I”m a glutton for slightly sweet bread. Not the super-sweet-sticky stuff like iced cinnamon rolls, but scones, date loaf and Portuguese King’s Bread, also called Bolo Rei, a marvellous concoction that Isabel, our cleaning lady, brings every Christmas. (I’ve been known to slice the bread into about eight pieces and freeze it immediately upon receiving it, secreting it in the back of the freezer so I can dole it out over the coming months). Thus, I’ve always been intrigued by the boxes of Panettone that appear in the grocery store at Christmas time, but had never taken the plunge. So when I saw a recipe for individual Panettone in a back issue of Victoria Magazine, I thought I’d give them a try. What’s the worst thing that can happen?
I had forgotten how much I loathe cardamom. The texture was great, but the flavour… Maybe cardamom is like cilantro, which always tastes like soap to me. I understand it’s genetic. Ok – next time, I thought, I’ll just skip the cardamom and see how that turns out. Meanwhile, I came across a recipe for Panettone Muffins on the Sprinklebakes website, in which she mentions Fiori di Sicilia, an Italian extract often used in Panettone. You don’t need much; it’s potent. As described on the King Arthur website:
“You know that wonderful marriage of flavours you taste when you combine vanilla ice cream and orange sherbet in the same bowl? That is what Fiori di Sicilia tastes like.”
It took a little while for the Fiori di Sicilia to arrive; King Arthur Flour is overrun with orders from quarantined bakers. I also managed to snag some SAF Red Instant Yeast from Amazon. A very helpful blog on Which Yeast to Use, also on the King Arthur Site, advised that SAF Gold Instant Yeast is the one for sweet breads, but we are making do with the Red for today.
As an aside, the article also went on to say that yeast in an airtight container keeps practically forever in the freezer. It’s far more economical to purchase in larger quantities and measure it out yourself, rather than relying on the supermarket packets.
As with any yeast bread, it involved a multi-step process of mixing, kneading, rising and waiting, but definitely worth it.
Sweet bread doughs, in particular, are very sticky and messy.
They’re quite wet.
But rise most satisfactorily!
I weighed out each portion before tossing it into its individual panettone paper.
Another rise, and we’re set to go into the oven to bake.
Dried Cherry Panettone
A delicious sweet bread, redolent with the subtle scents of Fiori de Sicilia and tangy chew of dried cherries.
- 320 g or 2 c dried cherries
- 3⁄4 cup brandy or cognac
- 1⁄3 cup warm water (105° to 115°)
- 4 1/2 tsp SAF Gold Instant Yeast
- 360 g or 3 c all-purpose flour, divided
- 1⁄2 c warm milk (105° to 115°)
- 150 g or 3⁄4 c sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄2 tsp Fiori di Sicilia
- 172 g or 3⁄4 c butter, softened
- 120 g or 1 c bread flour
- 18 g or 1⁄4 c sliced almonds
- In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine the cherries and brandy. Microwave on high for 90 seconds; remove, and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine the water and 2 1/4 tsp of yeast. Stir in 1⁄2 cup flour; cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in bulk (about 30 minutes).
- In a separate small bowl, combine the milk and remaining 2 1/4 tsp of yeast. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, whole eggs, egg yolks, salt, and Fiori di Sicilia extract. Add milk-yeast mixture; whisk to combine, and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter, remaining 2 1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour, and 1 cup bread flour until crumbly. Reduce mixer speed to low; gradually add milk-egg mixture; beat until smooth. Add the flour-yeast mixture, and beat at high speed until dough has an elastic texture (about 5 minutes). The dough will be very sticky. Strain cherries, and add to dough, mixing until well combined; discard brandy.
- Transfer dough to an oiled bowl. Spray a piece of plastic wrap with nonstick spray; cover dough completely. Let dough stand in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in bulk (about 2 hours).
- Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Divide dough into 12 equal portions (approximately 4 ounces per portion). Knead each portion a few times; roll into balls. Place each ball into a miniature paper panettone mould. Transfer moulds to a baking sheet, and loosely cover dough with a piece of plastic wrap sprayed with nonstick spray. Let stand in a warm, draft-free area until dough reaches top edges of paper moulds (about 45 minutes).
- Preheat oven to 400°. Place rack in lower third of oven.
- Brush the tops of the loaves with the remaining egg yolk, lightly beaten with a touch of water. Sprinkle with sliced almonds. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°; bake until tops are golden brown and rise slightly above rims of paper mould (about 15 minutes). Cover with tented aluminum foil to prevent tops from getting too brown, if necessary.
- Transfer pannetone to wire racks to cool completely. Serve warm, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
These little guys freeze quite well. Just take them out of the freezer about 30 minutes before you’re planning to serve them, and heat them for a few minutes in a 350° oven if you like them warm.