Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Is it a crime to bake Panettone after Christmas?

Cooking traditions passed down from mother to daughter are some of the most time honored traditions in my world. I cherish the knowledge of how to produce such anticipation and satisfaction in my home. Two of our family traditions are baking panettone at Christmas and only Christmas and the always anticipated ham and egg pie at Easter. Respecting these traditions is something I have never questioned. Our entire family paces through the kitchen on Christmas Eve in anticipation of a freshly baked panettone sweetened with orange zest, dried fruits and fragrant nuts. We actually count down the days until we can cut a slab off the enormous ham and egg pie (glorified Italian quiche) baked only on Easter Sunday. Of course, it is easy to overdose on these wonderful baked goods when you only get them once a year. And, it's easy to feel the nasty after effects of such an overdose as my husband realized after eating nearly an entire ham and egg pie last Easter. It was all of the eggs. He was uncomfortable for a week and swore he'd never eat that much egg in one day again. If I were a betting girl, I'd say we'll have a repeat this year - and will be sure to give you an update when that happens! :)

Well, with today's cold snap and blizzard-
like conditions after a week of gorgeous spring weather I am claiming temporary insanity and begging my mother, grandmother and great grandmother for forgiveness! It is possible, isn't it that the weather has driven me to commit such a crime? I think so. And am perfectly happy with sneering at any penitence that may have crept up on me for now I have the satisfaction of tearing into a beautiful, fresh loaf of panettone.

Here is the Panettone Recipe I used this year at Christmas. I repeated it again today with the addition of dried cranberries.



*****


My mother made Panettone every Christmas from a recipe passed on by my Italian grandmother, Helen Barcella Geremia. This recipe of my own is dedicated to my mother, who fostered my passion for baking since I was a child, and my grandmother, who inspired me to learn the Italian favorites.
Panettone 
When I was
 
young I hated the candied fruits my mother used in this Italian favorite and would eat only the orange scented bread leaving a pile of spent fruit on my plate. Over the years, I discerned that what I disliked wasn't the candied citron or nuts, but the sticky sweet and artificially colored candied cherries, pineapple and apple bits. I began working on my own recipe for Panettone 20 years ago and have decided that, with all Old World traditional recipes, you basically use what you have. This year I had no sour cherries or cranberries but had raisins and a lot of candied orange peel. You work with what you have. And I think this is the wonderful, magical element to Panettone and enjoying it but once a year.

***
Makes one loaf using a Panettone or brioche pan

Bread Dough 
(This is much more like a brioche dough, producing a very light and tender texture. Much different from my grandmother's original recipe) 
2 tbsp. warm water
1/2 tbsp. orange blossom water
3 tbsp. honey
a very small pinch of saffron, crushed
1 1/2 tsp. dry yeast (not rapid rise)
1 1/2 cups standard bread flour (give or take 1/4 cup depending on room humidity)
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs (1 at room temp., 2 cold)
10 tbsp. unsalted butter at room temp.
Fruit and Nut Filling
(Use what you have. Do not be afraid to make substitutions) 

1 tsp. candied lemon peel
1 tsp. candied orange peel
1 tbsp. toasted and chopped slivered almonds
1 tbsp. toasted and chopped pistachios
2 tbsp. golden raisens
1 tbsp. dried sour cherries or cranberries
1 tbsp. chopped dried apricots
1/2 tsp. anise seed, crushed
1 tbsp. Grand Marnier (or other orange liquor)

Egg Glaze
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp. cream


Apricot-Orange Glaze 
1/4 cup melted, strained apricot jam
1/2 tsp. orange oil
1/2 tsp. orange blossom water

1. Proof the yeast in the warm water with one tablespoon of the honey and the saffron. Meanwhile, place 1/3 cup flour and the one room temperature egg in a food processor (preferably with the dough blade) and process until mixed.
2. Add the orange blossom water to the yeast mixture and stir. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and egg and stir with a rubber spatula until smooth. Sprinkle the remaining flour over mixture and leave to rest for 1-2 hours.
3. Add the remaining honey, salt and eggs and process until the dough is smooth and shiny and cleans the sides of the bowl. Let rest for five minutes with the feed tube open.
4. Slowly add the butter through the feed tube in two batches and process for 10-20 seconds after each batch.
5. Turn dough out into a buttered bowl - it will be extremely soft. Sprinkle with flour to prevent from drying out, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until double in bulk for 2 hours.
6. Once the dough has risen, place bowl in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes up to one hour.
7. Remove dough from refrigerator and deflate by gently stirring it. Refrigerate another hour.
8. Marinate all of the fruit and nuts in the orange liquor for one hour.
9. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and gently kneed. Press into a rectangle and spread the fruit and nut mixture onto dough. Fold into thirds (as folding a letter) and kneed dough until the mixture is thoroughly incorporated.
10. Wrap the dough loosely but securely with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for six hour or as long as two days.
11. Remove dough from refrigerator and kneed on lightly floured surface until deflated. Place in well buttered Panettone or Brioche pan and let rise for two hours.
12. Place a baking pan on the center rack in the oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush the the Panettone with the egg glaze and place in oven and turn oven temperature down to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 20-25 minutes. Cover loosely with foil after approximately 10 minutes when crust starts to darken.
13. Unmold Panettone and immediately brush apricot-orange glaze to give a wonderfully glistening surface. 

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