I already had my Christmas cooking schedule finalised when I found out I had been accepted to join a group of baking and blogging enthusiasts dubbed the Daring Bakers. Each month this group tackles a baking recipe that requires some serious feats of daring-do and December’s task was no exception.
The December 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by the talented Marcellina of Marcellina in Cucina. Marcellina challenged us to create our own custom Panettone, a traditional Italian holiday bread! Marcellina threw down the gauntlet with an accompanying pdf containing no less than 13 pages of recipe instruction. Kind of not what I needed in the middle of a frenetic Christmas period but I do enjoy a good challenge……
Complicating matters was the fact that I had never tasted a Panettone before. I’ve seen them stacked in their cardboard boxes in the shops at Christmas time but have always given them a wide berth; the idea of a pre-packaged bread as a festive treat has never appealed somehow. However I was intrigued to give a homemade Panettone a whirl, especially as Marcellina is of Italian parentage so must know a good Panettone when she eats one.
Traditionally Panettone contains sultanas and candied peel but as I am not too fond of either, Marcellina thankfully gave us free rein to flavour the Panettone as we wished. Still mourning the end of my delicious cherry and chocolate stollen spirals, I decided to use the same flavour combination in my Panettone; rum soaked glace cherries with chunks of dark chocolate and marzipan.
I did add a little orange peel for good measure as Marcellina had included a recipe for making your own homemade candied peel. As a first time Daring Baker I figured I should look enthusiastic and go the whole hog!
When you break it down, the Panettone recipe is actually not too difficult but the multiple-risings required by the enriched bread dough mean it’s a time-consuming bake; you need 48 hours to really do things properly. However, it is TOTALLY worth the time and effort. I am a complete and utter Panettone convert and I can see that a tradition has been established where this is going to be a regular on my Christmas table.
The bread is rich and buttery like brioche. Studded with chunks of chocolate, cherry, marzipan and orange it was moist, flavourful and a real taste of Christmas. Best of all, it lasts and lasts and lasts. Mine accompanied me on a 13 hour road trip this Christmas and it still tasted as good a week later as the day I baked it.
Marcellina has published the full Panettone recipe on her website or it is available to download as a PDF from the Daring Bakers recipe archive. Below I have listed the adaptations I made to the recipe, the little snags I hit along the way and the things I would do differently next time:
- Marcellina’s recipe makes two loaves. I halved her recipe to make one Panettone and replaced the ingredients for the filling with 50g chopped glace cherries soaked in 2tbsp dark rum, 50g diced dark chocolate, 50g diced marzipan and 50g diced candied orange peel.
- I replaced the lemon and orange essence with 1tbsp of dark rum. I also added a splash of rum to the almond glaze and decorated my Panettone with almond nibs.
- The biggest problem I encountered was that my dough was very sluggish during its final rise. After overnighting in the refrigerator, it took 6 and a half hours (!) to finally double in size. After more than four hours of not-much-doing, I wrapped the tin in clingfilm and left the dough in the heat of the South African sun which soon got it moving.
- My filling wasn’t very evenly distributed throughout the Panettone. Next time I would try adding the filling in three separate additions rather than two.
- When making the candied orange peel, my hob was too powerful to keep the sugar syrup at the correct temperature so I simmered the peels for just an hour. They probably weren’t quite as tender as they should have been but still a heck of a lot tastier than the commercial stuff.
- I ended up with a hole in the top of my Panettone where I added the knob of butter prior to baking. I managed to patch it with the almond glaze but next time I would leave out this step – there is so much butter in the bread anyway I am not sure it needs it!