The holidays are upon us and things are starting to get pretty festive around our house.
The tree is up, glittering in all its finery – we went with a pared down red, white and <gasp!> black palette this year. Soon we will cut out snowflakes and hang them from the ceiling between the dining and living rooms, making a wintry arch of fluttering flakes. The door has a wreath, and each of us is creating a stash of secret gifts, soon to be wrapped and stuffed under the tree.
As you know, I’ve been busy with some related projects and there are now two styles of limited edition 2013 calendars available (just look to the sidebar on the right —> ) as well as a really delicious ebook detailing everything you need to know for a full blown, classic-yet-contemporary, Christmas Feast. It’s been delightful to see people responding so positively to the calendars and Christmas Feast book. The feedback has been excellent and I’m really proud of how they have turned out. If you haven’t got yours yet, I encourage you to click through, especially if its for the calendars since they literally are limited edition; only so many have been printed!
Beyond that, we are all busy with holiday shopping and planning fun things to do. We will be hosting our 2nd Annual Holiday Open House next weekend. Last year we had over 60 people come through to eat, drink, laugh and catch up. We’re looking forward to as many or more this year, and of course, we are already well into planning the menu.
At this time of year it is so easy to get overwhelmed, what with shopping, parties, preparing for house guests, year end deadlines at work – sometimes it’s all too much. It’s important, amid the hustle and bustle of the season, to take some down time, catch your breath, go for a walk or permit yourself time for a cup of tea. One of my favourite accompaniments to a cup of hot tea in the winter is a slice of ever-Christmassy panettone, a classic Italian bread studded with dried fruit and flavoured with citrus. I learned this year that there are 2 predominant styles of panettone, one which is the classic Milanese style: tall and light with a texture similar to challah, rich in flavour , leavened with yeast, dry and delicate. There is also a Genovese style that is not leavened with yeast and has a more biscuit-like texture. For this recipe, some careful tweaking has yielded a denser, moister yeasted bread that has a crumb that is something between sandwich bread and a butter cake. I also eliminated the standard raisins, since there are those in our house that abhor raisins. Instead, I made the flavour profile very citrus forward and added crystallized ginger and dried cherries. I found panettone paper moulds at a local kitchen store, but you could also use small cake or brioche pans, or even muffin pans.
Currents, raisins and citrus rind are the the traditional flavors in panettone. We’ve jazzed things up with dried cherries and crystalized ginger and a triple hit of citrus: mixed candied orange and lemon peel, fresh orange zest and a splash of orange liqueur. Cranberries, apricots or figs would be ideal as well as any other small bits of dried fruit.)
1½ C milk, divided
1 packet (2½ tsp) quick yeast
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
1 C + 1 Tbsp sugar
1 C butter, room temperature
6 C all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 C mixed candied citrus peel
¾ c chopped dried cherries
zest of 1 large navel orange
1 Tbsp orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau
Warm ½ C of the milk to just warmer than body temperature, not hot. Add the yeast and 1 tbsp of the sugar stir. Set aside.
Add the vanilla and almond extracts to the remaining cup of milk. Set aside.
Mix the chopped cherries, candied peel, zest and liqueur in a bowl. Set aside
In a mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and remaining cup of sugar until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat until fluffy and pale yellow.
Stir the nutmeg and cinnamon into the flour.
Add 1 cup of flour and ¼ cup of milk to the butter mixture. Mix until fully incorporated. Repeat with another cup of flour and ¼ cup of milk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and switch the paddle attachment for the dough hook.
On low speed, mix the dough. Add 2 more cups of the flour and the remaining ½ cup of milk. Once mixed, add the peel and zest mixture, continuing on low speed.
Add the yeast/milk mixture you have prepared, along with the remaining 2 cups of flour. Mix until fully incorporated. the dough will be soft and somewhat sticky. Scrape down the sides of the mixers bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel and set the bowl in a warm, draft free place for 1½ hours to rest and rise.
Once rested, the dough will have increased in volume (not quite double) and will have a texture more like a cookie dough than a bread dough. Divide the dough between 2 paper panettone moulds (on a cookie sheet) or round, high sided baking tins. (A 6″x2″ cake tin would work.) Let rest for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake the panettone for 60 minutes until it is risen, golden brown and a skewer poked into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before serving, or serve at room temperature.