I’m Zoning Out, … on Panettone

Hope your Christmas went well, and that you are taking it easy today, getting a little respite from all the frantic holiday activity – Rest is good!

We had our friends, Tina and Rich over for Christmas dinner, and it went especially well – Safeway had a loss leader this year with boneless New York Strip roast – it was a dollar more per pound than the bone-in Prime Rib – Given that choice, I’ll take the New York Strip roast every time!  A gorgeous hunk of meat.  I covered it with Dijon mustard and a crust of garlic breadcrumbs with sage and olive oil – great idea, but as soon as we cut into the roast, the crust shattered – but we just gathered it up and gave everyone some – next time I’ll add a little latex.  San and I love super rare beef, and our guests prefer theirs a bit more on the medium rare side – so they got the end cuts, and we enjoyed the redder middle.

Been a long time since I’ve remembered having such good beef – I had a huge piece, and I ate it all.

I was planning on taking a few pics of the roast, but after the crust shattered, I thought better of that idea.  So instead, I’ll just show you San’s beautiful table setting.

This was my place marker -the cook- looks just like me, right?

But I really want to tell you about -and show you- this year’s Panettone.  For the last several years, I’ve done Panettone each Christmas, and each year it gets better.  Panettone is one of those breads that meets my ‘challenge bar’ – my attitude is that if I’m going to have the opportunity to experience some of the best breads in the world, I’m going to have to learn how to bake them.  Panettone meets that definition in that it is challenging, but the result is so rewarding that you consider it all worth the pain and suffering.

My first ever Panettone was Jim Lahey’s version – it’s a good one for a novice, as it avoids some of the more difficult parts – and it was good; certainly worth the effort, but nothing to knock your socks off.  It’s a yeasted version, not sourdough, and so will cut at least one day off your project.  But for the last two years, I’ve used Susan’s sourdough Panettone (go here for the recipe), and it does make an all around better product that Lahey’s yeasted version – but it’s also more tedious and time consuming, and if you haven’t done much with sourdough, don’t even think about this one.

I did manage to make my project more challenging than it would have been by not going back to check my own notes of last year’s experience – had I thought to do that, I’d have seen that almost everyone who makes this Panettone acknowledges that the amount of water stated in the final dough is probably more than necessary.  Now, to her credit, Susan notes a caution here in her recipe, and has you initially add only half the water, and then to assess the dough.  But, for both times I’ve now made this, I sensed that even half the full amount of water is more than needed in the final dough.  Next year, I’ll read my past notes, and start with 1/3rd the water!

Panettone is supposed to be a very soft dough – that’s what gives it the wonderful light, tender texture that all good Panettone has – so the baker should expect to have to deal with all the issues of working with a very wet dough.  But if you find that you’ve added too much water, there are two ways to compensate -after the fact- neither of which is ideal, but regardless, they are effective.  The first is to increase the time of the proofing which follows the build of the final dough – more time in the proofing tub (use an oiled tub, it makes the job easier), and more stretches and folds, will help to give the dough more stability.  Additionally, once the proofing time is up, and you’ve moved the dough to a board or counter, instead of using a ‘buttered’ board, sprinkle some flour on it, and work a little bit of flour into your dough as you gently knead it – but I caution you about adding too much flour at this stage, only add enough to allow you to handle the dough for shaping and forming it into balls for your pans or molds.

I must be doing something right, because this year’s Panettone was my best effort to date – I did use Susan’s glaze this year, and I must agree with her that it is one of the elements that make this version superb.  It creates a crisp, sugary crunch as you chew, but surprisingly, it does not shatter like the crust on my beef roast!  I think the egg white in the glaze gives it the strength to hold together as you cut or bite the Panettone.  Lovely stuff.

This was my first year using Panettone molds, but only because Joanna of Zeb Bakes in Britain was kind enough to send me a goodly bunch along with the Flori di Sicilia I had won in her recent contest – her graciousness has therefore allowed me to not only have the pleasure of a proper baking of these beautiful individual Panettones, but they also have the exact appropriate flavoring that an Italian baker would use to make them.  Therefore I must thank Joanna for all the improvement in this year’s Panettone baking.

Joanna's Beautiful Molds

I wish I could share my Panettone with you all – god knows I’ve got enough – but I’ll bet you either have some of your own, or some other equally delicious goodies which MUST be eaten -certainly- before they stale.  So, get to work!  And don’t forget to catch a little rest along the way.


About drfugawe

I'm a guy with enough time to do as I please, and that my resources allow. The problem(s) are: I have 100s of interests; I have a short attention span; I have instant expectations; I'm lazy; and I'm broke. But I'm OK with all that, 'cause otherwise I'd be so busy, I'd be dead in a year.
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15 Responses to I’m Zoning Out, … on Panettone

  1. The panettone looks great Doc, thanks for the mention, I’m really pleased they worked well. I have still to make some, but it might be Easter before I can get round to it now. Why? Well…

    …I was graced with a perfect (and enormous) New York style cheesecake baked by my American friends who joined us for dinner yesterday. Plus there is the stollen (which was treated to a spoonful of fiori too) which is languishing with the mince pies and the Christmas cake and there is all together too much food and chocolate in this house right now. And yes, rest would be a good idea!

    • drfugawe says:

      Understood perfectly! I was in a baking frenzy prior to Christmas, and it may take a few weeks to ‘eat down’ the remnants. Well, enjoy all while its there, and stay warm and cozy.

      Thanks again for the molds – besides being beautiful, they are much sturdier than they appear – they did their job magnificently.

  2. Tupper says:

    Merry,merry Christmas, albeit a day late- and my friend, thank you for your good conversation and of course, the butter shots!

    • drfugawe says:

      Hope you guys are making the most of the Yule – I thought of you as I watched the blizzard move up the eastern seaboard – hopefully you are more west and not in its path – but if it hits, just hunker down and use it as an excuse to do some baking!

  3. Tupper says:

    It’s missing us, south and east thankfully. It is a bit chilly-5 above and the wind is whipping-So a good day to play by the stove!

  4. They look wonderful, Doc! I’m yet to try my hand at panettone, but you and Joanna are inspiring me to do so!

  5. the panettone looks good…good work.

    ….this is the first year I haven’t bought myself any!

    One day I’ll make one…maybe 🙂

    they make a good bread and butter pudding!

  6. Mary Smiley says:

    I will have to try this some day. I wish I could take some of your overload off your hands ; ) About now I am baked out and ready to eat veggies and fresh fish for a while! Happy New Year Doc!

    • drfugawe says:

      Great to see you here! And I hope things are going well for you in the deep south – I’m saddened to see the cold weather return – what the hell is going on? I miss all that fresh fish, especially pompano, king mackerel, and my beloved mullet. Also miss gardening all year long – have you got a garden going yet?

      Hope it’s a great year for you.

      • Mary Smiley says:

        Gardening has been tough…cold then normal, cold, then normal. My orchids are doing great and I have ripe strawberries as it is prime strawberry season right now. I’m flabbergasted when I go to the farmers market and see just how much fresh produce is out there right now. I bought a head of red leaf lettuce today that was so big I couldn’t even get it into a plastic bag! Gotta love that. Went to an orchid show last week and shot hundreds of photos. Life is pretty good. Will go out fishing again soon….hope you’re well. I have new blog posts up so check it out….Mary

        • drfugawe says:

          What in the world is going wrong down there? I spent 25 years in FL, and loved every winter – and then I come to visit last year, and it’s freezing cold for 2 months! Damn!

          Well, I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying it, even with a colder than normal season – yes, you really need to get out and do some fishing – and you never told me if you had fished Boca Grande yet.

  7. Melissa says:

    Wow, those look even better than they sounded when you described them – now I really regret not coming for Christmas. Stupid job getting in the way of sharing holidays with my family! And I’m glad you featured mom’s table settings – gorgeous! You two make a very good team. I hope to join you next year to take advantage of all your talents in the kitchen & give my takeout menus a few days off!!

    • drfugawe says:

      Yeah, these things make calories insignificant – little bombs of deliciousness! You must have some bakeries down there that do some good ones – look for them. I would have sent you a few but they are notorious bad travelers, and they go stale in only a few days – so … Yeah, they’re a reward for coming for Christmas.

      Done anything from Bittman yet ?

  8. Melissa says:

    Not yet — haven’t managed to get a handle on my new job sufficient to allow me to have time & energy to eat 3 meals a day, not leaving enough left over to cook one or more of those meals! Alas Balance bars & takeout are about all I’ve been able to work into my schedule so far. But it is definitely a goal and I plan to find some recipes to make ahead one weekend very soon so instead of takeout, I can have yummy made-ahead healthy meals waiting for me to reheat & enjoy all week long. I’ll let you know what recipes I use when I do – so many great choices in the Bittman book, the only hard part will be narrowing down the options!

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