Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The story of panettone: Don't buy it, make it

One of the things I like the most about Christmas time is that I get to eat panettone. I have a great aunt in Italy who traditionally provides me with the best one you can buy. I then eat it with indecent greed and guard it jealously so noone gets more than me. Yes, I am that childish.

However, I always really wanted to try and make it at home as we all know that home-made is generally better. Panettone has a reputation for being extremely tricky to make. My grandma, who is a sort of an authority when it comes to baking with yeast dough, told me that it's supposed to be really hard, that it takes a lot of time, and that I shouldn't even bother. Fortunately, I rarely listen to any advice, so I decided to make my research and at least give it a try.

I really did make my research. In the end I felt like I read and watched everything that the internet could provide on the topic of panettone. I decided on a recipe by Laura Vitale that seemed both traditional and simple enough. I made only two alterations. I substituted the active yeast with 14g of fresh yeast as fresh yeast is a traditionally used by Italian bakers, and left out any candied fruit because I just don't like it.

My first panettone. Don't listen to anyone who tells you it's too hard to make at home. It's not.

There are two things that I found were crucial for success when making panettone:
  1. Being gentle with the dough.
    It's okay to be not so gentle when you're making the dough, but once you put it away to rise you should really be careful what you do with it. Don't poke it. Don't slam the oven door once you put it in. Pretend the dough is asleep and any fast movement would wake it up.
  2. Creating a warm enough rising environment.
    The warmer your kitchen is the better. If it's too cold, the dough won't rise properly.

I have to say that when I try out new recipes, even if they are good in essentials, I usually always find something that I'm not completely satisfied with - the taste, sweetness, texture, you name it. This recipe, however, is perfect. There is not a single thing that I'd want to change. Needless to say, the panettone was of course better that the store-bought one.

Panettone admittedly does take a lot of time to make, because the dough has to rise twice. Altogether the process takes about 8 hours, but don't let that discourage you. It's more than worth it.

There are still two days till Christmas. Get your aprons on!