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Merry Christmas!

Hi All!  Just popping in to announce the winner of the Christmas Treat Box Giveaway.  I used the random number generator to help me pick the winner and it chose post 67, which is Laura C. with this post:

“I’ve seen these cookies before but never had any. Glad the machine was fun and easy to use”

Well, Laura, there are some pizzeles in the box I just shipped off to you, so I hope you enjoy them and the other treats as well!

Thank you to all of you for being faithful readers and commenters.  I wish you could be here to enjoy a piece of cake with me.  Our event on Saturday ended up being cancelled due to weather, so we’ve had to eat the whole cake by ourselves, but I would have loved to share it with you.   You all make writing this blog a lot of fun!

Today, despite getting off to a late start, has been fairly productive.  My candied orange peel is drying now.

And the next batch of panettone dough is made and rising (very slowly).  Do you see how stretchy and sheer the dough is?  Heavenly!  I know it’s only Monday, but the week is looking good so far!  How’s your week looking?

Day 12: Unfinished

Christmas is a week away and I don’t know about you, but I still have a lot left to do.  Thankfully, I have a pretty clear week in which to get them done.  Unfortunately, I sort of ran out of time this weekend and there are still too many balls in the air to have a finished topic today.  However, I can show you a few things that I am hoping to get done in the next few days.

The first one is to finish up this batch of candied orange peel.  There’s lots of recipes out there for making candied orange peel.  Here’s a good one.  Orange peel is a pretty essential ingredient in a lot of my Christmas baking, but it’s also fabulous to eat on its own.  It’s also good dipped in dark chocolate!

Next on the agenda is to work on making another batch of panettone.  I made a batch last week using a new recipe, but it didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked.  It was a recipe I had in my files that I definitely got off the internet, but now I can’t find it.  Funny.

Anyway, it was good, but not quite the texture we’re used to, so I want to make a few adjustments and try it again.  I may be able to talk about it later this week if it works out!

In the meantime, this brings us to the end of my 12 Days of Christmas Blog series.  It’s only one week until Christmas!  For one more entry into the Christmas treat box giveaway, leave a comment here before noon eastern standard time tomorrow (December 19).  I’ll announce the winner in the early afternoon and hope to get that box shipped out soon after.  Thank you so much for joining me these past 12 days!  See you tomorrow!

 

 

Christmas Essentials

After a week of being very ill, I am finally feeling better. Not 100% yet. I am still fighting off the dregs of that infection, but well enough that I could at least bake a couple of essential Christmas treats in our house.

First, Panettone.

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The husband tells me this is the best one yet. I think I need to make it again this year. I don’t think I will hear any objections. Making the recipe just once a year is not really enough to adequately perfect a technique. Also, I did not feed my sourdough starter as many times as usual before mixing the final dough so it was a tad more sour tasting than I would like.

Second, Holiday Babka.

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Ok, this is the first time I have made this. Basically, I took my Sourdough Not Flatbread recipe and added some rummy fruit mix and some extra grated citrus zest to it. Then, I rolled it out, slathered it with a chocolate butter mixture, and shaped it like a babka. It is fabulous and I will definitely be making this again. I may even post a recipe, but I guess it would be a little late for most of you. Hmm. Maybe next year.

Thirdly, but not finally, Pandoro.

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Ok, This dough did not behave like it has in years past so it has also not turned out the same. The dough seemed uneven and never really smoothed out the way it was supposed to. I may have to make this one again, too, just to see if I can figure out what went wrong. There was virtually no oven spring. Odd. We don’t know how it tastes yet because this is our Christmas morning treat, but at least if it is bad, we have the other two treats to fall back on.

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Anyway, this baking has used up all my energy, so we are ordering chinese food delivery for Christmas Eve dinner–no dishes, yay! My dear readers, may you have a lovely and sweet holiday, wherever you are!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

Resurfacing

Remember that headache I mentioned last time?  Well, it turned into a two day migraine that I am still trying to recover from.  I really intended to write a longer post today about the letters U and V (such interesting letters!), but I am afraid we’ll both have to make to with a few photos and captions.

U–Unfinished

With 3 days left before Christmas, I have various projects that are still unfinished, like this panettone made with sourdough and our amaryllis.  Sadly, I don’t think the amaryllis will be ready on Christmas day, but that’s ok.  We’ll have something to look forward to later on in the week.  The panettone will be going in the oven soon and I hope that it will be good.  I am using a new recipe (surprise! haha!) and I am feeling a little uncertain about it, even though everything has gone according to schedule so far.

Unlike this pandoro that I am making.

This has got to be the most extensible (breadspeak for stretchy) dough I have ever made.  It’s too bad that in my post migraine-induced stupor, I skipped a four hour step this morning.  Still, I am hopeful that it will at least be edible, although you know I will have to make this again to see what effect skipping that step had on the final product.  The only problem with skipping this step is that I may have to stay up all night to bake it when it is ready!  Ah well, what’s Christmas without an all-nighter or two?

I also have some unfinished knitting projects.

I wanted to have fingerless mitts done for the boys’ stockings.  This is all I have done so far.  These are quick, so I am optimistic and, hey!  I’ll be staying up all night with the pandoro anyway, so I might as well do some last minute knitting while I am at it.

Variety

I like a lot of variety at Christmas.  Especially when it comes to cookies.

I think a cookies plate looks really nice with a wide variety of cookies, don’t you?

The boys like a nice variety of candies, which you can see here on their gingerbread houses.

Don’t they look great?   I think it’s their favorite thing to do during the holidays (besides open presents!).  We’ve been doing this with a couple of good friends and their kids for at least 5 years now.  We keep saying that if the kids ever give it up, the the adults will take over willingly!  Personally, I have always wanted to do a sliced almond tiled roof…

What is your favorite holiday tradition or cookie?