Sunday, December 26, 2010

The world-wide panettone movement

One of my holiday traditions is baking panettone, a type of Italian holiday bread eaten for both Christmas and New Year. It's a bread that is very popular in South America as well as Italy.
It's laden with butter and eggs in what is called an enriched dough. The ending "one" implies that this bread is big or special. You can buy panettone in fancy packages, but I'm suspicious of any bread that claims it can be eaten months after it is baked. Scary. Making homemade panettone is a bit of production because the dough must rest in the refrigerator overnight but it's well worth the effort. Like most bread, the hands-on time isn't long. (And if you have a heavy duty stand mixer, you hardly have to do any actual work.) If you make homemade panettone you don't have to eat mysterious red and green fruit pieces but whatever dried fruit you like. I pick two kinds from candied papaya, candied ginger, currants, raisins, dried cherries or cranberries. I've used walnuts, macadamias, pine nuts and pecans. I only use 2 kinds of fruit and some nuts, so the flavors don't get too confused.
   I make about 8 loaves a year and it's a gift that always seems to be appreciated. I've even given it to Italians and had them rave about it. I guess they were homesick. Of course, I have to do quality control every year to make sure I haven't lost my touch. Usually we do quality control on two loaves. Just to be sure.
Note on the mold. Panettone is traditionally made in a tall mold. Mine appeared unordered in a shipment of kitchen goods, as if to let me know that my destiny was to make panettone. I've been fulfilling that destiny for over 25 years. You can now buy one-time-use paper molds—or you can shape the dough into rolls. I've done that and it's delicious. Then I like to call them panettini.
  What's your favorite holiday baking project?

2 T yeast
1/4 C warm water
1T sugar
Mix and let bubble. Add 1/3 C flour. Let rise until double.

2 1/2 C flour (bread or all-purpose)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C sugar
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1 T + 1 tsp water
3/4 C softened butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 tsp vanilla
grated lemon peel from one lemon or 1/4 tsp lemon extract or 1/4 tsp almond extract

Combine these ingredients with the ball of yeasted dough. Knead 10-15 min. Add more flour as needed, usually about 1 cup. (Your goal is to add a minimum amount of flour so the dough isn't dry.) Then add 1 cup total of dried fruit and chopped nuts. The best way to incorporate the fruit and nuts is to flatten the dough, spread on a layer of the fruit and nuts and then fold the dough several times. Let rise until double. (Enriched doughs often are very slow to rise. Be patient.) Punch down and refrigerate overnight, covered.
Punch down and place in buttered mold. Let rise until double. To speed up the action of this cold dough, I put the pan in a very warm place: on top of some potholders sitting on the radiator until it gets warm and starts rising. Bake 400 for 10 min. and 350 for 30-40 min.


Evelien said...

I am certainly going to try your Panettone recipe. If I bake something in december it's either my grandmothers 'Speculaasbrokken' for the Dutch 'Sinterklaas' on 12-05 or my mothers Christmas 'kransjes' (both cookies). Do you want the recipe?

Carolina said...

Yes! I always love new cookie recipes, especially if they are holiday favorites, which are always the best! You can PM in Ravelry or post here if you're willing.

fidlstix said...

Just had to pop in to say I've always wanted to try to make this- I buy the packaged stuff despite my fear of unidentifiable fruit bits.I posted about our families Christmas Cake today
Happy New Year to you!

Carolina said...

Hi fidlstix,
thanks for stopping by and commenting. Your cake recipe looks very interesting. I think that recipes that have stood the test of time to become family traditions are the greatest!