An Italian Christmas Bread, full of nuts, candied fruit and chopped chocolate. Serve it at Breakfast or even Dessert, delicious with a cup of tea or coffee.
What is an Italian Sweet Bread?
This Christmas Bread originated in Modena (a city in the region of Emilia-Romagna in the North of Italy) although it is not to be confused with another famous Italian Bread, also known as a Christmas Cake, Panettone.
Both made with yeast and are both sweet. Panettone is usually made with candied fruit or chocolate chips.
But this delicious Sweet Bread from Modena is full of almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, raisins if you like (soaked in rum if desired), candied fruit, maraschino cherries and chopped dark chocolate.
What are the best ingredients?
In my opinion the best ingredients are a good variety, in this version I added almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, candied fruit (mixture), candied orange, 4 or 5 maraschino cherries chopped and chopped dark chocolate (never chocolate chips).
What’s great about this bread is you can use whatever nuts you prefer, add raisins instead of candied fruit, add more nuts and less raisins, you choose!
Some people soak the raisins in grappa, or even Rum. Maybe next time!
How to store Christmas Cake / Bread
It is best to store this bread when it is uncut, uncovered at room temperature, but once the bread is cut, place it in an air tight bag and store at room temperature for up to up to 3 days.
This bread can also be frozen, again well wrapped then placed in an airtight bag for up to two months.
How to check to see if Yeast is still active
In a small bowl add 1/2 cup of water (luke warm) add a pinch of sugar, sprinkle the yeast on top, give it a couple of stirs and let it stand for 3-4 minutes.
If the yeast is active, it will completely dissolve into the water and the liquid will start bubbling.
How to make Christmas Cake from Modena
- Add the flour into the bowl of your stand up mixer and whisk.
- Then add the room temperature butter (cut into pieces), and with the dough hook attached knead for a minute.
- Add the room temperature eggs, chopped chocolate (not chips), sugar, milk (not all the milk) and the yeast on top.
- Knead until the dough is almost combined then add the nuts and candied fruit.
- Knead for a minute or two and if needed add the remaining 2 tablespoons of lukewarm milk a tablespoon at a time.
- Continue to knead until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- Remove the dough to a flat surface and knead for a couple of minutes to shape the dough into a round loaf and to distribute the nuts and candied fruit.
- Place the dough loaf in a lightly oiled bowl and cover and place in a warm draft free area to rise / rest for 2 hours.
- Lightly butter a round cookie sheet (I use a small pizza pan) and place the loaf on top.
- Bake in a pre heated oven for 45-55 minutes, start to check for doneness at 45 minutes, test for doneness with a toothpick.
- Let the Christmas Bread cool completely before serving!
A new Update!
I just (Christmas Eve) remade this bread but this time using Baking Powder instead of yeast, I want a no rising bread. I followed all the steps except the 2 hour rising time.
The bread seemed to take longer to bake, the first time I baked it for 50 minutes and it wasn’t cooked through, the second time I baked it for 65 or 70 minutes and I turned off the oven and left it to cool inside.
The taste is just as amazing and maybe a little softer.
More Delicious Italian Yeast Breads
If you love yeast breads or you are looking for a fruit bread to serve this Christmas I hope you enjoy this Italian Christmas Bread from Modena! Merry Christmas.
Italian Christmas Bread
- 3 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour (500 grams)
- 1/2 cup butter (100 grams / room temperature / cubed)
- 2 large eggs (room temperature)
- 3 1/2 ounces dark good quality chocolate (100 grams / chopped)
- 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoons granulated sugar (60 grams)
- 1/4 cup + 2-4 tablespoons milk (90-120 grams / room temperature / I used 2%)
- 2 teaspoons yeast or** (2 teaspoons / active dry yeast)
- 1 1/4 cups Whole Nuts (almonds/hazelnuts/walnuts) (150 grams)
- 1 cup candied fruit (100 grams)
**I just made a new type with 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder.
- Chop whole nuts into large pieces, place on a cookie sheet and roast in a pre heated 350F (180C) oven for approximately 5 minutes. Move to a clean bowl and let cool.
- In the bowl of your stand up mixer add the flour and whisk, attach the dough hook and add the butter, knead for one minute.
- Then add the eggs, chocolate, sugar, 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons of milk and the yeast (or baking powder) on top. Knead until the dough is almost combined, then add the nuts and candied fruit.
- Continue to knead (you may need to add another tablespoon or two of milk). until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, move the dough to a flat surface and knead for a couple of minutes to help distribute the fruit and nuts, form into the shape of a round loaf.** (approximately 7 1/2 inches / 19 cm) Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a tea towel and let rise / rest in a warm draft free area for 2 hours.
- Pre-heat oven to 350F (180C). Lightly butter a small round cookie / pizza pan.
- Remove the loaf from the bowl and place on prepared pan and bake for approximately 50-55 minutes, check for doneness with a toothpick. Let cool completely before cutting. Enjoy!