Project Panettone – Round I

I’ve had this blog for over 6 months now.  It’s time to step up my little foodblogger game. Posts every other week (or none at all) are not going to increase my readership and they’re also not going to help me skill-wise. I started this thing because baking and cooking are truly the only things I love to do. I was a teacher and now I’m a freelance writer and a legal assistant. There are a million things I could do, but in my heart I know that all I really want to do is what I do right here on this blog.

I want to be in my kitchen measuring, whisking, kneading and baking—and work up a sweat doing it. I want to be chopping, sauteing, steaming and frying—improvising all the way through. Being able to share my creations through photography and writing is a bonus (not to mention a little boost for the ego!)

To mark the turning of a new leaf—in life and on this blog, I will be attempting to bake my very first panettone. Project Panettone is definitely an ambitious one. But I’m so excited about everything right now, especially this sweet Italian Christmas bread, that I know all will go well 😛

Update: Finished baking. Not really happy with the final results (-_-). The taste is right on—light and humble in sweetness, pleasingly crunchy to the bite, and just the right amount of citrus and spice. In short, it tastes like Christmas. It’s the aesthetics—the texture, look and feel—that are all wrong! The dough didn’t proof properly, which resulted in a heavy loaf. One of the attributes that makes panettone distinct as a bread is it’s light and airy texture—the way it pulls apart in feathery shreds when eaten. So the fact that mine does not do that is a problem. It’s not REAL panettone unless it does.

Yes, I’m disappointed. But this is just round one. I have a better understanding of this dough now. I’m thinking it’s similar to challah and Swiss Zuepfe, the latter of which I have figured out how to do well. So for this next round, I’m going to treat the dough more like Zuepfe, applying some of the same techniques. Hopefully it’ll work this time!


Panettone (adapted from an LA Times recipe)

Total time: 1 1/2 hours, plus proofing time

Servings: 12-16 (6-8 per panettone)

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup diced glace fruit or fruit peel (I used cherries and citron peel)

1/2 cup golden raisins

2 tbsp dark rum (I used water.)

2 pkgs active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water (110-115 F)

1/2 cup evaporated cane sugar, divided

2 eggs, at room temp.

2 egg yolks, at room temp.

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped

1/2 tsp salt

3 cups flour

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temp.

1/4 cup nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts), roughly chopped or slivered (I used flaked almonds)

1/4 cup marzipan, cut into small chunks

the zest of 1 orange, finely grated

1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a small bowl, combine the glace fruit/fruit peel, golden raisins and water. Let stand 30 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over 1/4 cup warm water (110-115 F), stirring until completely dissolved. Stir in 1 tsp of the sugar. Let stand until the yeast begins to bubble (about 5 minutes).
  3. To the yeast mixture, add the eggs, egg yolks, remaining sugar, vanilla pod seeds and the salt. Beat until combined with the whisk attachment on a stand mixer, or with a whisk by hand. Beat in the flour until blended with a paddle attachment or by hand using a fork.
  4. Beat in the softened butter (if not using a stand mixer, this may need to be done with your hands), a little at a time  until dough has a glossy sheen and becomes ropey (about 5 minutes by stand mixer, 10 by hand).
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead on a lightly floured board about 10 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and let rise in a lightly buttered bowl until doubled in bulk, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  6. Punch down the dough and lightly knead in the macerated glace fruit and raisins, chopped nuts and marzipan bits. Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a ball. Place 1 ball into each of two 5-in-wide and 3-in-deep paper panettone liners on a baking sheet. Cut a cross on the top of each of the balls of dough. Brush the tops with melted butter.
  7. Let the panettone rise until doubled, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Brush with butter. Put a second baking sheet under the panettones and bake in a 350 F oven for 30 to 35 minutes. When done, the panettones will be puffed and rich golden-brown.

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