Project Panettone – Round II: Here I Go Again

I’m feeling strangely optimistic about this round. Completely different recipe, totally different method from Rosa over at Rosa’s Yummy Yums. I’ve used a ciabatta recipe of hers several times before— always with excellent results—so I think my odds for success this time are pretty high.

The big difference with this recipe is the use of a biga or starter, which is a flour-water-yeast mixture that develops overnight (12 hours) and is added to the main dough the following day. This is smart; every time I’ve used a starter I’ve had good results. Actually, in researching this second time, I found that the use of a starter is a basic part of most panettone recipes. LA Times—bah. (OK, my failure in the 1st round is probably not ALL their fault 🙂 )

Another variation here is the method in which the dough ingredients are combined. Apart from the dried fruit, all dough ingredients are simply added together into one bowl; no separate whisking, stirring or kneading necessary. This worries me, but I just learned that this is part of the biga method, so I’m going with it. Besides, if it works—all the better—LESS work is never a bad thing.

So here I go again. (Stage-by-stage updates follow the recipe)

Panettone II (Adapted from Rosa’s Yummy Yumsversion of the original from King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion Cookbook)

Makes 1 loaf

INGREDIENTS

Biga (starter):

1 1/2 cups (180g) all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (125g) lukewarm water

1/2 tsp active dried yeast

Dough:

3 large eggs (ca. 53g each)

1/2 cup (125g) unsalted butter, softened

2 1/2 cups (315g) all-purpose flour

1/3 cup (75g) extra fine sugar

5 tsp active dried yeast

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla extract

the zest of 1 orange, grated

a pinch of ground nutmeg (optional)

1 1/2 cups (270g dried fruits and nuts, i.e. raisins, candied citron, candied cherries, walnuts, flaked almonds)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. The night before, prepare the biga: Combine flour, water and yeast, kneading briefly to make a stiff dough.

Humble little biga - the night before

  1. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and let it rise overnight at room temperature, about 12 hours.
  2. The next day, begin preparing the dough: In a bowl and with the help of a mixer, combine the biga with all the ingredients for the dough, except the dried fruit and nuts. (You can also do this by hand, which is what I will have to do.)
  3. Knead the dough until it is smooth and supple. (According to Rosa, the dough will seem very gummy in the beginning. Just keep kneading; it will come together in the end.)

Dough after the second proof (ca. 12 hrs)

  1. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and let it rest for 1 hour.
  2. Then, “turn” the dough. Add the fruit and nut mixture into the center and very gently knead until the fruit and nuts are just incorporated. (Rosa advises against over-kneading here as the sugars from the fruit can slow proofing. SO, only knead until the dough has accepted the fruit.)

  1. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, prepare a 8-in x 6-in (20cm x 15cm) pan by greasing it with softened butter and then lining the base and sides of the pan with parchment paper, so that the paper extends 5-in/12cm above the top of the pan. You can also just use one of those store-bought panettone paper or tin molds and line it with extra parchment to extend the top. (I used this size paper mold but think next time I’ll use a smaller one, in order to get the characteristic fluffy top.)
  3. Back to the dough: Shape the rested dough into a round loaf (ball method) and place it into your prepared pan/mold.
  4. Use the tip of a sharp knife to cut an “X” across the top.
  5. Cover the dough/pan with a damp towel and set it aside to proof for about 2 hours. (It may or may not double in size this time around.)
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F (180 C).
  7. Bake the panettone for 45 minutes, tenting it with aluminum foil for the final 15 minutes of baking. (Mine didn’t need the tent; I baked for 45, then brushed the bread with water and baked for another 10.) To check for doneness, tap the bottom with your fingers. If it sounds hollow, then it’s done.
  8. Remove the panettone from the oven, turn it out of the pan and let cool on a rack.
  9. Sprinkle the top with confectioners’ sugar.

12/22, 10 AM : It’s looking great so far. I got up at 6:30 (?!?!?!) this morning to start the next dough phase, which was to combine the biga and remaining ingredients (excluding the dried fruit) and knead together into a smooth dough. Everything came together really well—prior experience told me to mix together the wet and dry ingredients separately before combining. One thing worth noting is that the biga, which bubbled and doubled in size overnight, was really thick and doughy—it’s supposed to be this way. In any case, I kneaded everything together by hand and after about 10 minutes, I had a lovely, smooth dough that smelled so sweetly of orange zest and vanilla. I have left the house confident  that I will be coming home to a perfectly proofed dough. If only I didn’t have to wait so long!

12/22, 6 PM: The dough made it through the second rise with flying colors! (Picture above.) It’s bubbly and fluffy, which is how it should be. Everything from here on was simple as pie. I was extra careful to gently incorporate the fruit-nut mixture into the dough. (My fruit-nut amounts were as follows: 50g citron, 70g glace cherries, 75g Trader Joe’s dried cranberry-cherry-golden raisins mix and 75g flaked almonds.)

12/22, 9 PM: After letting the dough sit for 2 hours , I baked it for about 55 minutes, instead of the suggested 45. Maybe something with my oven is off, but the crust wasn’t golden after 45. So I brushed the top with a little water and put the bread back in for another 10, which resulted in a crust color much more to my liking.

At this point, I slipped the panettone out of its mold—it came out surprisingly easily—and let it cool on a wire rack. I waited til the morning after to slice into it.


12/23, 8 AM: It is pure HEAVEN. Colorful, light, airy and most importantly, it has that fluffy, feathery brioche texture that was so achingly lacking in the last round. I allowed myself a little sliver with my coffee. (I know it’s the holidays and a little indulgence is allowed around this time, but if I always followed that policy, I’d turn into a big, sugary ball 🙂 Sometimes it really does feel like I am composed of pure butter and sugar.) Oh, such a delight! Sweet and bursting with that Christmas-y citrus flavor I love. Next time I’ll be using candied orange peel in place of the citron (not a big fan of the stuff).

All in all, this is an awesome recipe: easy to follow, no complex steps or methods and best of all (for me), it can all be done by hand. It’s also just plain delicious. I’ll definitely be using this next year. Yay for Rosa and her Yummy Yum panettone recipe!


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