This golden Christmas bread is worthy of its costly ingredients. It's studded with candied orange and lemon peel and Cointreau-soaked golden raisins, topped with pearl sugar. Make the sponge and soak the raisins the night before mixing the dough; the final dough needs time to ferment, as well. It's rich and buttery like a brioche and needs time to firm up in the refrigerator. This makes a lovely weekend project!

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Recipe Summary

prep:
40 mins
cook:
40 mins
additional:
1 day
total:
1 day
Servings:
24
Yield:
2 6-inch loaves
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Ingredients

24
Original recipe yields 24 servings
The ingredient list now reflects the servings specified
For the sponge:
For the dough:

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Prepare the sponge the night before you mix the dough: Mix 1.5 cups all-purpose flour with 1/8 teaspoon yeast in a bowl. Add 2/3 cup cool water. Cover with plastic wrap and let sponge stand at room temperature 8 hours to overnight.

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  • Toss raisins with Cointreau in a bowl. Mix orange and lemon peel in with raisins and add an extra tablespoon of Cointreau and let them soften, if they are on the hard side. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand 8 hours to overnight.

  • Pour milk into a saucepan and crumble in saffron threads; heat just to a simmer. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer, taking care to get all of the saffron bits into the bowl. Let cool to just barely warm (110 degrees F) or room temperature.

  • Transfer sponge to a mixing bowl, breaking up slightly with a spoon. Mix in eggs, stirring a few times by hand. Add 2 1/3 cups bread flour, sugar, 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast, and salt. Mix with the paddle attachment on low speed for about 5 minutes, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl occasionally; the dough will be very loose.

  • Switch to the dough hook attachment and increase speed to medium. Add butter, one piece at a time, mixing until each piece is fully incorporated. Increase to high speed for 1 minute if the mixer can handle it; the dough should be climbing the dough hook and starting to clear the sides of the bowl. Add soaked raisins, orange peel, and lemon peel. Mix on low speed for 2 minutes; the fruit may not be fully dispersed.

  • Transfer dough to a greased bowl. Flop the dough over itself a couple of times (it's a little too wet to fold), cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise for 60 minutes.

  • Fold dough a few times to release gas and mix in fruit. Cover again with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

  • Turn the dough onto a floured work space. Divide in half and shape into 2 balls. Place each ball seam-side down in a 6" paper panettone form and set on a baking sheet. Beat egg with water, and brush egg wash onto each loaf. Cover panettone forms loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 90 minutes.

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

  • Brush loaves with egg wash again and sprinkle pearl sugar on top.

  • Place baking sheet in the hot oven, immediately reducing the temperature to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the baking sheet and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

  • Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and continue baking until a tester inserted in the center of each loaf comes out clean, about 20 minutes more. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Cook's Notes:

I use SAF Gold instant yeast because it's been specially formulated for use in sweet rich doughs like this. It's sold in 1-pound packages and is available in specialty markets and online. If you rarely bake, use instant yeast packets or bread machine yeast.

If you want to really make this from scratch, you can candy your own citrus peels. I buy organic oranges and lemons, blanching the orange peels 3 times and the lemon peels 4 or 5 times before adding them to the sugar syrup. Store candied peels in their syrups in the fridge for up to 6 weeks. Freshly candied citrus peels are nice and soft, so I don't soak them the night before; just add them to the dough in Step 4.

Nutrition Facts

181 calories; protein 3.9g; carbohydrates 29.8g; fat 5g; cholesterol 32.4mg; sodium 161.9mg. Full Nutrition
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Reviews (2)

Read More Reviews

Most helpful positive review

Rating: 5 stars
01/03/2018
My friend gave me a loaf of this bread (a whole loaf!)--she's the recipe submitter. It is an amazing creation--a toasted and buttered slice is a dream breakfast. I was hoping my husband would continue to think he wouldn't like it so I could have it all to myself but he toasted a slice and loved it too. There is so much going on flavorwise but nothing overwhelms. Perfect. Thank you Frances! Read More
(1)
2 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 2
  • 4 star values: 0
  • 3 star values: 0
  • 2 star values: 0
  • 1 star values: 0
Rating: 5 stars
01/03/2018
My friend gave me a loaf of this bread (a whole loaf!)--she's the recipe submitter. It is an amazing creation--a toasted and buttered slice is a dream breakfast. I was hoping my husband would continue to think he wouldn't like it so I could have it all to myself but he toasted a slice and loved it too. There is so much going on flavorwise but nothing overwhelms. Perfect. Thank you Frances! Read More
(1)
Rating: 5 stars
12/19/2017
Beautiful. I made a 1 1/2 batch to make three loaves unsure if a full double batch would fit in my mixer (it'd be tight). I heated the milk and saffron the night before just to save a step in the morning; I refrigerated it overnight then let it come up to cool room temp before mixing. I also candied lemon peel the night before (already had orange in the fridge). Mixed the dough in the morning then shaped and baked that evening. Read More
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