If you are among the people who believe that nothing says “The Holidays” like a festive loaf of panettone, let me just say this: You are mad.
This bread, it is evil.
It will drive you insane, make you tear your hair out. You may find yourself repeatedly staring intently at an unrising bowl of taupe glop, thinking, “Just, why, God, WHY?”
I mean this for the folks out there attempting to bake it, that is. (If you’re the sort who buys panettone in a store then, sure, go for it. I’m sure that’s pretty harmless.)
The problem I had here was holiday spirit.
Recently, I found myself so infused with the stuff that I decided to tackle panettone for the Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge.
With Ella Fitzgerald’s “Christmas Song” burbling in my head, I merrily set about buying the ingredients — rye flour, pineapple juice and bits of dried mangoes, cranberries and pears.
When I sat down to look at the recipe, I knew I was in trouble: This bread requires a starter that takes five days to make. And when that’s done? The dough takes two more days.
A seven-day bread? This was putting Heston Blumenthal’s 12-hour bolognese to shame.
But the holiday spirit was unflagging — so, the baking began.
Now, if you ever try this, this is what you’ll be looking at over four days.
Every day you have to feed it a little by adding more flour and pineapple juice or water.
Except grass would be nowhere near as noxious. This recipe actually states at one point: “Do not be put off by the strong aroma of the dough.”
Another favorite bit: “try not to breathe as (the gas) escapes — the carbonic gas mixed with ethanol fumes will knock you across the room!”
I mixed up a sponge using the starter, milk and flour and let that ferment overnight. Then I chopped up raisins, dried mango, papaya, cranberries and pears and mixed those with orange and vanilla extracts and brandy and let that sit out overnight.
The next day, that all got mixed together with more flour, sugar, yeast and almonds, forming an incredibly liquid dough that just would not rise.
After hours upon hours of staring at it and hoping for some action, I finally scooped some into muffin tins to make mini panettoni …
Dry. Mealy. Sort of like “Big Waste of Time” encapsulated in a loaf.
I can think of a thousand things I probably did wrong — I probably should have used more flavorful fruits such as dried cherries, instead of attempting a tropical take on panettone with mangoes and papayas. Perhaps my water was the wrong temperature. Maybe my apartment’s aggressively tropical heating system ruined the dough.
Whatever it was, I probably will never find out. (I’m certainly not attempting panettone again.)
I will say this, though: Bah, humbug.
Unlike me, some other Bread Baker’s Apprentice bakers managed to produce beautiful panettone. Check these out:
Carolyn‘s at Two Skinny Jenkins
Cathy‘s at Bread Experience
Daniel‘s at Ahrelich Gesagt
Mags‘s at The Other Side of 50
Sally‘s at Bewitching Kitchen
For others, check out Yeastspotting.