The Panettone

SO this holiday season I decided that I was going to try something completely crazy and make Panettone. Everything I've read said it was super hard recipe and I'm still relativity new at bread baking but I went ahead with it. I used a recipe that found from a British website called The Happy Foodie. They had posted a recipe from the book Brilliant Bread by James Morton (He was a finalist on The Great British Baking show.) I choose this recipe because unlike so many of the recipes, this one used my sourdough starter. I thought that would be more authentic and give me another recipe to use my starter with. It turned out to be an experience to say the least. Didn't go quite like i would have lived. It wasn't super pretty but it tasted nice. So here is what I saw with this recipe so you can learn from my experience and try it your self.



This recipe ended up taking me almost three days. The reason is it has two stages and with the sourdough starter its quite slow to rise. For the first stage combine strong flour (bread flour), sugar, starter, water and egg yolks. Now I tried it twice with slightly different variations. The one was with stiff starter and three egg yolks. The second time was with a wet starter (equal parts water and flour) and I weighed the egg yolks. I know what you're thinking, "Huh?" Hear me out. The recipe talks about the gloopy dough. Using the stiff starter it was very stiff. Like extra stiff. I wasn't sure it had worked. I did make sure that I needed it to window pane stage. If you've not used this before window pane stage is where you take a piece of the dough and pull it part. If the gluten is developed enough it won't break but stretch thin, allowing light through. Once you've kneaded the dough, add the soft butter. It will take some work to get the butter in. Now at this point I was sure it wasn't going to work, but I put it in a bowl, covered it, left it on the counter and started a second batch.



With the second batch I used the wetter starter. Also noticed something. On the recipe its states in parentheses 60 grams next to the 3 egg yolks. Because I'm always curious I decided to weigh the yolks to see if they really did come to 60 grams. They didn't. So I added yolks until I got the 60 grams, about 4. This did produce a much sloppier dough. Once I put in the butter I set it rise.



It ended up taking well over 12 hours to triple in size. The rise was incredibly slow. I really wanted to hurry it up but knew that if I did I risked killing the yeast. Once it had reached three times its original size I mixed the stage 1 dough with the remaining ingredients as the recipe instructed. One of the ingredients is orange blossom water. I wasn't even sure what that was so I looked it up and realized that finding it in my local grocery store would be impossible. Now the internet gave the substitute for the orange blossom water is orange zest. Well that's easy enough so I that's what I did. The recipe did have me kneed the dough again until it passed the window pane test then add the butter. At the end add the dried fruit and candied peel. I found the peel tricky to find. I ended up at a little British food store in an odd little shopping center. They knew exactly what I was looking for, I just had a hard time finding them. As far as the dried fruit I choose to do a mix of fruits rather than just the sultanas.


Now this is where I had to deviate from the recipe a little. For some reason my dough was quite sloppy, more like cake batter than bread dough so I did no shaping. I just plopped it down in the case. I bought paper panettone cases. My reasons were this, 1 i won't have it wash it when i was done ( all ways a plus) and 2 I could insert skewers which would let me hang it upside down for cooling. At this point I set it to rise for another 12 to 14 hours or doubled in size. Now I did take the other batter ( the extra stiff one) and made a second loaf. I didn't put any dried fruit or peel in it and set it to rise as well.



When they had doubled in size I got them ready for the oven. I preheated the oven to 420F (220C), put a baking sheet and glass pan in to get and waited. Once they were hot I placed the panettone on the baking sheet and put water in the glass pan for steam. At this point I ran into a problem. I didn't know how to tell if it was done. I went with the poke method. I used a skewer and and waited for it to come out clean. It was the only way I could think of.



In the end the loaves tasted quiet nice. Not particularly pretty but tasting nice. I would totally make this again. I think if I was to do it again I would use the stiff starter and weigh the eggs. Combine the two tries. I think I would also add additional flour if its still sloppy at the end. Make it stiffer, shape able. But I wouldn't change the flavors. So good and made the best french toast.


The Recipe

stage 1

170g strong white flour

55g caster sugar

60g very active white sourdough starter

35g tepid water

3 egg yolks (60g)

60g softened butter

Stage 2

40g strong white flour

40g caster sugar

1 tsp high-quality vanilla extract

1 tsp orange blossom water (or Aroma Panettone, if you have it)

15g honey

3g salt

30g tepid water

3 egg yolks (60g)

65g unsalted butter, softened

100g sultanas (or dark chocolate chips)

100g Italian mixed candied peel

oil, for shaping

Essential kit

You will need a panettone case.

Instructions

1. In a large bowl, mix together your Stage 1 flour, sugar, starter, water and egg yolks until they form a dough. It helps if you have an electric mixer, if I’m honest, because this dough is all about gluten development.

2. Knead your Stage 1 dough vigorously for 10–15 minutes until it passes the windowpane test easily. Only then, add the butter and beat until totally smooth and combined – at least another 5–10 minutes. Your once gloopy dough will have come together into something rather beautiful.

3. Proving time here is very long, and as such is highly dependent on temperature. You want it to at least triple in size. If your air temperature is in the high twenties or so, then this will only take about 10–12 hours. For me in my cold, student flat, this will take an entire day or more.

4. Once tripled in size, it’s time to add the Stage 2 ingredients. Add the flour and sugar, then mix to combine into a new, drier dough. Add the extracts, honey, salt and water, incorporating them into the dough. Finally, add the egg yolks, and again mix into a coherent dough.

5. Sorry but it’s time to knead again. And again, knead vigorously, for a good 10–15 minutes at least, until it passes the windowpane test easily. Only then, start incorporating the softened butter.Continue to work until this is totally smooth and incorporated, probably another 5–10 minutes.

6. Finally, add the sultanas (or chocolate chips) and mixed peel. Keep working the dough until you are absolutely positive that the fruit is as evenly distributed as it can be. Now, prepare your panettone case. Insert two wooden skewers along the base of the case, so once baked you’ll be able to hang the bread upside down.

7. Shaping a panettone is difficult, I’m not going to lie. You want a beautifully smooth and rounded surface with high surface tension and well supported sides. Although traditionally shaped using melted butter, I think oil is your best bet. Turn your dough out on to a heavily oiled surface and shape into a boule as per previous instructions. Because the dough is so wet and the oil is absorbed rapidly, you’ve got to be really quick. As soon as it looks smooth and tight and is holding its shape, plonk it into your panettone case.

8. Prove in your panettone case for approximately another 10–14 hours, depending on your room’s temperature. Again, in my draughty student flat, this prove took overnight then half the day. You want your dough to at least double in size, so it has climbed at least half way up the inside of the panettone case. If you’re worried about overproving whilst you go out, fridge it.

9. At least half an hour before baking, preheat your oven with your baking surface inside to 220°C/gas 7.

10. Just before you bake, turn the oven down to 180ºC/ gas 4. Then, take your panettone and score a large cross shape in the top using scissors, a peel or a razor blade. To the middle of the cross, add a small knob of butter. This is the traditional Milanese panettone; the cross signifying the Christian crucifix.

11. Bake for about 50–70 minutes on the bottom shelf of the oven. If it is becoming very dark after 30 minutes, turn the oven down. Add a cup of water to the bottom of the oven to create steam.

12. When hot, a panettone cannot support its own weight like when it is cool. Therefore, once it is out the oven, it will begin to collapse and lose the magnificent height. The solution to this lies with the skewers through the bottom of the panettone. Using two chairs, or two stacks of DVDs, hang the panettone cases upside down. Leave to cool like this for at least 4 hours, but you could leave it overnight.

Congratulations, you have just baked one of the hardest breads there is! I’m sorry it took so long, but I hope you’ll agree it was worth it.

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