I swear I'm not a Scrooge-y, Grinchy, mean ol' Grumpy Grumperson who hates the sparkling laughter of happy children as they open their presents and stomps on blow-up lawn Santas (although I'd like to), but I've never been big on holiday celebrations. What? WHAT?!? Before you grab the pitchforks and call out the villagers, I do actually love holiday time, but…I'm lazy. All that merriment is a LOT of work, people! Of course, when the kids (our one plus assorted nieces and nephews) were younger, we'd all get together at our parents' house, some time between Christmas and whenever Hanukkah/Chanukah was that year, for the Annual Exchanging of the Gifts With Many Teeny Pieces for Parents to Step On in the Middle of the Night (coughPollyPocketcough). We'd have an obscene amount of food, a noise level that hovered around 11, enough wrapping paper for a landfill and afterwards we'd take to our beds for a week to recover. Now that the kids are all grown and the gifts of Toys with Teeny Pieces have been replaced by gifts of green things with pictures of dead presidents on them, well…the holiday hijinks just ain't what they used to be. And I'm okay with that. These days, Junior Dough comes over for an extended holiday visit that we spend on the sofa in our jammies, watching wacky British game shows (Pointless!) and eating everything in the fridge that isn't green and fuzzy. (We do, however, give a slight nod to the holidays by going out on Christmas night for a nice uplifting movie–The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was one year's entry. Eeek–and sushi dinner at Fushimi in Brooklyn, worth a trip just for the bathrooms alone–really, Google it! But still, Christmas in Whoville it ain't.)
All of this brings me–in a VERY roundabout way (are you still with me here?)–to this month's #TwelveLoaves challenge: Holiday Breads. In my entire life, I don't think I've ever eaten a holiday bread. I hardly even know what one IS, because it's something we never had at holiday time and something I never thought about otherwise. The closest I’ve come to a holiday bread was the bûche de Noël that Junior Dough and I would bake each year, only because it was an assignment for the French Honor Society and that’s a cake (well, sort of in our case–let’s just say that cake decorating isn’t one of our talents and leave it at that) not a bread. Clearly though, I needed to get with the Holiday Bread Program so I chose panettone, mainly because it was the first one I could think of. Seriously, you can't turn around this time of year without knocking over a big honking display of the stuff, so I was pretty sure it qualifies as a holiday bread (and it does! I checked with Google! I always check with Google. Seriously, what would we–I–do without Google? I look back on life BG and I'm astounded that we made it this far as a species.)
Anyway…Most panettone recipes veer way too close to the much maligned fruitcake for my comfort (Candied fruit? Yuck. Nuts? HAAAAATE!). Or they're boozed up. But apricots and ginger? Oh boy. Stuff I love AND that I happened to have on hand. Even the Fiori di Sicilia–an obviously clairvoyant purchase on my part because I KNEW I'd need it for just such an occasion. Even with all of these things saying "Yes! Yes!," I didn't have high hopes for this at all. I wasn't quite sure what to expect tastewise, although it was definitely more along fruitcake lines. But… I WAS WRONG! The panettone was a revelation. O to the M to the G. Light, buttery, just slightly sweet, bursting with tangy apricot and spicy ginger with the indescribable aroma and flavor of the Fiori di Sicilia. Even without a frame of reference to go by, this was a winner. A holiday bread that BEGS for made-up holidays so I'll have more excuses to bake it. Fourth of July panettone anyone? Groundhog Day maybe? How about National Panettone Day? HAPPY CHRISMAHANUKWANZKAH! Or Festivus. For the rest of us.
apricot ginger panettone
- 120g / 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/16 teaspoon yeast
- 113g / 1/2 cup cool water
- all of the starter
- 241g / 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 28g / 1/4 cup potato flour
- 57g / 1/4 cup lukewarm water
- 2 large eggs
- 85g / 6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia flavoring
- 50g / 1/4 cup sugar
- 128g / 1 cup chopped dried apricots
- 50g / 1/3 cup diced crystallized ginger
- Pearl or confectioners sugar for sprinking/dusting (optional)
- To make the starter, combine the flour, yeast and water in a medium size bowl, cover and let rest overnight at room temperature, about 8–12 hours.
- The next day, add the starter and the remaining ingredients, EXCEPT the apricots and ginger, in the bowl of a mixer and mix until the dough comes together and is soft and sticky, about 3–4 minutes.
- Add the apricots and ginger and knead in until evenly distributed.
- Cover and let rise until the dough is puffy (it may not double in size).
- Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and gently deflate, then shape into a ball. Place the ball into a panettone pan. Sprinkle with pearl sugar if desired.
- Cover the pan and let rise until the dough is just over the top of the pan. When the dough is close to risen, preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Bake the bread for 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for another 30–35 minutes. If the crust is browning too quickly, tent it with foil.
- When fully baked, remove the pan from the oven and cool completely. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar if desired (skip this if you used the pearl sugar–total sugary overkill.)
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
The recipe suggests 1 to 1 1/2 hours for the first rise and 1 hour for the second. It is to laugh. The first time I made this, I stuck somewhat closely to the suggested times but I barely got a puff in the first round and didn't come close to cresting the top of the pan for the second. For the second bake, I let it go for nearly 3 hours for the first rise and OVER 4 for the second and it STILL didn't crest the pan. Both times, I used my proofing box at around 78°F. Comments on the recipe page back up the longer rise times.
A couple of posters on KAF recommended using SAF Gold yeast, which is formulated for rich doughs like panettone and brioche. Unfortunately, I didn't have any (WHAT?!?) so I used regular SAF but I have since remedied this horrible situation and I'll be baking the panettone again with the Gold to see if it makes a difference in the rise. I really, really, really want that poofy crown. Stay tuned.
I used paper panettone pans because I don't have a metal one (WHAT WHAT?!?). They're awesome. I stocked up on some mini ones too because this panettone is definitely going on the baked goods gift list.
Don't skip or substitute the Fiori di Sicilia. The aroma is divine and I can't imagine baking a panettone without it.
Google also turned up some tips on how to cool the panettone so that it doesn't collapse. After you remove the bread from the oven, take two long skewers and run them through the loaf just above the bottom of the pan, abour 3–4 inches apart. Then invert the panettone over some kind of support and allow it to cool upside down. Clear as mud? Well, this should help because I'm bad at 'splainin' stuff. Obviously, this method will only work if you use paper pans.
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