“I want to bake something and cram it full of candied fruit“
– Myself, looking for a new holiday recipe to try.
I love candied fruit – candied peel, citron pieces, translucent glacé cherries and mystery pieces of candied chunks. Fruitcake is out, because my grandma has that more than covered. I found a recipe for fruitcake cookies, but cookies and I do not get along. With me, Pillsbury cookies (not even the ones you scoop out yourself from the tube, but the ones that are pre-cut and just need to be placed on the cookie sheet), will turn out burnt beyond edibility on the bottom and raw on top – when cooked on the top rack of the oven.
I’ve never eaten panettone before, in its natural state anyway… my dad makes a mean french toast out of chocolate chip panettone. I see it in boxes in the grocery store and can’t imagine that it’s not all dried out and gross – and there certainly never looks like there is enough candied fruit in it.
There are plenty of mini-panettone recipes out there, and alternatively you could make one giant panettone and bake it in a coffee can. One recipe I found had you making starter a day in advance as well as panettones strung across the kitchen like garlands, held upside down with dowels to prevent them from sinking.
The recipe I finally chose was this one, from the UK’s Daily Mail. This recipe calls for food by weight, so I have a food scale handy.
Finding something to shape the panettones was the next challenge. The recipe I used calls for pudding molds, while others suggest using actual paper panettone molds, which are like perfectly cylindrical and smooth muffin cups. Instead, I bought a very large muffin tin for mine and holiday muffin papers. Before adding the dough, I gave each paper 2 spritzes of PAM to avoid wasting my expensive butter to coat them.
I made a few modifications because when finding something new to bake or make, I love to look at different recipes and formulate my own ideas, drawing different methods from each:
* I soaked the raisins in a few splashes of black rum overnight so they were plump, juicy and boozy.
* Instead of 75 grams of raisins and 115 grams of dried peel, I used 400 total grams of whatever the heck I liked. Some batches had 100 grams of raisins and 300 grams of mixed peel and mixed fruit chunks, and others contained 100 grams of chopped candied cherries and 300 grams of semi-sweet chocolate chips.
I’ve never baked anything from scratch that was bread-like and used yeast. I baked for years in a retail environment during my college years (all of two years ago) but never made the dough from scratch. Instead, I like to think my past job gave me an “eye” for rising bread, recognizing humidity and temperature variations that would affect the rising bread and what over-risen or under-risen bread looks like.
Kneading the panettone dough after the first rising was interesting to say the least. The fruit does not stick to the dough, it just pops right out of it as you work it. It reminded me of that YouTube video that was floating around a couple years ago of the baby Suriname toads emerging from their mothers’ back and fleeing – although in this case, all over my countertop and the floor.
I made one complete batch before making any more dough just in case it didn’t work out, but it did. And they are delicious. While waiting for the one beginner batch to rise, I had the remaining half of the dough in the fridge (the perils of only having bought one muffin pan). This batch took much longer to rise because it was cold, but the dough was so much easier to work with and form into balls even when it contained fruit.
The bread is dense, probably not as fluffy as the ones from the store, but it is sweet, rich and packed with candied fruit and chocolate chips. They are fantastic warmed up for a few seconds in the microwave for breakfast with some coffee.
Contributor Heather Rose is a freelance writer living in Toronto with her puppy, Bodie and boyfriend, Matt, one of whom enjoys her culinary experiments more than the other. She applies her life-long philosophy – “I did my best” – to all her recipes and cooking experiences. Check out her website at www.heatherrosewriting.com.