Me and Panettone go way back. Well, sort of.
When I was living in Brooklyn, I would often come across these gigantic boxes of Panettone that had been imported directly from Italy. I dreamt of one day buying one of these boxes, taking it home, opening it up, oh-so-carefully, slicing myself a huge slice, and biting into sweet, sweet heaven.
My dreams were always dashed by the $16.99 price tag. Because of this, and my stroking of boxes whenever we found them in gourmet stores, Amy once gifted me a mini-panettone. I actually don't remember anything about it. My excitement overshadowed any flavor memory I might have created.
So, I was very much looking forward to making this recipe, conquering it, and laughing at my past, drowning myself in slices of cheap, cheap self-made Panettone.
But this bread is not cheap. To say it cost me 16,99 € would be an overstatement. I actually didn't count how much it cost, but it creeps up when I include the Orange and Lemon Extracts as well as the fruit and almonds. Not to mention the Scotch. But I was going to get rid of that anyways.
Now, some of you might gasp in horror at this first photo. I know, I know. But I had no other choice. Vanilla Extract is just not found in this country. After much searching and asking, I asked my mom to send me Vanilla beans. I cut them up and put them in 500mL of cheap Vodka and waited. Amazing that I still have some, but I don't usually bake sweet things. When I do, however, there is no replacement for real Vanilla Extract.
Oh, you're gasping at something else. The Single Malt Scotch that I got at Duty-Free a couple years ago? Ha! I actually won't miss it. I never drink it because it is too mild. Ever since discovering Lagavulin and then Laphoraig and then Ardberg and then obtaining a bottle of a '99 Cask Strength bottling from Caol Ila- to say I'm on an Islay kick would be putting it too lightly. I love peat and smoke. I'm not too fond of Bowmore, though, and I would love to get an older bottle of Ardberg. A 15, perhaps, but the distillery re-opened only about 12 years ago, so I'll have to wait a couple more years. I even tried getting into Talisker, which I'm actually sipping right now, but I'm doomed. I need that punch-in-the-gob-peat-flavor.
I actually used to like Macallan before I discovered the Islay Single Malts. I actually even tried giving this bottle away, but the friend, another Single Malt connoisseur, said to hold on to it. I might decide that I like it later on. Yeah, fat chance.
This is candied Orange. I love how it's called Orangeat, like Orange eat. The only other time I've ever bought candied fruit was when I made Stollen. It actually came out dry and crispy, so I never made it again. But every time I pass these things I get the urge to make it again. We actually will be making Stollen later in the challenge, but it will be in late January. I know everyone I know will be laughing at me, saying it's a month late. Good thing I can eat the evidence.
I'm not even going to go into how good this tasted. i kept plucking raisins and sour cherries out of the mix just to taste it. I even mixed it with my fingers just to be able to taste the sweet, sweet nectar of the fruits. I even considered just eating the mixture and calling it a day. I could say I couldn't resist and that I knew I would never get further because of the flavor of this concoction.
Here's where things began to go wrong- I bought some Type 550 flour especially for this recipe. Now, I know Type 812 and Type 1050 pretty well. We go way back, you could say. But Type 550, I very rarely use it.
At least I got the mise en place right. You probably can't see the writing on the candied fruit soaker, but I wrote "Fruit with Scotch- Awesome!" on the plastic wrap. That's how excited I was about it.
I'm going to skip to the chase and just say that here is the point where things began to go horribly wrong. The dough was not really coming toghether when I dumped the fruit in. As soon as it hit the dough I realized that not all of the liquid had been absorbed.
I scraped down the bowl several times, but the dough wasn't having it.
I did pull some out, and had good gluten development, however. It stretched out about 30cm before breaking, so I decided it was good and poured it into the rising bowl. It barely rose.
I was very careful in creating the Panettone molds out of parchment paper, particularly since i didn't even try to look for them here.
I even did some very fancy origami work with the parchment paper.
But there was still no rise.
Nope. Nothing to see. Move along now.
I gave this one small loaf away, and the two recipients absolutely loved it.
Although it looks like it's not burnt at the top, the bread actually did burn.
So I did the only reasonable thing I could think of. I doused the bread in Calvados and snacked on slices for a week. It helped moderately, but the texture was too dense and it just didn't seem right. I decided that I had tried and the bread came out not so good so, oh, well, right?
Wrong- A few days later, I was on the amazing site: The Fresh Loaf, and someone mentioned that their Panettone had not come out right. Later in the thread, someone recommended using fresh yeast, as the high sugar content of the dough will shock normal instant yeast.
So I planned a re-do.
This was the very first thing I ran out and bought. Though fresh yeast can be had here for about 10 Euro cents per 30g cube, I have never actually used it. Every time I have had it around, it's sat in the fridge, unused, slowly creeping into a brown shade. I also made sure to refresh my sourdough starter and the barm was much more active when I added it.
The rise was incredible.
When I went to split the dough, it was sticky and fluid but you could totally feel the strength in the dough. It was also light and airy, if you can describe fluid strong dough that way.
The small one overbrowned on the top, but was definitely not burnt. I took this one on a hike, and people loved it.
The bread ended up moist, and though I was not a fan of the flavor, I did keep cutting slices and breaking chunks off and popping them in my mouth. While not the most delicious bread, it was really good for what it was.
Here the crust is also quite brown, but it was definitely not burnt!
Even the bottom was beautiful. I was so proud.
The loaf was light, fluffy, and quite moist. I actually used the minimum amount of water in the recipe, but it still came out wetter and goopier and moister than the other one.
Would I make this one again?
No. Absolutely not.
I often come across certain breads in my daily life, and this Challenge has given me a greater appreciation of bread. I always take note of how it was baked, what the crumb looks like, and, in particular, the flavor of the bread itself. If I see an interesting bread, I'll buy it and say I'm doing research. I did come across a Panettone in the supermarket the other day for 3,49€, but couldn't bring myself to buy it as I was on the verge of making Panettone. It doesn't make sense to buy more of the bread you are baking, does it? In any case, Panettone is plenty cheap here, so if I ever want some, I can easily just buy it.