Ginger-Scented Panettone {ModBak}

My second assigned blog post for the Yeast-Risen Specialties section of the Modern Baker Challenge is Ginger-Scented Panettone. I’m not sure why I picked this recipe, as I don’t have much experience with panettone. In fact, until I made Peter Reinhart’s Panettone recipe for the BBA Challenge, I had never even tasted panettone. But I really liked PR’s recipe, and since we would be baking from this section during the holiday season, Ginger-Scented Panettone seemed like a festive choice.

In the introduction to this recipe, Nick Malgieri notes that in Italy panettone is generally made with sourdough starter, although his recipe calls for a yeast-based sponge. One advantage to using sourdough is that the bread stays fresh longer and won’t get moldy as quickly. Since I keep two sourdough starters in the refrigerator and it was time to get them out to feed them anyway, I decided to make my panettone with a mixed method, using sourdough starter and some yeast.

Using baker’s math, I calculated the hydration of the sponge and fed my sourdough starter accordingly. I let the sponge ferment for about eight hours, until it was nice and bubbly. Rather than using yeast in the sponge, I added it to the dough. Since I was using instant yeast instead of active dry yeast, I added the yeast along with the flour.

After the sponge was ready, I gathered my ingredients. I was feeling a bit lazy, so I cheated on the minced ginger.

As you might guess from the name, I picked this jar of ginger up at an Indian grocery. I really like this stuff and use it just about anytime a recipe calls for freshly-grated ginger. It comes in a two-pound jar, so it lasts forever, and it stays fresh in the fridge. And speaking of ginger, I found this candied ginger at World Market. It’s fresh and chewy, not all hard and dried out like the stuff you get in the grocery store. And it’s a lot less expensive, too.

I mixed up the dough, which, in addition to the ginger, is flavored with lemon zest and vanilla. Unlike a traditional panettone, this dough isn’t loaded with fruit, containing only golden raisins and no candied fruit or peel. After the dough was mixed up, I put it into a buttered bowl and let it ferment.

The dough rose for about two hours, until it had doubled in volume.

By using a combination of sourdough starter and commercial yeast, I got the advantages of each. The starter enabled me to achieve a longer lasting, more flavorful dough, while the commercial yeast made the dough rise on a more predictable schedule.

After the dough had fermented, I put it in my panettone mold. Based on my previous panettone misadventure, I decided to put the dough into two molds. However, as soon as I had shaped and panned the dough, I could tell that two molds were too many, so I took the dough from one mold and plopped it on top of the dough in the other mold.

I was a bit concerned that the dough might outgrow the paper mold, but I decided to try it anyway, as I didn’t want squat little boules like I had the first time I made panettone. As it turns out, I needn’t have worried, as the dough didn’t quite fill the mold when it proofed, and it baked up perfectly.

Before I baked the loaf, I brushed the top with a little egg wash and sprinkled it with finishing sugar. I liked the way it looked, and it gave the bread just a hint of extra sweetness, along with a nice crunch.

This was a really nice bread. The ginger flavor was definitely in the forefront, but it wasn’t overwhelming. And I liked the fact that it had the golden raisins in it but wasn’t overloaded with candied citrus peel or unnaturally-colored fruit.

Anyone who grew up eating panettone during the holiday season will probably find this a nice diversion from the standard loaf. And if you’ve never been a panettone fan, or perhaps have never even tried it, this would be a nice introduction to this Italian holiday tradition.

Buon Natale!


  1. November 21, 2010 at 7:21 am

    I was just thinking of doing one of these from Dan Lepard’s version here and I was going to do the sourdough version as well. I don’t know if I can buy clever ginger in tins like you, I am going to go to the big Chinese supermarket and have a hunt around. Your beautiful cake makes me want to do it even more!

    • gaaarp said,

      November 21, 2010 at 12:42 pm

      Thanks, Joanna! Good luck in your ginger hunt. Let me know if you make this one and how you like it.

  2. Renee said,

    November 16, 2010 at 12:26 am

    I might tackle this after the BBA one. I’m now intrigued. I’ve never had panettone either.

  3. onewetfoot said,

    November 15, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    So impressive!

  4. Ben said,

    November 15, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Wow, great job, that bread is beautiful and very festive.

    • gaaarp said,

      November 15, 2010 at 5:47 pm

      Thanks, Ben!

  5. Sara said,

    November 14, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    I am glad yours turned out! I wonder if it was the sourdough–after making so much sourdough bread I find straight doughs so often lacking. I have no idea what when so wrong with mine, so I’ll probably be making PR’s again this year. I hear you on the candied fruit; I guess I usually make pandoro (which doesn’t have the fruit!) for that reason.

    I love these Italian holiday breads–Carol Field’s books are a great resource. I hope I’ll manage this year but as I start back to work the MOnday after thanksgiving, well…

    Also: I am ABSOLUTELY going to have to find that ginger in a jar. I never buy the garlic but I can’t stand dealing with ginger and this would be the perfect solution!

    • gaaarp said,

      November 14, 2010 at 9:32 pm

      I’m not a huge holiday bread person, mostly because I didn’t come from a family in which they were a tradition. But I do like this and PR’s panettone and artos. Not sure what I’ll make this year at Christmas.

      The ginger in a jar is brilliant. I almost always have fresh ginger in the fridge or freezer, but I hate dealing with it so much that before I got this I would often pass up recipes that called for ginger. Now I make them without hesitation.

  6. Anne Marie said,

    November 14, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    I can’t believe that you signed up for this one. I’ll take anchovies any time!

    • gaaarp said,

      November 14, 2010 at 2:31 pm

      What do you have against Panettone? Or is it ginger you don’t like?

      • Anne Marie said,

        November 15, 2010 at 9:43 pm

        I don’t like eggy breads, add liquor and it ruins it for me. Too simple tastebuds I guess.

  7. Kayte said,

    November 14, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Looks great, going to make this one in December so we can have the Panettone for the holiday breakfast at some point. Love your tips, thanks. I also love, love, love it when people show the product packaging of things they use, like the minced ginger and the candied ginger…very nice to see what I am looking for when I go in search. Thanks. Can’t wait to try this one as we love ginger, so this sounds great.

    • gaaarp said,

      November 14, 2010 at 12:54 pm

      Thanks, Kayte. I think your guys will like this. Not overpoweringly sweet, but definitely tasty!

  8. Chris said,

    November 14, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Well done!

    • gaaarp said,

      November 14, 2010 at 12:52 pm

      Thanks, Chris!

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