Monday, January 25, 2010

BBA Challenge Bread #24 — Panettone

Bread #24, eh? Yep, I'm out of order with posting because I skipped this bread when it came around. Panettone, at least this version, calls for a wild yeast starter and I didn't have mine ready in time. I managed to get my starter alive and well after a brief flirtation with disaster. Turns out, as with most things in the challenge, I just needed to be patient.

I'm baking my way through Peter Reinhart's award winning book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, along with 200+ other amateur bakers (maybe not that many anymore-it's hard to telll!). Want to join in the madness, or just learn more about this semi-crazy undertaking? Check out the following links:

As you may or may not know, Panettone is a rich, Italian, fruit-filled bread traditionally made and consumed at Christmas time. Apparently you can buy loaves of the stuff, packaged up in a box, just about anywhere. I happened to see loaves at–get this–CVS. Because that's where you'd go to buy Panettone, right? A drug store? Yikes.

I knew it wasn't like "fruit bread" fruit bread. Not a brick of candied grodiness. I'd seen recipes before and was intrigued by the idea —lots of booze soaked fruit in a slightly sweet, rich yeast bread. Sign me up! But it looked rather complicated, at least some of the recipes I'd seen. You bake them in special papers then rig a place to hang them upside down. Hunh?? Yeah, that part threw me. Fortunately, Peter Reinhart's recipe doesn't call for this step. Phew. 

I'd read some of the other baker's accounts and it was hit and miss, so I opted to halve the recipe. I picked up a bag of Welch's mixed fruit and soaked about cup of it in some whiskey (along with orange, lemon and vanilla extracts). You can use brandy, rum or whiskey. I think I would have preferred brandy, but didn't have any on hand. We'd used it all to make lots and lots of eggnog. It was totally worth it.
panettone-dried fruit

Anyway, back to the bread. At the same time I started soaking the fruit, I mixed up the sponge, a combination of the wild yeast starter, milk and flour. Both sat overnight for the next day's preparations. The rest of the ingredients—flour, salt, water, sugar, butter and eggs—are combined with the sponge. After a few minutes, the fruit and nuts are kneaded in. The dough then ferments about 2 hours, getting only about 1-1/2 times it's original size.

Then comes the shaping. I should have kept the dough in one hunk, but thought I'd be OK to make a small loaf and some rolls since the full recipe will make 2 large loaves. The poor loaf barely filled the 6" pan. I didn't even need the parchment collar. 
panettone-OH in pan

They all baked up nicely and smelled great. But how did they taste? Well, it was a mixed review for me. The rolls were awfully dry. This was a common complaint from many BBA Bakers. But the loaf was better. That seemed to be the trick. Keep the loaves large and they won't be so dry. One of the nice things about this bread is that it keeps a long time (no kidding, the folks at CVS know all about that), about 2 weeks. It's also supposed to make really good bread pudding. Now THAT I can see. The dryness wouldn't be a factor and the fruit and nuts would be perfect. Maybe next time. I might give this another go and stick with a larger loaf. Lord knows I love the rich, fruit-filled breads. It probably deserves another shot!


  1. Odd that the rolls were dry. Maybe they were baked too long? Still, the bread looks delicious. I have to make this one again.

  2. Looks delicious. Too bad the rolls were so dry. I also think they might have been to small. My panettone wasn't too dry - we totally loved it.


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