Off with a Bang!
Last week, I talked about how I was feeling a little sluggish in the holiday cheer department. Well, that all ended on Saturday when I quite literally woke up to a loud Bang! I was in that half asleep state that happens right before you fall back asleep or begin tossing and turning. I think I was well on my way back to sleepyland, actually, when I heard an extremely loud Bang! It sounded kind of like someone had dropped a book on the floor, and I felt a moment of annoyance at the boys for waking me up on my only day of the week to sleep in as late as I wanted, when I suddenly remembered something. I shot out of bed and down the stairs as fast as I could go. Here is part of what I found.
There were two containers, actually. By the time I thought to take a photo, I had already emptied the other one into a mixer bowl. This one in the picture is not the one that made the noise. It was the other, much more airtight, and difficult to open and close container, that burst open with a bang because of the pressure that had built up from the rising dough inside it. Believe it or not, these containers were only one-third full when I put the tops on them Friday night. I never thought that they would overflow their containers, but I was wrong. I am just so, so relieved that it did not throw itself on the floor. Then, I might have cried. As it was, it had toppled over, but not on the floor, and I was able to salvage it and move on to the next stage.
Oh, I am sorry, I still haven’t told you what this is! Silly me. It was the first dough for this year’s first batch of panettone. You can read more about my love of panettone here. For several years, I have been using a recipe from The Bread Bible that we have been fairly happy with. It’s not the best panettone I have ever eaten, but it was good. However, my goal for this year was to make a panettone with my sourdough monsters in the traditional way.
I found this recipe by Susan of Wild Yeast and I decided this would be a good one to try for two reasons: 1. All the ingredients were listed by weight and 2. She clearly knows what she is doing with sourdough. I began on Thursday, building up my sourdough starter by keeping it warm and feeding it more regularly. I thought this might take a few days, so I was kind of surprised when my starter was able to triple itself in four hours within a day of beginning this regiment. I had twice as much starter as I needed, so what did I do? I made two batches, of course! Hence, the two containers that I talked about earlier.
After getting over my surprise wake up on Saturday, I got to work, measuring and mixing. The final dough came together really nicely. Look at it. It’s wonderfully stretchy and loose and silky. It was just a gorgeous, gorgeous dough. To one batch, I added chestnuts, some of my rum-soaked fruit, and the traditional fiori di sicilia. To the other batch, I added chestnuts (I did a quick survey of the family and they all wanted chestnuts, surprise!), a tiny bit of rum-soaked fruit, candied citron, grated orange zest, and vanilla bean seeds.
While the dough rose, I busied myself with other Christmas-y activities and watched. In 6 hours, the first batch had tripled its size. A few minutes after I put it in the oven, I was surprised to see that it had really expanded a lot in the oven! It was a good two inches above the rim and looked fantastic!
It was tricky to take the breads out of the oven and hang them upside down. I am wimpy and always afraid of burning myself. The husband helped me and they turned out fine. I was not as lucky with the second batch. With the second batch, I chose to use Susan’s glaze and, Oh My, did this batch expand in the oven! Some of the glaze and a few almonds slid off and there was a lot of dough hanging off the sides of one of the loaves. One loaf had a little accident when I tried to hang it; the top fell off! Oh well.
I still have three wonderful looking panettone to show for all my efforts and the fourth one was devoured rather quickly. Hot out of the oven, the bread was a little doughy, but full of wonderful vanilla and citrus flavors. A little while later, when it was cool, it was not doughy at all, but very moist. And the texture! It was softer and fluffier than a pillow! We all loved the glaze from Susan’s recipe, so I would definitely make that again. It added a little crunchy sweetness that was a great texture contrast with the soft insides. How does it compare to the gold standard? Friends and fellow lovers of panettone, it is close. Really close. It might be just as good, and maybe even a tad better. I am beyond excited and over the moon about this recipe. I can’t wait to make it again and I think it may have to be soon, because these three loaves are not going to last long in this house. But, first, I have a few more things I need to get done.
Yesterday, in honor of Chanukah, we had our annual meal of potato latkes, applesauce, and smoked salmon. The holiday spirit has finally arrived in our house, our hearts, our minds, and our tummies! This post is just the beginning! For the next week and a half I am planning a series of posts that I am dubbing The Twelve Days of Christmas/Holiday Breads, according to me, of course. Most of the things I have planned to feature are breads, beginning with today’s panettone, but there might be one or two cookies that might sneak in here and there. I hope you will join me. There might be a little giveaway in there somewhere, too! Oh how I love the holidays!