My love affair with panettone began in Trader Joe’s. At this time of year, they sell a box containing one regular sized loaf for less than $10. When I first started going to Trader Joe’s, they also had a mini-sized panettone. I tried a sample–I think it was cranberry orange or some such flavor–and was won over immediately.
Fluffy. Sweet. Soft. Citrusy. Flowery. Divine.
We made do with the Trader Joe’s version for a couple of years. We were a little poorer then, so one loaf had to do for the holidays. Then, several years ago, I started working part time at Williams-Sonoma during the holiday season. They sell a panettone that makes the Trader Joe’s one seem drab and boring. For one thing, it is Humongous. And so is the price tag, but it is So Worth It. They are made in Italy and have real glaceed chestnuts. When I cut a piece, I would always try to scope out where the chestnuts were and try get as many as I could into my piece without seeming too greedy. Some people said it made the best french toast. Personally, I could never imagine doing that. It was perfect as it was. In fact, this has become the gold standard by which I judge all other panettone, including my own.
Now, being me, I could not make do with having to buy my panettone. I went searching for recipes. They range in difficulty. I’ve made one from this book and it was good, but a little too bready and dry. It was missing a depth of flavor.
Then, I tried a recipe from The Bread Bible and this one is really good. It just takes 2-3 days if you want to make the full-flavored version. If you don’t want to wait that long, you can do it in one day, it just takes an entire day. I started mine yesterday and today I have made the dough.
It is the most beautiful, silky, dough you may ever see, Tomorrow or the next day, it will be baked and I will have a picture to show you. The key ingredient for me is the chestnuts, but the candied ones are hard to find, so I have been making my own for a couple of years.
I just buy a jar of chestnuts and simmer them in a sugar syrup (10 ounces of sugar, 5 ounces of water) for a little while. Then I let them soak for a couple of days to let the sugar permeate the chestnuts. It’s easy and gives a good approximation of glaceed chestnuts. Last year, by chance, we found a little shop while we were on vacation that sold glaceed chestnuts. We bought one box (I don’t even want to tell you how much they cost) and I saved them until Christmas time. Last year’s panettone was a cut above with those chestnuts straight from Italy.
The next recipe I will try is this one that uses a sourdough starter instead of straight yeast. Now, I have read that this is the traditional way to make panettone (as well as pandoro, my next project) and I wonder how that will affect the flavor. Hopefully, I will find out soon.
See? I’m already getting ready.