HomeGeneralThe Art of Making Panettone with Leonardo di Carlo

The Art of Making Panettone with Leonardo di Carlo

(This article appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)  

Panettone is having a moment. This festive Italian bread, made with leavened wheat flour, dried fruit and a generous amount of butter, eggs and sugar, has been around for a few centuries, but it’s taken that long to  to achieve its current crazy-popular status in the artisan food world. It’s possible that panettone’s popularity is connected to its well-known degree of difficulty to produce. It is, after all, known as the ‘Mt. Everest’ of breads – if you can conquer panettone, you can conquer pretty much anything in the bread world. In preparation for the holidays, we consulted Pastry Chef Leonardo di Carlo, owner of Pastry Concept in Treviso, Italy, to give us some tips on mastering panettone.

In preparation for the holidays, we consulted Pastry Chef Leonardo di Carlo, owner of Pastry Concept in Treviso, Italy, to give us some tips on mastering panettone.

Panettone seems to be more popular than ever. Why do you think that’s so?

In Italy, panettone has always been the main pastry product of the holidays (Christamas time and Easter, too), and it could always be seen in the middle of the table of any Italian family during these times. Today, many pastry chefs offer panettone all year round, giving prestige to the use of sourdough. There are many varieties now, from classic panettone to the most contemporary versions with delicious and unusual fillings. Another product that is taking a slice of the important market is ‘Salty Panettone’, flavored with cheeses, vegetables, and things like candied olives, peppers, etc.

What makes panettone so difficult to master?

The recipe isn’t so difficult, but the method of working with the dough and its temperature must to be respected. The basis of everything is ‘the king’: Sourdough! It must be ripe, have a suitable pH, it must not be sticky, and must have a nice honeycomb structure so as to avoid bad surprises and a dry product. 

Is it possible to use a standard mixer to make panettone, or will it burn out the motor?

Absolutely yes, it’s possible to use a standard mixer – just be careful not to heat the dough too much during processing. To overcome this, it’s important to use ingredients that have been previously chilled in the fridge (flour and eggs, for example),  and it’s even more important if the kitchen environment is very hot. 

How important is maintaining the correct pH and alcohol level in panettone dough?

The pH of sourdough must be between 3.9 and 4.1; this is important in order to obtain a product with a greater fragrance and evident aroma. The right pH also gives the panettone the best flavor, to avoid it being too acidic or tasteless.

What is the most important element in making a good panettone, and what are the most common mistakes you see others make?

We can’t think about just one, but many elements; below is a list of points to pay attention to:

  • The sourdough must be mature,  with a slightly straw color and with good strength and smoothness.
  • The quality of the flour used must be excellent, and even the water with which we refresh the sourdough must be pure and without residues – it would be better to refresh it with bottled water.
  • The evening dough must be well tied and smooth, without exuding the fat.
  • After  14-16 hours, the sourdough must have tripled in volume; if this does not happen, the sourdough used was not active enough.
  • The dough in the morning must be amalgamated and at the end of processing – it must have a temperature no higher than 79-80˚F (26-27˚C).
  • If the temperature of the dough is too high, it will be difficult for the fats to be absorbed into the dough. On the contrary, if the temperature is too cold, it will be easier to mix everything, but the final leavening will slow down considerably before baking.
  • Once the dough is ready and has been placed in the baking cups, it must reach 2 centimeters before the edge of the cup, and then go into the oven, even if it has spent 15 minutes in the fridge – this way it will be easier to cut the surface crosswise.
  • The baking and various points indicated here above are all very important. If the oven cooks uniformly, the core of the product must reach 194-197˚F (90-92˚C), if it is under-baked, once we turn it upside-down, the panettone will detach from the baking tray, while if overcooked, it will not detach from the baking tray and will immediately lose its fragrance.

When you make panettone, how long does the process take, from beginning to end?

If we have a strong sourdough in good condition, we must make at least three refreshments a day, for at least two to four days; after the refreshing days, we proceed to the evening dough which will have to rise for 12 to 16 hours. Then we do the second mixing and after this another six to eight hours must pass. The baking takes place at the end. So, we must calculate 36 to 40 hours before being baked. It’s not a great idea to take shortcuts when making panettone, unless the product we make is eaten within two to four days.

Do you have your own trick or technique that makes your panettone special?

The trick isn’t to be afraid of the sourdough, because it will feel our insecurity. In my panettone, the average quantity of butter in the dough is 600 grams per 1 kilo of flour. Once you became better with this kind of product, you can also get to 1 kilo of butter in 1 kilo of flour.


Yield:  20 (750-gram) panettone

First Refresh at 8:00 a.m.:

  • 500 g sourdough starter, submerged in water (41.67%)*
  • 200 g water (16.67%)
  • 500 g strong (15-16% protein) flour (41.67%)

Total = 1200 g (100%)

* The percentages in parentheses at the end of each ingredient line are not baker’s percentages, they are mathematical percentages.

  1. Mix sourdough with water and flour. Knead well in a planetary mixer. Shape into a ball, cut a cross on top, then leave to rise in a jug for 3 hours at 79-82˚F (26-28°C).

Second Refresh at 11:15 a.m.:

  • 500 g Sourdough Starter from First Refresh (40%)
  • 500 g strong (15-16%) flour (40%)
  • 250 g water (20%)

Total = 1250 g (100%)

  1. Knead all ingredients well in a planetary mixer, shape into a ball, cut a cross on top, then leave to rise in a jug for 3 hours at 79-82˚F (26-28°C).

Third Refresh at 2:30 p.m.:

  • 500 g Sourdough Starter from Second Refresh (40%)
  • 500 g strong (15-16%) flour (40%)
  • 250 g water (20%)

Total = 1250 (100%)

  1. Knead all ingredients well in a planetary mixer, shape into a ball, cut a cross on top, then leave to rise in a jug for 3 hours at 79-82˚F (26-28°C).

Evening Dough at 6:00 p.m.:

  • 635 g Sourdough Starter from Third Refresh (10.05%)
  • 2376 g strong (15-16%) flour (36.53%)
  • 1248 g water (19.18%)
  • 743 g granulated sugar (11.42%)
  • 594 g egg yolks (9.13%)
  • 891 g unsalted butter, 80% butterfat (13.70%)

Total = 6505 g (100%)

  1. Combine the Sourdough Starter, flour and water, then knead well to develop a nice, glutinous mesh. Add the sugar a little at a time. When absorbed well, add the egg yolks in stages and then, right after, add the creamy butter a little at a time. Knead until completely absorbed. The optimum dough temperature is 75-79˚F (24°-26°C).
  1. Allow to rise in a proofing cabinet for 11-12 hours at 80˚F (27°C), until it rises to 4 times its volume.*

* Note: put aside 300 g of the dough in a 2-liter jug until it rises to 1200 cl.

Morning Dough at 6:00 to 7:00 a.m.:

  • 6505 g Evening Dough (42.33%)
  • 890 g strong (15-16%) flour (5.79%)
  • 29 g malt (0.19%)
  • 742 g granulated sugar (4.83%)
  • 888 g egg yolks (5.78%)
  • 52 g salt (0.34%)
  • 359 g orange paste (2.33%)
  • 152 g acacia honey (0.99%)
  • 2200 g unsalted butter, 80% butterfat (14.32%)
  • 10 g vanilla pod powder (0.06%)
  • 25 g freshly grated orange peel (0.16%)
  • 15 g freshly grated lemon peel (0.10%)
  • 1500 g raisins (9.76%)
  • 2000 g diced candied orange peel (13.02%)

Total = 15,367 g (100%)

  1. Start kneading the Evening Dough with the flour and malt to develop a nice, glutinous mesh. Sprinkle in the sugar. When absorbed, add the egg yolks and salt.
  1. Mix together the orange paste, honey, butter, vanilla pod powder, orange peel and lemon peel. Add this aromatic mix a little at a time as you continue kneading the dough, until completely absorbed. Then add the raisins and candied orange peel at room temperature and knead for 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a suitable container and leave to rise at room temperature for 1 hour.
  1. Divide the dough into parts, shape into 750-gram balls and let rise in the proofing cabinet for 15-20 minutes.
  1. Shape the pre-shaped pieces of dough into flat balls, put them inside the panettone molds and let rise for approximately 5-8 hours at 82-86˚F (28-30°C), then take them out of the proofing cabinet, let them develop a slight skin at room temperature, and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes. Cut a cross on top of each and bake per instructions below.


  1. Place the panettone on micro-perforated trays and bake at 293˚F (145°C) for 10 minutes, 0% humidity, fan speed #2. Then bake at 320˚F (160°C), 40% humidty and fan speed #2 until a core temperature of 197˚F (92°C) is reached. The total baking time is approximately 45 minutes.

Chef Leonardo di Carlo is the founder, along with his wife Michela, of Pastry Concept, an advanced research and development laboratory and teaching facility in Treviso, Italy. For more info, visit www.leonardodicarlo.com.

Tish Boyle
Tish Boyle
Tish Boyle is managing editor of Pastry Arts Magazine and an experienced food writer, cookbook author, pastry chef, and recipe developer. Her previous books include Chocolate Passion, Diner Desserts, The Good Cookie, and The Cake Book