Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Homemade Panettone - Italian Christmas Bread (Part 1)

(repost) Panettone - A recipe

 Panettone is a bread that you see on the shelves at Christmas time. It is quite delicious, high rising and flavorful -- packed with golden raisins, candied orange and a thick crust.
Perhaps you recall seeing dome shaped boxes like these at grocery stores, pharmacies and department stores?  Even these loaves that are mass produced are quite tasty - although fresh, is of course, best.
I bought 2 mini size loaves this year.  Each one was the size of a muffin!  They were adorable and delicious.  And, I must admit, I found the miniature packaging to be so cute!
After eating my second one, I decided that I wanted to try my hand at baking my own panettone.
The first thing I did was research.  I looked at a bunch of recipes and read to see how they varied.  After much work, I settled on Carol Field's recipe from her book The Italian Baker.  She is an excellent author and researcher.  Her recipes are authentic, humble and delicious. (I did some minor modifications to her recipe -- I always alter recipes.) I found her instruction on panettone to be thoughtful, thorough and easy to follow.  The end result -- Fantastic texture, extraordinary taste and the scent of the bread baking was worthy of it's own candle fragrance!
The recipe is fairly easy, as bread recipes go.  There is measuring, mixing and kneading and lots and lots of rising. I made the bread over the course of 3 days.
First, I made a starter.  This is just a simple mixture of yeast, water and flour.  I made this and then set it in the refrigerator overnight.  (I did this, strictly for my convenience, not because I think it enhanced the flavor.) I then followed the recipe, by making more dough and mixing the starter into the new yeast mixture.  Then, I let this rise overnight in the fridge as well. (Again, for convenience, as I couldn't get to it all in one day.) I let the dough come to room temperature and rise for a couple of hours more.
 I split the dough in half and folded in the raisins and citron mixture.  Since I couldn't find candied citron, I used a candied fruitcake mixture that contained candied orange, pineapple and cherries. I  removed the obnoxious green and red candied cherries and just used the candied citrus.
 I placed the completed dough into the moulds.  Interestingly, I was lucky that my father had some giant empty cans that worked perfectly.  (These cans held artichokes and eggplant at one time. They were approximately 2 lb coffee can sizes. )  I greased them with melted butter and lined them with parchment paper, which I greased as well.  I slashed X's in the top. Then I let these rise in the pans.
I slashed X's in the top. 
Then I covered them and let these rise in the pans.
 Once doubled in size, I re-slashed them and brushed them with melted butter.
 I baked them in the oven, follow Carol Field's suggestion about using a reverse heat pyramid.  I did change her timing and temperature a bit and found a  400 degree oven, for 10 min, 375 degree for 10 min and then 350 for 10 minutes, 325 for 30 minutes to be effective for the size pans I used.
 Look at the rise and the crust on these!  They smelled so good. I could hardly wait for them to cool!
 Carol Field recommends letting them cool in the pan on a rack for 30 min, then removing them an placing them on their side on "pillows" so that they don't drop.  I removed them from the pan after 15 min, as I felt they were sturdy and cool.
I placed them on their side and let cool.  Well, one I let cool completely. The other one, I wrapped in kraft paper and delivered while still warm to my father.
I love how the rustic bread looks wrapped in paper and twine!

Oh - I sliced the bread and ate a piece.  Then, my daughters followed suit and it was unanimous!  Delicious.  I think I will be making another batch!
I posted the recipe I used -- with some alterations, here.

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