This recipe calls for an unconventional use of a sauce pot. Perfect for the holiday season, our Napa Valley version of an Italian panetone featuring local flavors like Mission fig, Meyer lemon and almonds. The sauce pot provides a nice mold for the sweet, yeasted bread to take its cylindrical shape. Sambuca, a nod to the Valley’s abundant wild fennel, permeates nicely in the pan overnight, and a lemon-anise glaze amplifies that flavor when applied just before serving. When you invert the pan to remove the panetone, expect a wow factor that will delight your guests. Serve with strong coffee or espresso.
One day in advance, combine all of the fig ingredients in a small airtight container. Allow the figs to hydrate overnight on the counter until needed.
Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Reserve in an airtight container until it is needed.
Combine the flour, salt, yeast and sugar in a stand mixer bowl fitted with a dough hook attachment. In a separate bowl, crumble the almond paste into small pieces. Drain the figs and add the soaking liquid to the almond paste and whisk together until the mixture is relatively smooth (a couple small lumps are OK). Add the eggs to the almond paste mixture and beat with a whisk until it is homogenous. Turn the stand mixer on to low speed slowly pour in the liquid ingredient mixture. Continue mixing until all the flour is incorporated. Begin adding the butter cubes one by one. After the butter has been added, mix on second speed for 10 minutes.
While the dough is mixing, liberally rub the interior sides and bottom of the AllClad 3-QT Copper Core Sauce Pot with softened butter. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pot and place it inside, the butter should hold it in place. Add about a half cup of sugar to the buttered pot, tilt and rotate the pot so that the sugar adheres to all of the buttered surfaces. Pour out any excess sugar and reserve for another purpose.
After 10 minutes, add the almonds and the dried figs and mix just until they are incorporated. Transfer the dough from the mixing bowl to the butter and sugar lined sauce pot. Gently smooth the top surface of the dough with a small palette knife. Loosely cover the pot with plastic wrap. Allow the Pannetone to proof in a warm area for about 1-1/2 hours or until it has risen to twice its original height.
While the dough is proofing, prepare the Lemon-Anise Glaze (see recipe above). Adjust your oven so that the rack is set in the bottom third of its height and remove any racks above it. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
After proofing, place the pannetone in the center of your oven and set a timer for 1 hour and 15 minutes. After the timer sounds, use a cake tester to check for doneness. The cake tester should come out clean with no dough clinging to it. Continue baking if necessary checking for doneness every 15-20 minutes using the same method.
Once the pannetone is cooked, remove the pot from the oven and transfer it to a wire rack to cool for about a half hour or until it is cool enough to handle. Run a table knife around the edge of the pot between the pannetone to separate anything that may be sticking. Place your weak hand on top of the pannetone and with your other hand quickly invert the pan to remove it. Set the pannetone back on the wire rack and allow it to cool until it is just slightly warm in the center. Use a thin bamboo skewer or similar to carefully pierce several holes in the top of the pannetone running almost all the way to the bottom. Place the pannetone on the desired presentation dish. Combine the lemon juice and the Sambuca together then slowly pour it on the top of the pannetone so that it is absorbed into the holes you just made. When the pannetone is cool, gently wrap it (while still on the dish) in plastic wrap and allow it to sit overnight. The next day, remove the plastic and pour the Lemon-Anise Glaze (recipe above) over the entire top surface and sides of the pannetone and allow it to solidify – about a half hour. Serve with strong coffee or espresso.