Holiday Baking: Mini-Panettones

I want to bake something and cram it full of candied fruit

– Myself, looking for a new holiday recipe to try.

I love candied fruit – candied peel, citron pieces, translucent glacé cherries and mystery pieces of candied chunks. Fruitcake is out, because my grandma has that more than covered. I found a recipe for fruitcake cookies, but cookies and I do not get along. With me, Pillsbury cookies (not even the ones you scoop out yourself from the tube, but the ones that are pre-cut and just need to be placed on the cookie sheet), will turn out burnt beyond edibility on the bottom and raw on top – when cooked on the top rack of the oven.

I’ve never eaten panettone before, in its natural state anyway… my dad makes a mean french toast out of chocolate chip panettone. I see it in boxes in the grocery store and can’t imagine that it’s not all dried out and gross – and there certainly never looks like there is enough candied fruit in it.

There are plenty of mini-panettone recipes out there, and alternatively you could make one giant panettone and bake it in a coffee can. One recipe I found had you making starter a day in advance as well as panettones strung across the kitchen like garlands, held upside down with dowels to prevent them from sinking.

The recipe I finally chose was this one, from the UK’s Daily Mail. This recipe calls for food by weight, so I have a food scale handy.

Finding something to shape the panettones was the next challenge. The recipe I used calls for pudding molds, while others suggest using actual paper panettone molds, which are like perfectly cylindrical and smooth muffin cups. Instead, I bought a very large muffin tin for mine and holiday muffin papers. Before adding the dough, I gave each paper 2 spritzes of PAM to avoid wasting my expensive butter to coat them.

I made a few modifications because when finding something new to bake or make, I love to look at different recipes and formulate my own ideas, drawing different methods from each:

*   I soaked the raisins in a few splashes of black rum overnight so they were plump, juicy and boozy.

Raisins after a night of soaking in rum. I should package these as-is and sell them as a breakfast cereal.

*   Instead of 75 grams of raisins and 115 grams of dried peel, I used 400 total grams of whatever the heck I liked. Some batches had 100 grams of raisins and 300 grams of mixed peel and mixed fruit chunks, and others contained 100 grams of chopped candied cherries and 300 grams of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

I’ve never baked anything from scratch that was bread-like and used yeast. I baked for years in a retail environment during my college years (all of two years ago) but never made the dough from scratch. Instead, I like to think my past job gave me an “eye” for rising bread, recognizing humidity and temperature variations that would affect the rising bread and what over-risen or under-risen bread looks like.

Kneading the panettone dough after the first rising was interesting to say the least. The fruit does not stick to the dough, it just pops right out of it as you work it. It reminded me of that YouTube video that was floating around a couple years ago of the baby Suriname toads emerging from their mothers’ back and fleeing – although in this case, all over my countertop and the floor.

I made one complete batch before making any more dough just in case it didn’t work out, but it did. And they are delicious. While waiting for the one beginner batch to rise, I had the remaining half of the dough in the fridge (the perils of only having bought one muffin pan). This batch took much longer to rise because it was cold, but the dough was so much easier to work with and form into balls even when it contained fruit.

The bread is dense, probably not as fluffy as the ones from the store, but it is sweet, rich and packed with candied fruit and chocolate chips. They are fantastic warmed up for a few seconds in the microwave for breakfast with some coffee.

The process:

A food scale made this process so much easier.
This "well" in the center of the flour contains the starter with the yeast, which is left to activate for 30 minutes.
Finished dough, freshly plopped onto the counter.
After a good five minutes of kneading.
400 grams or so of chopped mixed fruit, cherries, mixed peel and rum raisins.
After nearly doubling in size two hours later, the dough is covered with the fruit mixture and is then kneaded furiously.
I flattened the dough and made a pouch, filling it with fruit before kneading. The recipe said to "gently" knead the fruit in, but no matter how mean I was to the dough it still rose again.
Dough, finished and complete with fruit.
I cut the dough in half, cut those halves in half, and so on until I had 16 little balls. These balls were allowed to rise again to their desired size in muffin cups before baking.
I later experimented with chocolate chips.
The finished product: dense yet fluffy, and fruit-filled.
Serving suggestion...breakfast!

Contributor Heather Rose is a freelance writer living in Toronto with her puppy, Bodie and boyfriend, Matt, one of whom enjoys her culinary experiments more than the other. She applies her life-long philosophy – “I did my best” – to all her recipes and cooking experiences. Check out her website at

Fruitcake: Haters Gonna Hate.

Ah, the much-maligned fruitcake. ‘Tis the season. Johnny Carson insisted that there was really only one fruit cake in existence and it was passed on from person to person. He’s credited with starting the “I hate fruitcake movement”. Urban dictionary sites the term fruitcake as a derogatory term for people who are a little crazy. There is even a humorous Facebook page dedicated to dissing what is essentially fruit, nuts and cake.

What’s not to like? People tend to fall into two camps, the lovers and the haters. Few are ambivalent. Ask the person standing next to you about their feelings on fruitcake. Guaranteed, the response will be enthusiastic in one direction or the other. Personally, I LOVE fruitcake. But only my mom’s. Hers is rich and moist, dark and boozy with rum, and chocked full of candied cherries, pineapple, citrus peel and sweet pecans, with only enough cake to hold it together. Mom’s fruitcake has been scientifically proven to turn the haters into lovers. This cake freezes well and is a real treat on the deck in June, when you realize you have forgotten a cake at the back of the freezer — kind of on purpose. Mom’s recipe has been tweaked and perfected over 30 years, and here it is:


Cut up       
¾ cup dates
1½ cups Candied Cherries
1¼ cups Mixed Peel
1½ cups Candied Pineapple
4 ounces Pecans (chopped), reserve several for top if desired
1¼ cups Currants
2¼ cups Raisins

Candied Citron can be added if desired and extra Raisins such as Sultana, Muscat and Thompson.

Soak for 1 week in 1 cup dark rum

Preheat oven to 275F.  Prepare 2-3 (9×4) loaf pans by lining with 2 layers of heavy waxed paper, or greased brown paper.  (Non-Stick pans wiped with a little vegetable oil, work very well but cakes bake faster.) Test cakes after 2 hours for doneness.

Beat until soft
1 cup Butter

Add and blend: until very soft and creamy,
2 cups Brown Sugar

Beat in
6 beaten Eggs
½ cup Molasses
¾ cup Apple Cider

Sift 2½ cups sifted all-purpose Flour and reserve ½ cup Flour.

Combine together in large bowl
2 cups sifted Flour
½ tsp. Baking Soda
½ tsp. ground Nutmeg
½ tsp. Salt
1 tsp. each Allspice, Cinnamon, Cloves

Sprinkle Fruit with reserved Flour.

Combine liquid ingredients with dry and add Fruit. Mix well. Turn into prepared pans. Fill pans to 1/2 inch from top. Press a few pecan halves along top for decoration if desired.  Bake at 275F for 2 hours, test with toothpick for doneness and bake another half hour. Lift from pans and remove paper. Permit the loaves to cool completely on wire rack, wrap in cheese cloth, well dampened with rum. Wrap in plastic wrap. Finally wrap in foil. For best flavour, let the cakes age for one month in refrigerator or a cool, dark spot. After several days you can unwrap and drizzle cakes with more rum and then rewrap. Cakes freeze well.

Cake preparation, baking and packaging photos by George Gouthro.


Of course, we realized that we would have to take some photos of the finished product, ready to be enjoyed, and naturally, we couldn’t have ready-to-eat morsels of this luscious cake go to waste. Oh, how we suffer for our art!