Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Last spring, after I made Columba di Pasqua for Easter, I decided I was going to make pannetone for Christmas. The breads are pretty similar---a rich bread dough stuffed with candied citrus zest. (That reminds me, I need to order the Columba di Pasqua molds now).

All fall, I kept my eyes open for pannetone recipes. I had one in my Williams-Sonoma Baking Book, but wanted to make sure that was THE ONE. I stumbled upon Chocolate Cherry Almond Pannetone on the King Arthur Flour website and decided that one was it. I tried it twice. Both times, the results were rather dry (I decided I used the wrong size pannetone mold and overbaked it) The first attempt I also had a difficult time figuring out how to double the recipe, making some major mistakes. Neither time the dough rose very fast, which is unusual for my house.

Now if there is one personality trait that has been a constant in my entire life, it's persistence (that's the positive spin for the word stubborn). I was determined that I could conquer pannetone, so I ditched my sweet, chocolatey recipe and turned to Williams-Sonoma.

Perfection. It was light and rich with the texture of brioche. The candied citrus zest was the perfect match for the sweet bread. We gave some to our neighbors for Christmas. She is still raving to me about it.

So, at my cousin's urging (who has also fought with pannetone this winter and who is just as stubborn--wait, I mean persistent--as me), I am sharing the recipe. I have no pictures, because I had decided against posting this at one point.

A couple of notes. Make the candied citrus zest (if you are making from scratch and not buying somewhere) a day or two before you want to make the pannetone. If you want to buy paper pannetone molds, try Sur la Table (Williams-Sonoma doesn't carry them). I've found a couple of different size molds. For this recipe, use a mold between 5 - 6" in diameter. The 7" one is too big and will result in the bread being dry if you don't shorten the baking time considerably. If you don't want to buy them, or can't find them (you can also find them online at Amazon), try this (which is straight from Williams-Sonoma Baking Book, I didn't try this myself so I didn't feel good giving my own directions).

--Line two 6" cake pans (springform or regular) that are 3" deep with parchment paper. Brush the parchment with butter. Cut a strip of aluminum foil about 8 inches wide and 2 inches longer than the circumference of the pan. Fold the foil in half lengthwise, and butter one side of the strip. Using kitchen string, tie the strip of buttered aluminum foil, buttered side faicing in, around the outside of each pan, making a collar that extends 2 - 3 inches above the rim of the pan.

slightly adapted from The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book

Candied Citrus Zest
4 oranges (organic preferable since you're using the peel)
4 lemons (organic preferable since you're using the peel)
3 c plus 2/3 c sugar
2 T fresh lemon juice

Scrub the oranges and lemons well. Cut a slice from the blossom end of each piece of fruit. Using a vegetable peeler or a sharp paring knife, cut strips of zest, leaving as much white pith behind as possible. Cut the strips into 1/4" wide strips. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Add the zest and cook for 5 minutes. Drain the zest, refill the pan, and repeat the process. In a second saucepan, combine 3 c sugar with 1 1/2 c water and the lemon juice. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the zest, reduce heat to as low as possible, and simmer until zest strips are translucent and tender, about 30 minutes. Carefully remove zest from sugar water and place on a wire rack (waxed paper underneath makes clean-up easier). The strips should not be touching each other. Let dry overnight at room temperature. Put remaining 2/3 c sugar in a bowl. Toss the zest, about 10 strips at a time, in the sugar. If using for pannetone immediately, cut into small pieces. Otherwise, put in an airtight container for up to a month and chop before using.

The sponge
1/4 c warm water
2/3 c warm whole milk
4 t active dry yeast
pinch of granulated sugar
1/2 c bread flour

The dough
3/4 c butter, melted
1/2 c sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon or orange
1 1/2 t salt
2 large eggs, plus 3 large egg yolks
3 1/2 - 4 c bread flour
1 c golden raisins
candied citrus zest (recipe above--use it all), diced
2 T raw or coarse sugar

To make the sponge: Combine milk and water in a stand mixer bowl. Sprinkle in yeast and a pinch of sugar and stir to dissolve. Let stand for 10 minutes or until foamy. Add 1/2 c bread flour and beat on medium speed until smooth, using the whisk attachment. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add the melted butter, 1/2 c sugar, zest, salt, eggs, egg yolks, and 1 c of flour to the sponge. With the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Add remaining flour, 1/2 c at a time, stirring to incorporate after each addition, until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed, adding flour a little at a time (1 T - 1/4 c. I add 1/4 c at a time in the beginning, and as the dough gets thicker, I add just 1 t at a time), if the dough is too soft and sticky. Knead in stand mixer until dough is soft, smooth, and springy, about 5 minutes. Transfer dough to a large buttered bowl, turning the dough once to coat dough with butter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface (depending on your surface--on my quartz counters, I don't need flour) and knead gently for a minute. Return to the bowl, re-cover, and let the dough rise again at room temperature for another hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Have prepared bread pans ready (see above recipe if you are shaping your own bread molds). In a small bowl, stir together the candied zest and golden raisins. Set aside. Turn the dough out onto the work surface. Pat the dough into a large oval and sprinkle evenly with half of the fruit mixture. Press the dough to adhere the dried fruit to it and roll the dough up. Repeat, adding remaining dried fruit. Knead the dough a few times to smooth out the dough. Make sure dried fruit is evenly mixed in (if dried fruit ends up all in the middle of the loaf, the loaf will be unbaked in the center). Divide the dough into two equal portions and shape into 2 tight round loaves, gently pulling surface taut from the bottom. Place one ball in each prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough domes up to the rim of the collar, about 1 1/2 hours (the added dried fruit slows down the rising process).

Place a baking stone in the center of an oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle each loaf with 1 T raw sugar. Place the bread on the stones and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake an additional 25 - 30 minutes, or until the leaves are a golden brown and have reached an internal temperature of 190 degrees (use a meat thermometer. You could use a cake tester. Insert cake tester into center of loaf. Tester should come out clean). Let the bread cool in pans for 5 minutes, then remove foil collars, if using. Gently turn the bread out on wire racks, stand right side up, and let cool completely. If using paper molds, just leave in molds until you are ready to eat it.

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