I've been obsessed with panettone this winter. It started last winter, when I saw a recipe in Gourmet for panettone, or maybe even before that, when a Peruvian friend in Houston gave me one for Christmas. Peruvians love panettone; it's everywhere at Christmas. People give each other panettones in gold boxes, and it's better than fruitcake; people actually eat it.
Panettone is originally from Italy. It's a sweet bread with a lot of egg and butter in it, and it has dried fruit too. It's a kind of fruity brioche I suppose.
The first recipe I tried this year was from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It's easy and pretty good. You don't have to knead in softened butter; you simply melt the butter and add it to the liquid ingredients before you add the flour. You can use any dried fruit you want. I used sour cherries, blueberries and raisins. The sour cherries were very good in this bread I thought. The recipe made enough for three loaves, and you can store in the refrigerator for up to five days and bake a new panettone every day. I found that the final rise for me was longer than the recipe says; maybe this is because my house is somewhat cold.
I liked the Artisan Bread in Five panettone, but it didn't have the lovely shreddy character of the "real" panettone that you get in a store. However, later I found a recipe at Wild Yeast that resulted in such a perfect texture and crumb that I almost devoured a whole loaf by myself. This recipe takes longer: you make a stiff starter out of your regular sourdough starter, and that takes a whole day; then the first dough takes another 12 hours to ferment. Finally, the last rise takes four hours, but again, mine didn't rise really enough in that time, and I think I should have left it to rise longer, even though it was sitting on an electric heating pad. Still it was very, very good, if a little on the sweet side.
To make this recipe, I also made some candied citron and candied orange peel. This was easy. You just simmer the peels in water for fifteen minutes; then you simmer them in a 1:1 sugar syrup for 45 minutes. Scoop out of the syrup and let dry on a rack. Sprinkle with more sugar to keep them from sticking to each other.
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