A year ago, I had every intention of baking panettone for the holidays, and then somehow Christmas was gone in a flash and my kitchen saw not a single loaf of festive, fruit-filled bread. So this year, I was determined to make it happen. I even earmarked some of the candied orange peel I made in November for this very purpose. I used the panettone recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice which is a two-day process unless you need to bring your sourdough starter to room temperature and feed it before you get started in which case it becomes a three-day process. The first two days’ tasks are minimal, but the waiting time between days is necessary. This panettone recipe is made with a fairly rich dough with an egg and an additional egg yolk and half a cup of butter, and even though the dough is soft and a little sticky, it wasn’t difficult to knead or shape. The fun part was mixing the dried and candied fruits with rum, Gran Marnier, and vanilla so they could sit overnight to plump and absorb great flavors before being mixed into the dough. I made one big loaf in an eight inch springform pan and used the rest of the dough for muffin tin-sized mini panettones.
So, step one was making a wild yeast sponge with a barm or starter, milk, and flour. The sponge sat at room temperature to ferment for four hours before spending the night in the refrigerator. Also, on that day, the dried and candied fruits were soaked in rum, an orange or lemon extract and I chose to use Gran Marnier instead, and vanilla and left to sit overnight. I used dried sour cherries, dried cranberries, golden raisins, and chopped candied orange peel. The next day, the wild yeast sponge was brought up to room temperature before mixing the dough. I used a stand mixer and combined flour, sugar, salt, and instant yeast before adding the sponge, the whole egg, and an egg yolk. Water was added until the dough came together, it was allowed to rest for a bit, and then softened butter was worked into the dough before the soaked fruit mixture was added. It was kneaded with a dough hook for a few minutes, and then transferred to a floured board. The almonds were worked in while kneading by hand. Because this is a sticky dough and you don’t want to add too much flour while kneading, I used a bench scraper to lift and turn the dough while kneading with the other hand. It was left to ferment for two hours, shaped into one big loaf and some muffin sized pieces, and then all of that proofed for two more hours. For the big loaf in the springform pan, I placed a parchment collar around the sides and a parchment circle in the bottom of the pan. Last, the big loaf baked for about an hour, and the minis were pulled from the oven after about 25 minutes. The bread should reach 185 degrees F in the center.
If this bread counts in any way as a fruitcake, then it’s my favorite fruitcake ever. In fact, I’m thinking this should become an annual tradition. I can try different dried and candied fruit and different liquors or liqueurs each time, and I may never make the same panettone twice. The soft, brioche-like bread was irresistible warm from the oven, and it keeps well wrapped in foil too. It was so enjoyable simply sliced and toasted over the next few days, I never got around to trying it as French toast or in bread pudding, but that’s just another reason to make it again next year.
I’m submitting this to Yeastspotting where you’ll find some seriously well-made bread.