Monday, January 14, 2013

Panettone with Citrus, Fig, Apricot and Walnuts

Panettone recipe
The Italians make better fruit cake than we Brits.
Panettone was the December Daring Bakers Challenge and I was very pleased about it because not only had I never heard of it, but it was the perfect combination of "time consuming" and "bread making" that makes me feel like I've completed something really fancy and challenging, even though it wasn't terribly difficult. On top of that, it was lovely and delicious.

If you look up panettone on the internet, as I promptly did in curiosity about whether it was a cakey-bread or a bready-cake (it's the former), you'll find a ridiculous origin story about some guy named Antonio who was commissioned to make a special bread. You can breathe a sigh of relief. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the etymology as: pane + et + on. Aka, bread + diminuitive suffix + noun suffix. No Antonios. Wait, does that make you sad? It makes me happy.

Aww, sweet little bread thing.

Panettone Recipe
"Pane de Tony!" Get it? Hardeehar har. In some cases, I think he used the magical
bread to win the hand of the King's daughter.
In any case, Panettone turns out to be delicious. At least, mine was delicious. I've never eaten an official panettone, and so I really have no way of knowing whether what I made tasted like *real* panettone. It reminded me a little bit of brioche, which makes sense because it's a buttery egg bread. I was a bit nervous about the fruit because I'm not a big fan of fruit cake, but in the end I could have doubled the fruit and nuts because I constantly found myself wishing for more. Don't fear the fruit! The smell was also pretty incredible and, somehow, very Christmas-y despite no cinnamon, cloves, or tinsel. I suppose the strong smell of orange triggered some atavistic stocking-stuffer cue. Yes, ancient. Did people even have fire in the 1830s?

Good for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
I definitely ate a lot of panettone for two days. I also made some into French toast, which was super-decadent. I've never made Frech toast before, so I just soaked some of the panettone in egg and cream and milk and then fried it in butter before eating it with proper Quebecois maple syrup sent by J's parents. Good god, who eats French toast for breakfast?! It's cloying. If eaten ever, if should surely be a dessert. Then again, my favourite post-birthday breakfast is mocha cheesecake (it's just like having a morning coffee, afterall. . .)

Despite my fancybread gorge, two loaves were way too much for J and I, so I wrapped the second loaf up and walked it over to my old supervisor's house (old as in previous, though I suppose maybe also as in aged, depending on your age-of-view). He's got real Italian Mafia lineage, so I thought he'd know what panettone is supposed to taste like, but he claimed never to have eaten it before either. Nevertheless, he and his wife made me ginger tea and we chatted for a while and I had a lovely time even if after I left they might have been all, "what are we going to do with this bloody fruit cake?"

Okay, okay, cut to the recipe already.

candied citrus

Panettone (two loaves)
courtesy of Marcellina

Note that all times are approximate and vary with the weather.
Sponge (35 minutes)
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/3 c (80 ml) warm water
1/2 c(70 g) AP flour
First Dough (20 minutes + 1 hr rise)2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
3 Tbsps (45 ml) warm water
2 eggs
1 1/4 c (175 g) AP flour
1/4 c(55 g) sugar
1/2 cup (115 g) butter
Second Dough (20 mins + 2-4 hrs or cool overnight)
2 eggs
3 egg yolks
2/3 cup (150 g) sugar
3 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon essence/extract
1 tsp orange essence/extract
1 tsp salt
1 c (225 g) butter
3 c (420 g) AP flour; plus some for kneading
Filling and Final Dough (~1 hr)
2 1/2 c (250 g) delicious things: walnuts, candied orange*, chopped dried fig and apricot
Grated zest of 1 orange
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 to 3 Tbsp (15-25 g) AP flour

Sponge: In a medium bowl, mix the water and yeast, and let it sit until frothy (~10 mins). Mix in the flour. Cover the bowl and allow the sponge to double (~20 mins).
First Dough: Again, mix the water and yeast and allow to stand until frothy. Mix in the sponge and beat well. Mix in the eggs, flour and sugar by hand or with your mixer's paddle. Add butter and mix until smooth, about 6 minutes by hand or half that by mixer. Cover bowl and allow the dough to double (~1 1/4 hr).
Second Dough: Into your first dough, mix eggs, yolks, sugar, honey, extracts, and salt. Mix in butter until smooth. Slowly incorporate the flour and then knead until the dough kind of holds its shape. Form your dough into a ball and slide it into an oiled bowl. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to triple (2-4 hours in a warm spot, or overnight in a cool spot, or 2 hours warm and overnight in the fridge and then allow it to wake up again for an hour or so in the morning).
Filling and Final Dough: If you are using raisins, soak them and drain them about 30 minutes before the end of the first rise. Combine all of your fillings, and mix well. Now, if you have fancy panettone papers, great. If you don't, you can fashion them out of parchment paper and staples or, if you have two handy 6" cake pans like I did, you can make a parchment paper collar for the pans.
Cut your dough in half, press each half into an oval shape, cover each in 1/4 of the filling and then roll them up into a log, press them out again, cover them in the rest of the filling, and roll them up again. Shape each loaf into a ball and slip them into your make-shift panettone forms. Cut an X in the top of the ball and allow your two panettones to rise until doubled (2-4 hrs depending on how warm the dough is). When you think the rise is nearly done, pre-heat your oven to 400F. Stick a knob of butter in the X of each loaf, and bake them for 10 minutes before reducing the oven to 350F for another 10 minutes. Finally, reduce the oven to 325F and bake for another 30 minutes until a skewer stuck into the centre of each loaf comes out clean.
There are fancy ways to cool your panettone without it falling, but lying it on its side in the crevice of two rolled up towels and rotating it from time to time worked well for me. 

*I bought candied orange at our local fancy grocer's, but in retrospect I wish I'd candied my own. The difference is really significant. Traditional panettone also has an almond a poison glaze, which I skipped. 
Panettone French Toast
Honestly, I didn't notice much difference between Quebecois and Novascotian maple syrup. Don't tell J I said that. Perhaps I'll need to do a side by side taste test. Perhaps it's not in the flavour, it's in the sound. Quebecois syrup is délicieux and syrup from around here is [insert maritime accent joke].

Christmas Panettone
It's still a green Christmas out that window.

"The December 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by the talented Marcellina of Marcellina in Cucina. Marcellina challenged us to create our own custom Panettone, a traditional Italian holiday bread!"

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