolate-covered caramel bites!

I didn’t even cry when it happened.  There were no more cook’s tears left in me…

But somehow I had to turn the week around and start fresh again.

And I had all that amazing 70% chocolate waiting to be used and, hopefully, not burnt…

A no-bake something or another was the safest way to go…

And, well, it looks like I may have just redeemed myself!

This easy-peasy chocolate slice makes the perfect Xmas edible gift, so make sure you have enough for yourself as well as your lucky recipients.


200 gr (7 oz)of 70% dark chocolate, melted with 1 tablespoon of butter (in a double boiler or in the microwave, whichever suits you)

a handful of whole roasted hazelnuts, skin removed (roast your nuts for 10 minutes in a medium oven then rub them in a kitchen towel to ease the skin off)

2 tablespoons of ground hazelnut (hazelnut meal)

a handful of dried cranberries (or sour cherries)

three table-spoons of chopped up semi-dried figs

1 scant table-spoon of cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

a pinch of nutmeg

In a large bowl, mix together the nuts with the dried fruits, the spices, the cocoa and the ground hazelnut.

Add the melted chocolate white still hot and combine well.

Pour the decadent paste into an oven dish lined with baking paper.

Flatten with the back of a spoon and allow to set in the fridge for 1 hour before cutting it into rustic chuncks.

Serve with Grappa or Rum, or simply with espresso coffee, if you want to feel very Italiano!

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