making panettone at home

Seasonally speaking, this is the time of year for enjoying panettone. You might be able to find a few panettone left at your local bakery, or grocery outlet – indeed I saw a few left at the store yesterday. They hadn’t been picked up before the holiday, so were sitting there, waiting for purchase, or a trip to the mark-down table.

Prices vary on store-bought, from under $10, to over $20 – so your mileage will vary there.  Panettone can also be made in your home-kitchen, and in this blog post, I’ll show you how you can make a fine panettone at home.

This year, I made 4 panettone in the home-kitchen on Dec 20-21 – 3 went out as gifts, and 1 stayed home for us to enjoy on Christmas morning.  I selected the recipe from Peter Reinhart’s book The Bread Baker’s Apprentice for this round.  The formula results in 2 panettone loaves, and I usually like to do 2 batches at once to yield the 4-pack.

barm-mediumThe activity is spread out over 2 days, so does take some time, and a bit of organization in the home-bakery.  This recipe also calls for a wild-yeast sourdough starter, which I do have handy in the fridge.  There are other recipes out there that don’t call for a barm on standby, so look around if you don’t happen to keep a sourdough starter alive in your kitchen.  I keep 2 bowls of wild-yeast starter going at all times here, 1 of them since 2009, so if you need some let me know. Pictured here are the 2 batches of wild-yeast starter mixed with milk and some flour. The sponges get assembled the day before the dough is mixed, so here they are. I mixed these up in the evening, and let them sit out overnight.

spiked-fruitWhile the sponges are doing their thing, you can also prepare the candied fruit mixture, spiked with your preferred seasonal liquor. This year, I found some pre-packaged glace mix at the store, added raisins, vanilla, and spiked with whiskey. In past years I’ve mixed various types of candied fruit with dried fruit and spiked with rum, so various combinations will work here. Having some orange or lemon extract is also a nice touch, but I didn’t have those on hand this year. No razz-cherries this year, either. I’m usually a little more-prepared for this particular baking event, but it kind of crept up on me this year, so I did the best I could with what I had available. C:-)

So, with sponge bubbling and fruit spiking, then go to bed, and return to the kitchen the next morning.

Make sure you’ve got all your ingredients ready the next morning, as you’ll need to plan for the various stages in the dough-making phase. This year, I got into the kitchen a little late, around 11:30 AM, but still had enough time in the day to complete.

dough-risingYou’re going to start with making 2 batches of dough, shown here. You’ll need flour, sugar, salt, commercial yeast, the sponge, 1 egg, and an egg yolk. This dough will need some time to develop the gluten, so that’s what is happening here.

I used 2 varieties of organic flour on-hand in the kitchen pantry for this dough, an organic unbleached white flour (14% protein) and a red-fife sifted wheat.

The formula calls for the wild-yeast to be spiked with commercial yeast, and I stuck with that plan – although didn’t actually proof the commercial yeast, so not sure if it had legs before I used it.

dough-mixing
Once the dough has had a little time to proof (at least 20 mins), time arrives to mix in the spiked fruit, and some butter. The whisky did the job on this batch, creating quite a nice batch of fragrant, soaked fruit. Mmmmmm! This dough can be mixed by hand, or in a mixer. I’ve got the KitchenAid stand mixer here, so that really helps accelerate the bread-making process around here. However, this dough hits the capacity of the mixer, and needs to be carefully tended while making rounds in the bowl. This year I didn’t lose too much of it as it crawls up past the top of the dough hook into the axle housing of the mixer.

dough-mixedSo, here is the mixed dough, on the right, after a round in the mixer, and then some kneading by hand. It’s helpful to do a bit of kneading by hand so you can get the feel for how far along the dough has progressed, and transitioned out of sticky, and into tacky.

dough-almondsOn the left here, you can see that there is a bowl of almonds soaking in the background. I picked up organic whole almonds for this batch, and needed to blanch them before slicing them up and mixing them into the dough.

Once the almonds got mixed in, then the dough needs to sit out and rise at room temperature for a couple of hours, to increase in volume by approx. 1.5 times. During this time, go for a coffee, or run an errand or something. If needed, make sure pets will not devour the dough, and remind young children not to squish or slap the dough around, as it needs to rise undisturbed. This year, I went downtown to tackle some last-minute shopping while the dough was rising.

pre-bakingOnce the dough has risen, it’s time to divide, shape, and set up in the large size paper panettone baking sleeves. This year, I had 10 sleeves on hand which is great, so no panic there. I divided the dough by eye-balling it, then fine-tuned with a kitchen-scale to get an even distribution for the 4 loaves. Shape by rounding into boules, and then put into the prepared baking papers. Cover, and leave out to rise at room temperature for another 2 hours. The photo shows that these loaves have risen nearly to the top edge of the baking papers, and at this point I put them into the oven – at 325 degrees, for up to 90 minutes.

panettone-baking

As you can see, the kitchen activity is quite spread out, so keep that in mind for planning purposes. This year, the loaves came out of the oven well before midnight, so that was nice – but if you start too late in the day, you can easily wind up spending a late night in the kitchen. You’re heading for an internal temperature of 185 degrees on these, so keep a close eye on that past the 60 minute mark. This year, I went just a touch long on the baking, so overshot 185 degrees – a valid excuse I have is that we got a new range this year, and I’m still getting used to baking with it ? c:-)

While I was out today, I called around to my usual suppliers in order to buy some more large-size panettone baking sleeves, but all advised that they were low on stock in the large size, and to try again next year. Bond Bond’s had some small-size panettone papers, so I bought some of those – thanks! I usually re-stock at this time of year while the local bakeries have their supplies at hand.

panettone-done
Anyhow, the panettone turned out nicely this year, and I’m almost ready to do 1 more round – will have to keep that wild yeast fed, and set aside a Friday night, and all-day Saturday to tackle this task…

seasonal blogging

Yes, I see that I was blogging in the summer, while on the road. And now here we are in Winter. Could be that I’ve become a seasonal blogger ? Yah, that’s it! Let’s break all those rules about blogging regularly, and blog at only select special times of the year! Happy New Year!

California road-trip 2013: Day 7, sun, sand, and some surf viewing

We like to get the kids out first thing in the AM, before it gets too hot.  Charlotte has a friend she met down at Dinosaur Caves park this week, so we went down there to play around 9 AM.

A quick trip down to Arroyo Grande this PM to shop at Von’s – yes, we shop daily in these parts.  We went out later on with the kids to Spyglass Park to play on the pirate ship there.  They ended up in a (California) gold-mining role-play with the sand and the stand-up shower unit down there – good times panning for gold nuggets in that thar playground sand.

I peeked over the cliff edge, and could see one surfer was out on St Ann’s break.  Follow the link in the image to a description of this surf spot.  There is not much swell right now, but he got a few rides so that was fun to watch.  I have not been out on the waves yet….

California road-trip 2013: Day 6, local playgrounds again

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Mitchell Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We tour several playgrounds when we are here.  After the morning jaunt at the Dinosaur Caves, we came home for a spontaneous outbreak of “family band”.  That’s right – grab an instrument and jam!  We had bottles, pie plates, the cooler, and various other noise-makers going on in the side-yard, next to the fuschia garden.  Good thing I made a few voice memos on the spot so we could enjoy that round later.

We then when into San Luis Obispo to do some shopping, and then have a play-session at  Mitchell Park.  Huge fun there, with some other local kids in a round of something like “good guys or bad guys”.

Returned home in the PM to cook up family-dinner, then get ready for story-time, and lights-out….

The solstice approaches….

 

California road-trip 2013: Day 5, part-time residents again

We’re off to do the things we usually do as part-time residents of Shell Beach.  Hit the local coffee shop, and go to Dinosaur Caves Park to play in the morning.  After coming home for a break, we hit New Frontiers Market to get our groceries and supplies.  Somewhere along the way, we’ll grab waters and other beverages to quench the thirst, then return to Shell Beach to relax.

California road-trip 2013: Day 4, are we there yet ?

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destination

Shell Beach, CA

Took the road west out of Tracy, CA this morning, and drove through this neat windmill farm on the way to the Bay Area.

We took route 505 west, and then went down south past Gilroy, heading for Salinas, and the 101 route south.

We’d driven hundreds of miles through farmland, ranch territory, and wine country, and the kids were really looking forward to getting off the road.

If you’ve driven south on the 101 past San Luis Obispo, you know that you get the first glimpse of the ocean just past the Avila Beach Road exit, just over the crest of that hill.

We told the kids that we’d play a fun game as we crested the hill – first one to glimpse the ocean could shout it out.  I watched in the rear-view mirror as they were both peeping wide-eyed through the front window, looking so expectantly for that wide-open ocean, marking the end of the long road-trip.

Right after the Pacific was spotted, we took the first exit, and landed at our destination, in Shell Beach, CA.

California road-trip 2013: Day 3, travel in theory, and in practice

Left Yreka, CA in full sun this morning, with kids very eager to reach destination.  We had lots of discussion today about how far the trip was in miles, and how long that would take.

Are we there yet ?

Many teachable moments along the way including looking at the road-signs, and seeing how many miles to the target, and then checking our average speed to see how long it might take to get there.

Travel to our destination definitely takes longer in practice.

We made a playground stop in Stockton, before calling it a day in Tracy, CA.

I have fond memories of the last visit to Tracy, when I found this Indian sweet shop at the edge of town, and grabbed a box of sweets for the trip north.  This time, I ordered us a 24″ pizza from Milano’s and GADZOOKS that was a massive meal.  Got quite sleepy after that, so no trip out for sweets….

 

California road-trip 2013 : Day 2, many Oregon miles

Was kind of nice to be pulling out of East Vancouver this morning, taking a different route south over the Columbia River than in the past.

We were on the 205 southbound, so headed through a different stretch of freeway than usual.  Soon it was on to the I-5, and more familiar stretches of asphalt.

Made a great stop in Cottage Grove.  As in the past, Cottage Grove always has a pleasant surprise or too.  This time, I spied an espresso trailer on the main strip into the downtown area, so did a U-turn to double-back and take decisive action on ordering a coffee or two.  Well, not so fast Coreman.

The view from the road concealed the rather extensive menu of items that they offered, posted near the back patio.  Milkshakes, smoothies, and all sorts of different coffee drinks were on tap.  Huh!  Well, the kids sorted their way into a 16 oz. milkshake split into 2 cups, and I teed up a coffee of some sort – and we were only having a wee bit of drama on their front-patio assembling that order. You see, splitting 1 big drink into 2 is apparently too much like sharing. *ahem*. Anyhoo, all was going well until it came time to pay. Too bad I failed to notice the little sign politely advising that they accept CASH only.  You can imagine my surprise when the owner there offered me the drinks on the house, as she could see I was only packing plastic!

*oops!*

Anyhoo – it all worked out.  I dug up 2 $1 American coins, and a $5 Canuck bill that I assured her the bank would take roughly at par.

*whew*

Back on the freeway, with more adventures to come…..we landed in Rogue River, had a pizza, then got back on the road, landing in Yreka, CA soon after.

California road-trip 2013 : Day 1, south, north, south

Just spent a week in Austin, Texas on a business trip, that I might also describe as a teaching and learning trip.  I was down at SailPoint, learning all about their enterprise identity management product called IdentityIQ. That whole trip deserves a blog of it’s own, so I’ll focus here on the family-vacation.

The flight back from the USA went fairly smooth : AUS to SFO to YYJ.  The transfer in San Francisco was a little tight, with only 40 minutes between landing and take-off.  My bags made it, and so did I, into YYJ at 11:40 PM or so.  Shared a cab into downtown, so home shortly after midnight.

Just enough time to put on some laundry, and re-pack the bags.  Also did some household chores, and hit the sack at 3:30 AM or so.

Managed to rise about 5:30 AM to put the dog out, and then decided to stay up and keep packing.  Oh yah, needed a trip to the bank downtown, and the grocery store for last minute pickups.  Not feeling too bad after that nap, but I’m sure it would catch up with me later.

Managed to pack the fam into the van, and arrive at the COHO dock around 9:20 AM to secure our reservation.  Full-on sunshine for the trip south, and we spent most of the voyage on the outer-decks running up and down the length of the ship.  Kids with beans for sure.

Quick stop in Port Angeles for groceries, then a gas-up just past Sequim.  The usual stop at Hoodsport Coffee for ice creams, and americano.  I see they have a sign in their window : Thinking of Retirement – Business for Sale.

We ended up in Vancouver, WA, slightly east of downtown at the Best Western.  The indoor pool and hot-tub did the trick for an hour or so after we landed.

The fatigue never really caught up with me, and we had a pretty good trip down the 101 and the I-5.  Onward, and southward tomorrow!

 

Hangin at the beach

Long weekend, sunshine, and sand. Here we are at the beach, making like it is summertime.  Ok, so more like spring-time in BC, and it is a hot day.  And, while I was down at the beach, I posted this entry using the WP app for iPhone – pretty slick I say – something I’ve wanted since oh, 2003 or so – real device-based blog-authoring.

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