I’ve struggled with pannettone for awhile. It’s a great Italian Christmas bread. Sweet, amazing, crumbly, and cake-like. I first had pannettone in, of all places, South Africa. It was prepared as french toast. The pannettone was prepared in an egg-ginger mixture, cooked, then topped with baked apricots, raspberry sauce, a dollop of whipped mascarpone, and some basil leaves. AMAZING!!!! =)

Now, I fully realise the irony of eating an Italian Christmas bread, given a “French” name, in South Africa, but whatever… it was amazing! =)

So, nearly a year after having the bread, I decided to try and make it, with a minor variation of my own. Here’s the recipe I found on the web:

1 oz. Baker’s yeast

3 oz. Flour

2 cups flour

7 tbsp sugar

1 whole egg

5 egg yolks

Salt

½ cup melted butter

6 tbsp raisins, soaked and squeezed (I used whole cranberries, roughly chopped)

2 oz. Candied orange and lemon peel, diced

1 ½ tbsp butter

 

Mix the yeast with the flour and as much water as necessary for the dough to be elastic. Wrap in a towel and put into a warm draft-free place until doubled in size (about 30 minutes) and the surface is uneven. Make a small Fontana with 4 tbsp flour. Crumble the dough cake on top of it, add ½ cup warm water and knead until the dough is elastic. Let rise for 3 hours.

 

Punch down the dough, and then knead in another 4 tbsp flour, with as much warm water as necessary. Place the dough in a warm place to rise for 2 hours. Combine the sugar, the whole egg, and the yolks. Mix well and cook in a double boiler for a few minutes, beating the mixture with a whisk until light and airy.

 

Make another Fontana with the remaining flour. Put in a pinch of salt, the risen dough, the butter and the egg mixture into the middle. Knead energetically for 20 minutes. When the dough is smooth and elastic, add the raisins and candied peel. Grease and flour a sheet of waxed paper and place the dough in the center. Shape the dough into a large ring mold and let rise until doubled in size.

 

Cut a cross on top of the cake and put 1 tbsp butter in the middle. Cook at 400F for 40-45 minutes.

This recipe definitely has some problems…. when I first tried it, I mixed all the flour with the yeast, not the separated amounts. Clearly, that’s a problem. I was so annoyed with the recipe I threw the dough out… Also, it’s not very clear whether the “1 oz baker’s yeast” is weight, volume, who knows what (I suck at measurements! =) ). So… I just used one packet of instant dry yeast.

The second time I tried the recipe, I got to the bottom half of the first paragraph, and foolishly added 1/2 cup of water to a small amount of dough. The result was gluten soup, with a nice fermented smell. Yuck. So, I just threw in some flour (ok, a lot of flour), until it was dough-like, then let it rise. Then I attempted to follow the recipe a bit more. In the second paragraph, I didn’t even bother cooking the egg mixture in a double boiler. What the hell is the point if it’s going to be baked for a long time?! Turns out, this step was optional (at least for my results).

In the third paragraph, I was so happy to have a lump of dough that might be useful! Foolishly, I forgot about the cranberries and citrus peels… I set up the dough on the wax paper, carefully placed the ring from a springform pan around it, and realised my mistake. So, I hurriedly kneaded the cranberries and peel in, and then let the dough rise a bit more.

I started baking process. About 15 minutes in there was an evident problem. Smoke was rising from my stovetop. When I opened the door of the oven, smoke was everywhere. See, PARCHMENT PAPER makes a good liner for sheet pan. Wax paper has a tendency to burn…. awesome! So, I ripped out as much of the waxed paper as I could, and that allayed the burning/smok problem. Roughly 15 minutes later, the pannettone was fully baked!

The result was crumbly, flaky, and HUGE! The cranberries were a GREAT addition. I didn’t get as much orange and lemon peel as I would have liked, so next time I’ll add more. Soon, I’ll revise the recipe (more formally), so you can all see what it actually looks like. In the meantime, here’s the photo:

I’m aware the photo isn’t that great, but I promise, the bread was GOOOOOOD! I even made some french toast with it (but less labour intensive than what I had in Africa). It made great French toast, but because of the crumbly nature of the cake, it was a bit of a hassle…. a work in progress, I guess!!

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