Dear reader, I must ask you, have you ever experienced the lofty yumminess of this Italian bread? If you have, then you know what I'm talking about--right? As I savored my first bite I thought to myself, "Where have you been all my life?"
Unlike the neutron star denseness of other European style fruitcakes, panettone is a deeply golden brown crusted, high domed loaf that holds little jewels of dried and candied fruit suspended inside its light and airy tangles of lightly sweet, golden lacy crumb, but wait....hold the phone! Did you know that there are two different versions of this Italian sweet bread? Yes, it is true...one comes to us from Genoa, and the other version is from Milan, a reality which can result in some confusion, as you can well imagine. Unfortunately, there are some recipes out there that just say "panettone" on them, without making any distinction, which can result in much disappointment for the baker. And to add to the confusion, there are also recipes out there from people who mix up the nomenclature (on purpose, or by mistake) and label their recipe a "Genovese Panettone," when it should be a Milanese or vice versa (grrrr!). And I have also found a kind of false advertising where some recipes have the quick bread type recipe which they try to pass off as authentic Genovese, that are attached with a picture of the tall Milanese type. I hate that kinda stuff, I mean really, not to be mean, but get it right people!
Milanese Vs. Genovese
For now, I will be concentrating on finding a good recipe for the Milanese panettone. This version seems to be a little bit more versatile, meaning that you can make bread pudding or french toast from any left overs you might have. As for any Genovese panettone remnants, if you ask me, I think it is half-way to biscotti.
How can this be? They used the same recipe and the same method, so what gives? Well, as any baker knows, bread is a living thing until it is baked, and it can be highly temperamental. To rise quickly, bread dough likes warmth and humidity to grow to lofty proportions, well the yeast in the dough does anyway, but it can also do the same thing on a slower scale, more on that later. And so, I can tell from the pictures on these websites, that their finished product has to do with the rise factor, which occurs both during the initial pre-bake rise, and in the first few moments the loaf is in the oven.
Yes, bread will actually grow quite a bit larger in the hot oven, before its outer crust finally succumbs to your ovens heat and its gluten network, or its crumb, is set. So, a humid oven actually helps a loaf to rise a bit more in the first few minutes it is in the oven, because the outside crust won't set as fast as it does in a "dry" oven. But that isn't the only factor to consider.
Patience Is A Virtue...And Produces Great Panettone!
"I hate waiting." - Inigo Mentoya, 'The Princess Bride'
1/2 cup diced candied orange peel
3/4 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup diced dried apricots
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup whole milk,
1 stick butter,
1/4 c. honey
2 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Place all dried fruit into a shallow pan with 2 Tbsp. water and 2 Tbsp. rum or brandy. Heat through and set aside to cool and plump.
- Place all dry ingredients into a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook.
- Heat 1 cup whole milk, 1 stick butter, 1/4 cup honey and 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest to 120 degrees in a saucepan; stir into the mix.
- Mix in 2 lightly beaten eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Butter two 5-by-9-inch loaf pans or two empty 10-ounce coffee cans and line with parchment paper.
- Add the dough; cover and let rise 1 hour.
- Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool before slicing.
I greedily slathered on some butter and watched hungrily as it melted into the lacy crumb, but the texture could have been a bit better if I had let it rise longer. As I devoured my first slice (there were more to follow) and it tasted very good regardless of the poor rise, and was surprisingly light considering I could have let it rise a few more hours. As for the recipe, the only complaint I have with it is the rise times they give, well, they just aren't realistic.