Yep, panettone’s marvellous. Unfortunately — just like most things — it’s not at its best in long-life, vac-packed, slightly stale long-life form. If you’re recoiling in horror at hearing that, read on.
Making the stuff — as I’m about to explain in lots of detail — requires nothing that supermarkets don’t sell and will cost less than buying it, will taste better and will make a proper present. The problem? They’re a stupid shape. Who keeps a cake tin that’s six inches in diameter and near enough fifteen tall? No one sain.
You could make it in a normal cake tin, but that’s a bit of a compromise. What you need to do is find something — nay, anything — that’s metal, round and about six inches wide. I found an aluminium milk pan. Others use cutlery drainers, coffee tins or just clever arrangements of paper and string. I’m not clever, get coffee in bags and, as far as I know, our cutlery drains itself.
So, start with your round container. Don’t automatically write off saucepans with plastic handles, by the way — many of them look placky but are actually heat resistant to some degree. Obviously, don’t try anything silly without checking with the manufacturer first… (etc, sorry for the self-interested back-covering babble).
Inside this tin/pan you’re going to need an office stapler and some greaseproof paper. If you’ve got thicker brown packing paper, that’ll help too. Begin by cutting about 25 inches (65cm) of brown or greaseproof paper. Fold it in half, along the long edge, then fold over the long, loose edges by about a centimetre to bind them together. Roll this around a rolling pin to make it easier to fit to the pan. Feed one end of this strip inside the other, so that you get a big cylinder whose size you can change pretty easily.
Put it into your tin and adjust it so that it fits, then take it out and staple it in position — once at the top and once at the bottom. Return the paper to the tin then cut a 20 inch (50 cm) length of greaseproof paper. Use this to line the paper collar as you would a normal cake tin, folding the bottom edge in to give it a base and folding the top over to give it the right height. Staple this in place. Finish with a circle of greaseproof paper at the bottom.
And there you have it. Proof the dough, and through it the oven — just don’t go too hot or you’re paper will start to smoulder. (Below 180°C or 355°F shouldn’t present any issues.)