Blog-checking lines: The December 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Marcellina of Marcellina in Cucina. Marcellina challenged us to create our own custom Panettone, a traditional Italian holiday bread!
Panettone is a sweet and rich brioche-type dough loaded with dried and candied fruits and sometimes nuts or chocolate. I usually always buy a panettone or two at Christmastime, however the store that was my favorite source closed it’s doors last year. It was a funny coincidence that the December challenge to bake Panettone was announced just after I had independently decided to try baking it this year and had ordered panettone molds! I got the traditional paper molds in the mail a couple of days later and was able to jump right into the challenge.
I never knew the origins of panettone other than that it is an Italian treat. Apparently, it is traditionally eaten by the Milanese but is now available throughout Italy. The origins of the panettone per our Daring Bakers’ recipe source is that a rich young Milanese noble fell in love with a the daughter of a poor baker named Tony (Antonio). The nobleman wanted to marry the baker’s daughter so he ensured that the baker had the very best ingredients at his disposal – eggs, butter, flour, candied orange peel, citron and sultanas (raisins). The baker created a wonderful bread which became known as pan di Tonio (Tony’s bread). The baker found his fame and fortune and the nobleman honorably married the baker’s daughter.
For my first attempt, I used the recipe that Marcellina provided. Panettone dough is actually fairly simple to make but the process is spread out over many hours. It would be wise to dedicate a full day to the process. I didn’t have a full day, so I made the dough, let it have a first rise, and then stored it overnight in the refrigerator. When making the dough, I swapped out the orange and lemon extracts called for with 1 tsp of Fiori di Sicilia flavoring, which is something like a vanilla citrus combination. I think this flavoring was helpful in getting that traditional taste. The next day, I mixed in the fruits and let it rise again. For my add-ins, I used dried tart cherries and cranberries as well as chocolate chips and home-made candied orange peel. The final rise is where I ran into a problem as my kitchen was very cold and the bread still had not risen significantly over the course of about 5 hours. The rise was only supposed to take 2 hours, so I suspect that the chill never really came off the bread from the refrigerator. It was probably cold enough in my house that I could have let it sit in a cool room overnight rather than refrigerating the dough. Despite the pitiful rise, I needed to be out of the house for the remainder of the day, so I went ahead and baked it. I ended up with a pretty dense bread, but the flavor was super and exactly how my taste buds remembered the flavor of the purchased ones, only fresher and moister.
Once we ate our way through the two initial loaves of Panettone (which didn’t take long at all), I decided to try the recipe that I had originally planned on trying for Panettone, a no knead version from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. This recipe was much easier. I threw all the ingredients into the mixer, whipped it up, then let it rise in the covered mixer bowl until the dough had risen an then flattened per the recipe. Like the original panettone attempt, this rising took a lot longer than the 2 hours specified, taking a little over 4 hours in my chilly house. The dough then gets chilled in the refrigerator and can be used any time after it’s chilled. I waited 2 days before taking the dough out, scooping out a 1 1/2 lb portion, and letting it have a final rise before baking. This recipe does not rise a lot and, conveniently for the time-challenged, says not to let it rise any longer than 2 hours even in a cold kitchen. The dough is then egg-washed and sprinkled with pearl sugar and baked for about 50 minutes. Since I made a half-batch, I had enough for one panettone and 8 little ones baked in muffin molds. My husband refers to these as “Muffetone” and they are pretty darn cute.
The finished panettone is not as tall as I would like it to be, but it does taste delicious and is recognizable as panettone. I wonder if my molds are bigger than what the author used because they don’t fill up the mold at all but the bread seems to be the right texture. While delicious, I don’t think it tastes as authentic (to my expectations) as the other recipe. It’s quite a bit less sweet, which is kind of a plus this time of year when I tend to be a little sugared out. For my add-ins, I used mini chocolate chips and dried cranberries that I had chopped and home made candied orange peel. Adding the fruits to the dough in it’s initial mixing worked better for me than kneading them in and the smaller sizes also worked better. I was much happier with the fruit distribution in this loaf. Like the first one I made, fI also used the Fiori di Sicilia flavoring again but the 1/2 tsp. I used wasn’t quite strong enough so I would use more next time.
Both of these recipes were great in their own way. If I have the time, I would definitely make Marcellina’s recipe as my go-to panettone. However, when I’m crazy-busy over the holidays, the no-knead panettone is definitely worth making too.