Holiday Recipe: Vegan Panettone (A Non-Traditional Tradition)

You know that feeling you get when you’re in a yoga class that’s going at a faster pace than you’re comfortable with and you struggle to keep up? You frantically try to hit all the poses the instructor cues, and halfway through you’re like, “Wait—have I even been breathing?!”

Traditional Italian Panettone
You may see traditional Italian Panettone cakes sold in tins at the grocery this time of year.

That’s how I felt making this Vegan Panettone. But not to worry—I felt that anxiety so you won’t have to. The panic and rushing was totally on me and my lack of preparation mixed with an excess of ambition and a change of plans on the fly. I also tend to get anxiety about anything that involves yeast doing its job, but that is generally quickly resolved by using fresh yeast. I have reordered the steps I took so that you aren’t running around doing everything at once like I did. Those cooking shows that have all their ingredients lined up in tiny bowls have the right idea, especially for something as precise and scientific as baking.

This recipe is a piece of cake… a vegan version of panettone: a Milanese sweet, leavened bread traditionally consumed around the world at Christmastime.

As always, to decrease new recipe anxiety, I recommend you read through all of the ingredients and instructions a couple of times before diving in. You can even rearrange the steps as you like. For example, if you’re feeling rushed because your yeast is proofing quickly, you can feel free to skip prepping the fillings completely and focus on the dough. Then, you’ll have an entire hour or two to prepare the nuts, fruits, chocolate, and zests. If you do that, you’ll only need one giant bowl for the first rise. After that, you can divide the dough in two, knead in the distinguishing flavors, and place everything in the baking containers.

This recipe is really a piece of cake—a piece of Italian bread cake. It’s a vegan version of panettone: a Milanese sweet, leavened bread that is traditionally consumed around Christmas time in Italy and other European countries as well as Latin America. My husband is Brazilian and is fond of the more modern chocolate panettone. I wanted to make both the chocolate and dried fruit versions, so this recipe is for one base dough split in half and mixed with the different fillings.

Traditional Panettone Baking Papers
Traditional Panettone baking papers are nice, but I skipped them in this recipe.

Professional panettone breads are made with dough that is proofed for days, similar to making a sourdough, but this version we are making only needs to rise for relatively short amounts of time. If you are an experienced bread maker who wants to experiment with using a starter, be my guest—apparently it extends the shelf life if you do it that way. Another thing that the professionals use that I did not have are panettone papers or molds. Panettone is a very specific shape—cylindrical and fairly tall, especially after the rise. I did not have anything in the six-inch circumference range, and didn’t feel like dropping $35 on a mold or tracking down where to acquire these specialty baking papers. In the end, I used ramekins, like the ones you make creme brûlée in. Most of those I got from the target dollar section.

Vegan Panettone: Chopping nuts
Chopping the toasted nuts.
Vegan Panettone: Yeast Step 1
One time a recipe told me to sprinkle the yeast on top when proofing, but I think it’s best to mix it all together.
Vegan Panettone: Yeast Step 2
Ten-minute mark.
Vegan Panettone: Orange Zest
Zesting the orange.
Vegan Panettone: Orange Juice
Juicing the orange.
Vegan Panettone: Yeast Step 3
Super-proofed yeast. It’s alive!
Vegan Panettone: Nuts, chocolate and fruit
Naughty or nice? Chocolate or fruit? Orange or lemon?
Vegan Panettone: Sifting Flour
Sifting can seem completely unnecessary, but it makes mixing a lot easier—and I’ve been told by many a baker that it has an effect on the final results.
Vegan Panettone: Flour
Flour, sugar, salt, and turmeric. The turmeric gives this panettone the coloring that egg yolk gives the original version.
Vegan Panettone: Yeast mix
Yeast and agave added into the mix.
Vegan Panettone: Risen
The dough will look lumpy for a while, so keep on mixing (use your chaturanga arms)!
Vegan Panettone: First rise of the dough
All set to expand.
Vegan Panettone: Risen Dough
It is risen! Hallelujah! Oops, sorry—wrong Christian holiday.
Vegan Panettone: Yeast mix
Prepping containers. Hey there, Tomax. =^_^=
Vegan Panettone: Dividing the Dough
Equally distributed dough.
Vegan Panettone: 2nd Rise
Ready to rise again. I ran out of plastic wrap and ended up ditching that one piece altogether as it wasn’t necessary.
Vegan Panettone: Brushing on coconut milk
Brushed on the coconut milk while the oven preheated.
Vegan Panettone: Baking in oven
With this positioning, I found that the top rack was more toasted on top. I’d recommend switching places halfway through the baking process.
Individual vegan panettone ramekins
All nice, light brown on top, and finished!
Vegan Panettone: Sliced Chocolate Cake
Here is the traditional slicing of this mini panettone, the chocolate version (which was the crowd favorite).
Vegan Panettone: Finished Fruit Cake
Fruit version all sliced up.

 

Vegan Panettone: Finished
The finished product (and Zartan).

I hope you enjoy this recipe and have a fantastic holiday season!

Kate Glenn

Contributor

Kate Glenn grew up in Fairport, New York and works as an Assistant Manager for the produce department at Honest Weight Food Co-Op in Albany, NY. A creative and dedicated vegan home cook, Kate also enjoys yoga, running, and interval training.

2 Comments
  1. I’m in the middle of making this – dough is rising in containers for the final oven bake – and everything has worked out perfectly so far thanks to your instructions! Touch wood, I still have time to mess it up… I’m so excited to have panettone for the first time since becoming vegan 5+ years ago! Thanks for this :)

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