December 13, 2010

Once upon a time, in Milan, there was a nobleman falconer named Ughetto, a beautiful bakers daughter named Adalgisa, and her struggling, but renown father Antonio. One day, as Ughetto was strolling through the piazza with his fabulous bird, allowing him to play high above the terracotta roofs, and church steeples, and swooping through the brilliant sunshine, another beauty caught his eye. It was Adalgisa in her window at her father’s bakery, crying. Ughetto called to her – Bella! Perche mai piangi!”

E’ mio padre, il fornaio.” Adalgisa explained, “It is my father, the baker. Christmastime is nearly upon us and he cannot sell one of his loaves of beautiful bread! Noi siamo condanatti!” (We are doomed!)

Cannot sell his bread?! But its bread! And not only any bread, his is the most delicious, buttery, and marvelous in the land! The shape is a bit boring, I mean, I’ve always thought that the loaf shape was a bit sciocco….” Ughetto went on and on, chatting about the bread with Adalgisa. Primarily, he spoke, as noblemen tend to do, but occasionally they shared good ideas about food (primarily bread) and specifically Antonio’s bread. It did not take long for Ughetto to fall in love with this domestic goddess, her hands and curls bouncing with each word. In turn, her heart began fluttering for this wise, daring, wealthy man (still with falcon attached to his gloved hand.)

Ughetto had an idea; one that he vowed would “rescue” Adalgisa and Antonio. And so, he set out to the best known purveyors in the land to gather the highest quality eggs, butter, and flour. He sought out the sweetest raisins, brightest, most flavorful citrus, and the most extraordinary spices he could find. Lastly, he visited the potter and purchased each and every last flower pot he could find. He loaded up a cart, bridled his horse and returned to Adalgisa’s window at the bakery with a smile. The baker and his daughter listened to his masterful plan, clapped their hands with excitement, welcomed him and his ingredient wagon in and magic ensued. They worked through the night to create a new bread, sweeter, richer, and more mouth-watering than that which Antonio could have baked on his own – a towering sweet, golden brown loaf baked in a flour pot and bursting with sweet exotic flavors. By morning, they had so many warm loaves fresh from the oven that the townspeople began to floor Antonio’s bakery demanding slices of the sweet bread. In fact, loaves were being snatched off the bakery shelves so fast that it was all the trio could do to keep loaves coming out of the oven to sate the watering mouths. By the days’ end, the exhausted Antonio, Adalgisa and Ughetto  had sold each loaf and made Antonio a very rich man. Still covered with flour and sugar, Ughetto asked for Adalgisa’s hand in marriage. Toni, of course, said yes.

The following Christmas, everyone in the town came by the bakery weeks before Christmas to inquire about when Toni’s Christmas Bread would be ready. And today, town’s people the world over, from Italy to Argentina, still wait all year for Pan di Toni (or Panettone as it has come to be known) to be available. They slice the sweet, buttery bread and enjoy it with their coffee, spumante or Moscato di Asti at Christmastime, and sometimes ration the loaf so that the last piece can be eaten near to Easter.

The story of Tony’s Bread is one that my italian mother read to me during Christmastime when I was a little girl, and so the tradition of making panettone is one that is very dear to my heart now. It is one of my personal holiday rituals that cannot be rushed as the formula is precise, and the bread takes two full days from start to finish to prepare, but each step is completely worth it when you watch the bread rise high above the molds, and the smells of citrus, butter and vanilla scent the entire house for days.

My recipe is an amalgamation of formulas that I have pulled both from Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City, and Dan Griffin of Portland’s Pearl Bakery and Lovejoy Bakers. The final product is truly a recipe very dear to my heart. I make my own candied citrus but you could purchase the same product from your local specialty grocer. You will also need special panettone molds which are very inexpensive and can be found at any kitchen store. One of the most important stages of preparing this bread is AFTER it comes out of the oven – I hang the bread upside down over a pot using metal skewers because the final stage in the baking occurs as the bread cools, defining the crumb. This way, your panettone doesn’t fall as it cools, either!

Suggested panettone schedule:

  • Morning: soak raisins, make candied citrus
  • Evening: prepare dough, allow to rise overnight (12-15 hours)
  • Morning: turn out dough, place in molds, rise 3-5 hours
  • Afternoon: bake for 60-75 minutes, cool completely
  • Evening: wrap or EAT!
  1. Ingredient
  2. 1 cup raisins
  3. 2 tbsp light rum
  4. 1/2 cup tepid water + 2 Tbsp hot water, divided
  5. 3 1/4 cups unbleached white flour, preferably from Bob's Red Mill
  6. 2/3 cup unbleached sugar
  7. 1/2 tsp sea salt
  8. 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  9. 1/2 tsp fresh grated lemon zest
  10. 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  11. 3 large eggs
  12. 1 Tbsp mild honey
  13. 12 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter (the finest, purest you can find) divided: 10 1/2 tbsp softened, 1 Tbsp melted, 1 Tbsp chilled.
  14. 2/3 cup candied citrus, chopped if the pieces are large
  15. equipment: an electric mixer,1 6x4 inch panettone mold, and 2 metal skewers, at least 12 inches in length
Suggested panettone schedule
  1. Morning: soak raisins, make candied citrus
  2. Evening: prepare dough, allow to rise overnight (12-15 hours)
  3. Morning: turn out dough, place in molds, rise 3-5 hours
  4. Afternoon: bake for 60-75 minutes, cool completely
  5. Evening: wrap or EAT!
  6. Soak the raisins in the rum and 2 Tbsp water for up to 8 hours. Stir frequently so that all of the liquid is absorbed.
  7. In the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, salt, yeast + zest. Mix well on low speed. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, honey and water. Add the vanilla bean and the wet ingredients and mix until just absorbed, again on low speed.
  8. Next, add the softened butter - 1 Tbsp at a time, mixing until the butter is incorporated completely before adding another tablespoon of butter. Once all of the butter is incorporated, turn the mixing speed up to medium and mix for 8 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Stop the mixer.
  9. Drain the raisins, discarding any leftover liquid. In a bowl, combine the raisins, 1 Tbsp of melted butter and the candied citrus. Stir to combine. Then, turn the mixer on again at a low speed and add the mixture to the dough. Mix until just combined.
  10. Transfer the dough to a large, broad bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a cold oven, closing the door. Allow to rise until the dough has nearly tripled in size, roughly 12-15 hours.
  11. When the dough has risen, remove the bowl from the oven. Flour a work surface and sprinkle the dough with flour. Using a pastry scraper or rubber spatula, turn the dough out onto the work surface gently. Remove the vanilla bean. Carefully, fold the edges of the dough in (sprinkling with a bit more flour if the dough is sticking) and place the dough, seam/fold side down, into the panettone mold. Place the panettone mold on a baking sheet, cover the mold with a lightly damp teatowel (NOT terrycloth) and allow to rise again until the dough reaches the top of the molds - roughly 3-5 hours.
  12. Once the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 370F degrees. Remove the tea towel and slice an "X" in the top of the loaf. Place the last 1 Tbsp of chilled butter in the "X" and slip the loaf into the oven, baking for 60-75 minutes, until the loaf is dark and a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the bread comes out moist, but clean.
  13. Remove the loaf from the oven. Slip the 2 skewers into the loaf, about 1 inch from the bottom and 4 inches apart. Hang the loaf, upside down and resting on the skewers, over a deep pot or between two chairs until completely cool. Remove the skewers, slice and enjoy.

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  • Reply Derek December 16, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Now, I am not too interested in the historical significance of panettone or in the traditional method of making this cakes/ bread. However, after watching Lentine bake this creation, I am interested in the candied citrus portion. I had imagined this panettone tasting like store bought fruit cake with all the fruity nastiness includes. Wow! I was wrong.
    Lentine’s insistence for doing her own candied citrus made the difference to me.
    This dish is a winner. Take the time and do it right; it’s worth it.

  • Reply Candied Citrus | Lentine Alexis Candied Citrus | Learning to travel fast + far January 10, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    […] much more sophisticated than that! I use this recipe to prepare my own candied citrus to be used in panettone, as an ingredient in biscotti, and even as a special addition to oatmeals, cookies, or as garnish […]

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