Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fruitcake, Italian style?

I'm slowly but surely working my way through the BBA Challenge.  It's taken me longer than I expected, but I'm still enjoying baking through all the recipes in The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  I have jumped around a little bit lately.  One of the recipes I initially skipped over was Panettone--I got to that point in the "P" section back in July.  I wasn't in the mood for a holiday bread then, so I decided to save it for closer to Christmas.  This past weekend was the perfect time, since it was the weekend of our annual potluck with the Italian genealogy group.  It was a crazy weekend due to work stuff, but I'm glad I had time to make this recipe--it gave me a chance to get geeky about bread dough.

The panettone recipe starts with a wild yeast preferment--it's the first dough in the book to use a sourdough starter (which can catch you by surprise since it's not in the sourdough section).  Rather than make the sourdough starter from BBA, I used the one that I developed using the method in Reinhart's most recent book, Artisan Breads Every Day.  It's a firm starter with about 67% hydration.  Since the BBA one is 100% hydration, I got to do some math!  I know, I'm crazy like that--math is fun. =)  

First, I converted everything to grams, since I find that much easier to work with.  For the sponge, you need 200g of 100% hydration starter, 225g milk, and 125g all-purpose flour.  So the starter is contributing 100g each of water and flour.  There isn't any other water in the sponge, so I needed 100g of water from my starter.  With my starter being 67% (meaning 2 parts water for 3 parts flour) I would have to use 250g to get 100g of water.  The total flour for the sponge is supposed to be 225g--100g from the starter, and the additional 125g.  My 250g of starter has 150g of flour, so I only needed to add 75g of additional flour.  The 225g of milk did not change.  Did I totally lose you yet?  It wasn't really that scary, was it?

I went with dried fruit rather than candied.  I ended up using 170g of golden raisins, 85g of dried cranberries, and 85g of dried apricots (snipped into small bits with my kitchen shears).  I used light rum for the alcohol.  For other flavoring, I used maybe half a teaspoon of Fiori di Sicilia (the 1 tablespoon called for in the recipe seems outrageous--that is very strong stuff) along with about half a teaspoon of vanilla and a few drops each of lemon and orange oil.  I didn't have my fruit in time to do an overnight soak, so I used heat to speed up the process.  I put the fruit in a medium saucepan with about 1/4 cup of water.  I brought it to a boil and them simmered it until most of the water was absorbed.  Then I removed it from the heat and added the rum and flavorings.  I let it macerate for a couple hours, until most of the liquid was absorbed. 

Other than that, I mostly stuck to the recipe.  I left out the almonds.  I did use SAF Gold yeast, and had no problem with my dough rising.  I let the dough rise until it was about one and a half times its original volume, then stuck it in the fridge for the night.  For the first hour it was in the fridge it was still rising quite a bit, so I deflated the dough a couple times.  When I pulled it out the next morning, the dough had mostly filled my 4-quart container.  I shaped the dough while it was cold.  I had decided to make lots of mini panettones--I formed 25 at 70g each.  2 dozen went into cute little wrappers (that you can find at Sur la Table) and one went into a greased 4 oz ramekin.  The dough took about 90 minutes to proof, then I baked the minis for about 30 minutes (at which point they were 190ºF and golden brown on top).  

The verdict?  These were a big hit with the Italian crowd.  I was a bit worried that they weren't sweet enough (I don't eat much panettone, so I had no frame of reference).  A couple people assured me that they were just right.  I sent some home with the people who enjoyed them the most, and had a few left over.  They made a great breakfast for a couple of days.  (It's got fruit, so it's perfect for breakfast, right?)  I can definitely see myself making these again during the holidays.  I even have a dedicated panettone spatula now--boy, that Fiori di Sicilia is strong stuff.  I think the spatula will smell like it forever. =)

If you'd like to try this recipe for yourself, do yourself a favor and get your hands on a copy of The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  It has many wonderful recipes.  Check out the BBA blogroll to see how others did with this recipe (though most made it quite a while back).  For other yummy yeasted creations, check out Yeastspotting (including this great post on holiday breads).  


  1. How totally cute are these?! Love them. - mary

  2. Those are so dang cute!! I love the little version...have to remember to do that sometime. Need to make it for MB so maybe I will go with this idea of making minis. Such a pretty color and the inside looks heavenly. Great job!

  3. Nice job, Di! And what a smart idea to wait to make this until the holidays. As I recall, we were enjoying panettone in the middle of summer.

  4. These are adorable Di - love minis. The wrappers are perfect too! I've had my eye on some like that for what seems like forever. One of these days I need to break down and buy them :) Glad these were a hit with the genealogy group!

  5. These look lovely Di! I love panettone too!

  6. Okay, really, Di? You lost me at 67% hydration and grams. But whatever the formula, it sure looks like it worked - and those are some awesomely delicious looking panettones!

  7. This really makes me want to try again with the SAF Gold yeast. I'm going to order some!