Friday, 23 December 2011

Panettone [Trial 1]

It's my favorite time of the year.  I'm not Christian or anything, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy Christmas. Oh by the way, check out The Atheist's Guide to Christmas, with funny tips and anecdotes written by atheist celebrities, writers and scientists.

I love Christmas because of the atmosphere, the decorations, the music, and most of all, the food.  All these countries have so many wonderful things to offer at Christmas.  As a family we don't really celebrate Christmas.  I mean we'll make an effort to all have a meal together but that's it.  I think the most christmasy Christmas we've had was when my sister brought her American husband home and we went through such an effort in trying to have a proper Christmas dinner with a roast and presents and everything.  So I don't really know what Italians normally eat for Christmas, maybe nothing in particular at all, like my family.  The only Italian Christmas food I know is panettone.  The slightly sweet, light as air, melt-in-your mouth fruitcake.  It originated from Milan.

1. Coming from the Italian word "panetto", meaning small loaf of bread, and the suffix "-one" means large.  Therefore, a large..small loaf of bread.
2. Deriving from Milanese, "pan del ton", meaning bread of luxury.
3. Resulted from a 15th Century love story.  A nobleman fell in love with a poor baker's daughter, Toni.  To win her love, he disguised as a baker and invented this bread for her.  Obviously with such a grand gesture of love the Duke of Milan agreed to the marriage.  This bread was known as "Pan de Toni" (Toni's bread).
4. The cook burnt his dessert at an important court dinner on the 24th of December.  Just when he thought he was about to lose his job and much more, his assistant, Toni, suggested putting some old dough together with some candied fruits, eggs and buter.  The desperate cook agreed and served what actually became a huge success.  The cook was a nice man and gave all credits to Toni, thus naming it Pan de Toni.

Sadly the name probably originated from panetto or pan del ton without much of a story behind it, but I'm going to believe the 3rd one just because I like it.   I think inventing something as wonderful as panettone as an act of love is just the most romantic thing.  Imagine a rich noble man inventing, say, croissants, for you.  Men nowadays have got to step it up.


Now.  Before I get your hopes up I need to tell you that I failed.  But I don't want to say that it was a complete failure because I think it still tasted quite nice.

I didn't start this with high hopes.  Panettone's difficult stuff.  But I thought: if I can make panettone, I can do anything.  I can make anything imaginable, I can take over the world, I may even be able to ace my Economics test.  Yea, it was too ambitious of me.

After reading dozens of recipe  I decided to go with Loretta's.  She gives very detailed instructions and if you go on the Italian website, you can watch the video of it as well.   HOWEVER, you never see the final product... <.<

But as you can see from below, it actually had quite a nice texture.  It didn't have the characteristic thread-like pull-apart texture, but it was soft and spongy.  So I simply didn't call it a panettone.  It's a sweet bread.

So trouble shooting:
The key is it just didn't rise properly.  I probably should've let it rise in the oven over very low heat (30C) for all three rises.  It was meant to double in the first rise, triple on the second and third rise.  The only successful rise was the third one when I put it in the oven.  The second rise was especially shameful as it barely doubled in size.

This was after the third rise in the oven.  Oh I had a flicker of hope when I saw them like this.  But as you can see from below they..stayed that way.  They're meant to rise even more when baking.

Obviously I'll try again.  Maybe not anytime soon.  Probably next Christmas.  This Christmas was stollen and panettone.  Next one will be yule log and panettone.  And then gingerbread house and panettone.  I'll make one every Christmas until eventually I succeed.

If you're not feeling like making your own panettone this year, The Guardian has a nice rating of the panettones that are available in the UK.

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