Pasta Madre Chocolate Panettone For The Daring Bakers. Traditional Recipe From The Simili Sisters - Bread and Companatico (2024)

Christmas. Maybe the most stressful time of the year is just before it. Deadlines at work, kids needing to be spoiled, families expecting Lucullian feasts. And us? The mothers, wives, and hosts, what do we want for Christmas?

This year, what I really wanted and had in my mind constantly was to make my own panettone. But, oh boy, baking a panettone in the heat of the pre-Christmas collective hysteria? That was the biggest challenge ever. Panettone takes indeed two days of patient care and there is no way around it. My previous quicker attempts with alternative methods were in fact a true disappointment. Only when I resolved to go the hard way, with the quintessential traditional recipe, the miracle happened and panettone manifested itself in my kitchen.Happy also to participate with this to theDecember’s challenge of the Daring Bakers hosted by MarcellinafromMarcellina in Cucinaand dedicated to panettone.

The recipe I used is possibly the most popular one in Italy when it comes to home-made panettone and was passed to us mortals by the holy Simili sisters (sorelle Simili for us Italians), founders of a culinary school and authors of the slim but concentrated baking biblePane e Roba Dolce. Their panettoneis based on natural leaven, pasta madre, which is the traditional stiff sourdough Italian bakers generally use (SCROLL DOWN FOR THE RECIPE). *NOTA PER I LETTORI ITALIANI: la ricetta completa (trascritta parola per parola dal libro delle Simili, ma sara’ legale?) la trovate qui.


I followed the traditional recipe, only added grated zests and chocolate and omitted raisins and candied citrus. Also, I converted my 100% hydration starter into pasta madre (which is, a 50% hydration sourdough starter) but did not do the steps to “fortify” pasta madre as suggested by the Simili sisters. I trusted the power of my starter. If you have a lively starter, after converting it into a stiff one, follow all the steps below and in two days you will have good as hell traditional panettone.


First Dough (to make at the end of Day 1)

225 gr “sweet” pasta madre***

550 gr bread flour

130 gr sugar

140 gr butter

250 gr luke-warm water

6 egg yolks

Final Dough (to make at the beginning of Day 2)

270 bread flour

140 gr butter

80 gr luke-warm water

25 gr powdered milk

50 gr sugar

grated zest of 2 organic lemons and 1 organic orange (my addition)

200 g 70% dark chocolate, chopped (my addition)

125 gr candied orange peel in small cubes

125 gr candied citrus peel in small cubes (I omitted it this time)

350 gr raisins (I omitted them this time)

10 gr salt (2 tea-spoon)

10 gr honey (1 tea-spoon)

10 gr barley malt (1 tea-spoon)

6 egg-yolks

1 vanilla pod, opened lengthwise and paste taken out with a knife

3 panettone molds (each for 750 gr panettone)

6 long skewers

***Sweet Pasta Madre

pasta madre (do this 2-3 days before making the panettone dough):convert your 100% hydration sourdough starter into a 50% hydration starter bytaking 50 g of your regular 100% sourdough starter straight from the fridge and combine with 50 g water and 100 g flour. Perform 3-4 feeding like this (possibly even more), one every 12 hours. You will end up with a stiff sourdough, pasta madre (literally “mother dough”) that you have to shortly knead, then form into a ball and score with a cross on top.

sweet pasta madre (to be done during Day 1): once you have your stiff leaven, proceed to make it “sweet” (in the sense of less sour) enough for panettone. Make three feedings within 12-15 hours by keeping the pasta madre in a warm spot (the oven with the light on works), at about 26 degrees (Celsius, 78.8 Fahrenheit), and feeding it every 3-4 hours.The Simili sisters suggest:

1st feeding (morning) 50 g pasta madre, 50 g water and 100 g flour

2nd feeding (lunch time) 100 g pasta madre, 50 g water, 100 g flour

3rd feeding (late afternoon) 100 g pasta madre, 50 g water, 100 g flour


evening of Day 1: put the egg yolks in the water and whisk a little. Add the flour and the sugar and start kneading (at low speed if with a machine). Then add the pasta madre in pieces, little by little. At last add the butter, in pieces, in three times. My tip: overall you need to knead for about 15 minutes by machine (and 25 minutes by hand). Careful not to over-knead the dough, it should not be shiny. Place the dough in a tall bowl coated with a little butter, and let it rise at 28 degrees (Celsius, 82.4 Fahrenheit)for the first 2 hours, then at room temperature for 8-10 hours (depending on how warm you have it). The dough should increase 3-4 times in volume.

morning of Day 2: combine the water, the powdered milk, the sugar, the egg yolks, the honey, the malt, the salt, the vanilla paste and the grated zests. Add the flour and start kneading and then add also all the first dough. When all is well combined, add the butter, little by little. Knead for no more than 15 minutes by machine at low speed (25 minutes by hand). Incorporate the filling (in my case, chocolate and orange peel) at the end of the kneading. Coat a tray with butter and shape the dough in three balls weighting about 800 g each. Place them in a warm spot, about28 degrees (Celsius, 82.4 Fahrenheit) for 20 minutes, covered. Shape again in 3 tight balls with hands coated with butter and place in 3 750 g each panettone molds. Make sure to place the molds on a oven tray BEFORE placing the dough in them. You won’t be able to move them individually but you will be allowed to move only the tray. Let rise at about28 degrees (Celsius, 82.4 Fahrenheit) until the dough reaches the edges of the molds. To me this took 5 and 1/2 hours.

afternoon of Day 2:score a cross on top of each panettone (with a light hand) and slightly pull up the edges. Bake at 175 degrees (Celsius, 347Fahrenheit) for about 35-40 minutes. The Simili suggest 25-30 minutes but my panettone were ready after 40 minutes. Best is to check the internal temperature, which should be around 95 degrees(Celsius, 203 Fahrenheit). Once the panettone is baked, put 2 skewers in the bottom part of the panettone and keep the panettone hanging upside down (see the picture) until cool.


cooling down – upside down

here’s the baby. sorry but the first slices moved too fast for my camera to catch

CONSIDERATIONS: this was, without a doubt, the most challenging bake I have ever made. To create a dough able to rise 6, 7 times in volume using only natural leaven sounded actually impossible to me and I did not believe it until I saw it. Knowing that anything wrong in the formula, or in the way I kneaded the dough, or in the temperature, could have stopped the miracle, made me so nervous that I could hardly notice it was just around Christmas and I had a big dinner to prepare, presents to wrap, an so on. I lived for my panettone dough for two days and when, finally allowed to flip the finished product and cut a slice, I realized it actually tasted like panettone – not sour at all, just heavenly light and delicately sweet – I entered at once into the Christmas mood. Uplifted, just like the dough. Too bad I could not take plenty of pictures. The first panettone was in fact already half devoured when the morning came, and the other cakes could not be opened… one was indeed saved for our Lucullian Christmas dinner and the other will fly to Italy with my mother tomorrow morning (I know, I am a good kid). So just trust me. This recipe rocks. Next year you may get better pictures of the outcome. Until then, hope you had a great time (as we did) and that this recipe will one day uplift you, too, and help in making your festivities unforgettable.

CONSIDERAZIONI: Finalmente mi sono decisa ad usare la ricetta delle Simili e vi assicuro che non la lascero’ piu’. Il secondo panettone, aperto ieri sera per i nostri ospiti, era assolutamente favoloso. Mi dispiace non aver potuto fare molte foto, con tutte le celebrazioni di questi giorni non ce ne e’ davvero stata l’occasione. Un grazie vivissimo alle grandissime Simili, che hanno contribuito a rendere questo Natale veramente speciale.

This bread goes to Susan

the lovely Scandinavian vintage napkin is fromStockholm Retro

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Pasta Madre Chocolate Panettone For The Daring Bakers. Traditional Recipe From The Simili Sisters - Bread and Companatico (11)

Barbara Elisi

Hi there! I am the "soul" behind Bread & Companatico. My main interest is the preservation of bread tradition and craft, with an eye to health. I hope you are having a good time reading this blog, and please don't be shy to connect with me through comments or emails and do keep on bread-ing! 🙂

Pasta Madre Chocolate Panettone For The Daring Bakers. Traditional Recipe From The Simili Sisters - Bread and Companatico (12)

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Pasta Madre Chocolate Panettone For The Daring Bakers. Traditional Recipe From The Simili Sisters - Bread and Companatico (2024)


What is pasta madre used for? ›

It is traditionally used to make Panettone because of the acidity levels and flavor profile that it delivers. The active natural yeasts in a Pasta Madre provide no sour flavor, making it perfect for a sweet bake.

What is the significance of the panettone? ›

During the luxurious Christmas banquet given by the Duke of Milan, the desert got burnt. A young cook, called Toni, came up with a rich brioche bread, filled with raisins and candied fruit. The Duke loved it, and so the tradition of 'Pane di Toni' was born. Later, in 1821, Panettone became a symbol of liberty in Italy.

What is the difference between pasta madre and levain? ›

Lievito madre tends to be stiffer, with a 50% hydration. Levain is the French version and is made mainly with white flour. Levain varies in hydration; some are stiffer like the typical lievito madre while others use a higher hydration and are stickier.

How do you eat chocolate panettone bread? ›

How to eat panettone like an Italian. Italians enjoy panettone as an accompaniment to their afternoon coffee or tea. Dipping a slice into a hot drink softens it, making each bite melt in the mouth. Some also enjoy it with a spread of sweetened ricotta or Nutella.

How often do you feed pasta madre? ›

Ideally, you feed the PM twice a day. One short warm refreshment at 28-30C, and a long cold rest at 16-18C. Many publications will say to feed it at 1:1 PM:flour ratio, at about 40-50% water. Your PM should smell fruity with a hint of acidity.

How do you care for pasta madre? ›

Conservation / Maintenance:

To ensure viability, the madre should be rebuilt at least once a day while being held at a temperature of 15-18°C. Or once a week if refrigerated to around 4°C.

Why is panettone so expensive? ›

Panettone tends to be a little more expensive than most other baked goods, mainly due to the amount of time that goes into making each one. A traditional panettone is usually a lengthy procedure, however, a cheap mass-produced alternative will take shortcuts in the baking process which will be reflected in its taste.

Why is panettone so difficult? ›

While no sourdough baking processes can be considered “simple”, panettone is definitely takes complications to the extreme, with an unusual levain maintenance method (“pasta madre”, or mother dough), two dough builds (the “primo” and “secondo impastos”), and the necessity for exacting temperature and pH control ...

What does panettone mean in Italian? ›

In Italy, historical accounts of panettone invariably state that it originated in Milan. The word panettone derives from panetto, a small loaf of bread. The augmentative suffix -one changes the meaning to "large bread".

Can people with gluten intolerance eat sourdough bread? ›

No, regular sourdough bread is not gluten-free.

While the natural bacteria may make it easier to digest, and the fermentation process decreases the amount of gluten, it still does not reach 20ppm (parts per million) or less of gluten, which is how the United States defines gluten-free foods.

Is levain the same as sourdough? ›

Levain goes by different names. For instance, you may see the term levain used interchangeably with “sourdough” or “sourdough starter.” In most ways, levain and sourdough starter are the same: both are made from flour, water, and wild yeast, and both are used to ferment and flavor bread dough.

Is levain bread the same as sourdough? ›

You might also see the term “levain bread” or “pain au levain,” which are other names for sourdough bread. Because the term levain is French for leaven, which is almost always taken to mean naturally fermented bread, the term levain is often used synonymously with sourdough.

Do you eat panettone with butter? ›

  1. Slice into thin pieces. Use a serrated knife and going top to bottom like a cake. ...
  2. Tear and dip. No need for a knife; just set it out, tear off pieces, and pour a glass of milk for dunking.
  3. Heat it up. Not necessary, but delicious. ...
  4. Toast it and butter it. ...
  5. Make French Toast.
Dec 2, 2023

Do you eat panettone hot or cold? ›

You SHOULD NOT serve Panettone hot, just slightly warm it up to activate its orangy flavor. The right temperature to serve it is about 25°C-77°F. Slice Panettone using a serrated knife for bread. Serve it with my Panettone Frosting and Italian Prosecco wine in a flute glass!

How do you feed masa madre? ›

Feed your masa madre with 125 gr of whole rye flour and 125 gr of water, mix it all together and leave it to rise in a warm area around 24 °C to 27 °C for the whole day and put it back in the fridge at night to storage.

Is Masa Madre the same as sourdough bread? ›

Masa Madre ferment is a traditional and ancient breadmaking method. It is the equivalent of sourdough starter in many Spanish speaking and Latin American countries. This starter uses wheat or rye flour, and water. The mixture is allowed to ferment naturally, making various refreshments or feedings.

What can you make with lievito madre? ›

Lievito madre procedure

Natural yeast is used in the production of bread specialties, such as ciabatta, pizza, focaccia and sweet leavened products such as croissants, brioches and Panettone. Since it is a natural Mother Yeast, baked goods require a little more patience in preparation.

Is lievito madre the same as sourdough starter? ›

In Italy, a sourdough starter is typically called lievito madre or pasta madre, which means “mother dough.”


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