Okay, Christmas is over so why am I posting on this Italian Christmas bread?
I made panettone for Christmas and New Year because it is light on butter and went well with coffee for breakfast, after a sinful dinner. Now that everybody seems to be mindful of their calorie intake and health, I am cutting down on cakes and cookies except for very special occasions. When you really think about it, desserts are really bad for us. There's cholesterol and saturated fats in the butter that threatens to clog our arteries and give us heart attacks and zero-nutrient sugar that rots our teeth and worse, turns us diabetic. I'm so concerned about fats and sugar now that I didn't bake any cookies for Christmas, and my fruit cake was a lighter one than those I used to make. I think panettone is the perfect thing to eat when you want to avoid the fats and sugar yet have something that doesn't make you feel deprived. Only thing is, you'll have to eat panettone with lots of coffee, because it goes so well together, and too much caffeine is bad too :(
Florence writes a cooking blog with wonderful posts that you can tell are well-tested and successful. I was impressed with her panettone, it looked like the one I brought home from Melbourne last year. I never liked panettone before the Melbourne panettone (which really was from Milan) because the ones I ate from Hyatt Hotel were dry and bland.
Panettone is just a very tall, sweetish bread with dried fruits and liquor that originated from Milan, Italy. The yeast is fermented longer than usual resulting in a soft, moist bread.
My first try was not very successful because in my hurry to get the cake ready so that I could take photos of it in daylight, I over-heated my oven during the 3rd proofing and it killed the yeast so the bread didn't rise as much as the 2nd proofing. However, the bread still turned out moist and I must've eaten 1/4 of the bread by myself. I had some trouble looking for a tall enough paper cup so in the end I just used a removable bundt pan without the bottom sheet. It was slightly too big.
You need to plan ahead when making this bread because the proofing takes ages. The first proofing takes at least 12 hours, then 2 hours and then 2 again! I also had some problem with the dough, with turned out very wet and shaggy. I had to increase the flour from 245 g to 400 g before the dough could be handled without sticking to my hands and work surface. I also added extra dried fruits. I didn't get the fluffy light bread that Florence got, and strange enough in my second try the bread wasn't as moist as the first (was it because I let the poolish grow for nearly 20 hours?) but I am pretty happy with my panettone anyway. Maybe with more practice I can make better panettone by this Christmas.
In my hurry to take these photos before sundown, the bread was not fully baked and you can see that it was slightly sticky.
For the panettone recipe, do check Florence's post.
p.s A reader, Sarah, directed me to this great video by Gourmet mag. So now I know I should not add extra flour but instead fold the dough (I had put it in my mixer) by hand. Sarah, thanks so much for directing me to the video site. I've never seen online video series that are so clear. You Tube should raise the standards of the videos allowed for posting.