Packed with liqueur-laden fruit, these panettone are well worth the patience you need for the long soaking and rising times. For the best results, make sure you leave them to rise somewhere warm and cozy, then sit back and look forward to the results. The finished mini panettone make gorgeous alternative to mince pies.
Soak the fruits. Place the almond liqueur, mixed peel, dried cherries, and sultanas in a small bowl, cover and leave for at least 4 hours or overnight so that the fruit plumps up. Then, strain the fruit through a sieve over a bowl, reserving the soaking liqueur for the glaze. Set both aside.
Make the dough. Pour the milk into a small pan and add the vanilla paste, almond extract, spices and orange zest. Warm the mixture over a low heat it’s hot enough that you can still put your finger in it and leave it there comfortably – take care not to overheat. Add the butter and stir it in until it’s almost melted.
Tip the flour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Stir in the salt, sugar and yeast. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs. Mix the eggs into the flour a little, then little by little add the milk and butter mixture, beating well on a slow speed between each addition.
Continue to mix on a slow speed for 3–4 minutes, until the mixture forms a soft, slightly sticky dough. Add the rehydrated fruit and the dark and milk chocolate chips. Mix again on slow for another 2–3 minutes to incorporate the fruit and chocolate.
Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover it with cling film and leave the dough to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour in a warm place, or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, make the marzipan. Place the ground almonds, caster sugar and icing sugar in mixing bowl. Add the vanilla paste, almond extract and egg yolk and mix a little until crumbly, then set aside 75g of the mixture for the topping.
Bring the remainder of the mixture together until it forms a soft dough, adding the teaspoon of egg white to help the dough come together if necessary. Cut the dough into two pieces of one third and two thirds. Use the food gels to colour the smaller piece green and the larger piece red. Using your hands, roll 54 pea-sized red berries from the red marzipan. Lightly dust your work surface with icing sugar and, using a rolling pin, roll out the green marzipan to a thin round and use the cutter to stamp out 36 holly leaves. Set aside.
Make the ganache. Heat the cream in a small pan on a medium heat to just below boiling point. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate and leave or 5 minutes, then stir until smooth. Leave to thicken up at room temperature.
Make the glaze. Place the reserved almond liqueur soaking liquid in a medium pan and stir in the vanilla paste and the sugar. Cook over a low heat until the sugar dissolves, then bring the mixture to a simmer for 2 minutes, until thickened a little. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
When the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl and divide it into 16–18 100g portions (the number of portions may vary slightly). Gently shape each into a ball and place each ball into a panettone case. Place the cases on a baking tray and place the whole tray in a proving bag or cover it with oiled cling film and leave the panettone to prove for 50 minutes to 1 hour in a warm place, until the dough has risen to the top of the cases.
Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/Gas 4. When the panettone have proved, bake them for 15 minutes, then check to see how they’re browning – if they are going too dark, place a sheet of foil over the tops. Bake for a further 5–10 minutes (20–25 minutes baking time in total), until risen and golden, or a cooking thermometer reads 92°. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack, brush with the glaze and leave to cool.
Once cool, spread each panettone with a little ganache, sprinkle with a little of the crumbly marzipan and decorate with 3 marzipan berries and 2 holly leaves.