This is my favorite holiday bread! This bread can be made with various kinds of dried fruit. Some people don't use fruit and use chocolate chips. You can also add more raisens if you like. I like to soak them in marsala overnight. This bread is a long process but it is well worth the effort!
Mix the ingredients for the starter till well incorporated, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30.min ( use a bowl with space for it to rise)
Using a stand mixer wisk together the eggs and sugar till very creamy. (If you try this recipe by hand I suggest blending the sugar and eggs seperatly in a food processer) Incorporate the rest of the ingredients, (except the raisens and butter) including the starter and have the stand mixer knead the dough for 10 min. While it is kneading gradually add the butter in. Let the dough rest where it is for 10 min and then knead for 3 min. ( a VERY important trick to knowing when the dough is ready; is to tear off a piece and try to spread it with your fingers. If it tears, it is not ready. If it stretches to a thin film it's ready)
Put the dough in a large bowl, cover with plastic and let it rise overnight. (on your kitchen counter is fine)
The proper molds would be panettone molds but I used two very large tomato aluminum cans I got at Sams. But I have also made this in 2 (9 inch) cake pans. Spray whatever you are using with baking nonstick cooking spray.
Divide your dough in two pieces;roll them out ( as if you were making cinamon rolls) Add one cup of raisens to each portion. Roll it up. Move it around on your counter till it becomes a ball. Place in your baking mold, lightly cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 7 to 8 hrs. ( This bread requires a long amount of rising time!)
Preheat oven at 375 degrees. 10 min. Before baking gently uncover the loaves. Before you put them in the oven, make a cross at the top and gently peel (or cut) back the corners. Brush the top with melted butter. ( I spray the top with butter flavored Pam) Bring the temp down to 325 degrees and bake for an hour. Test with a piece of dry spaghetti. If when you poke it and it comes out dry it is done.
If you used a tall mold it may collapse if you remove it two early. The bread is very light inside! I poked two skewers on the bottom and inverted it into a tall stock pot; and let them hang overnight. They were perfect the next day!