A bakery here sells Panettone every December, which I tend to buy several loaves of in order to stockpile in the freezer. A traditional sweet Italian holiday bread studded with dried fruits, I happen to think panettone makes an amazing French Toast, particularly on cold, snowy mornings. I may have once or twice lobbied the owner of said bakery to consider making panettone more than just once a year – pitching a “Christmas in July” idea – so that I could have access to this treat more than once a year. Gerry was not buying what I was selling, but, he did manage to plant a seed that I could learn to bake panettone myself. I spent some time looking for a recipe, but most of them seemed pretty intimidating. And then this King Arthur Flour Co. recipe came to my attention.
It seemed easy enough, using all-purpose flour while calling for orange flavoring and a variety of dried fruits, most of which we tend to have hand for snacking. I had every intent of giving this recipe a whirl over the holidays, but as is wont to happen over the holidays, the reality of us having to eat everything I want to bake catches up with me (and our waistlines). So the idea got shelved. I figured I’d make it during a snowstorm during the coming winter months, but then the crazy warm ‘winter’ happened, with February seeing temperatures of the 70’s more days than not, inspiring my yard to bloom a good 6 weeks too early, totally crushing the idea of a cozy winter baking day.
And then came March. It would seem winter decided to show up after all, using the better late than never theory (although my tulip magnolia begs to differ). A mid-march snowstorm was in forecast, although exactly what Charlottesville was to get was up in the air. Forecasts here varied from freezing rain to a “shovelable amount” of snow. What a perfect time to try my hand at baking panettone! I mean, if the weather is going to be crazy mixed up, then why not make a Christmas holiday bread in March?
While the snowstorm was a bit of a bust here (if your money was on freezing rain, then you won), the panettone was a success. I had sort of blanked on the fact that panettone is baked in a specific round pan that is usually lined with paper (or just the paper itself) and found myself subbing a regular loaf pan at the last minute. My end result may be a slightly different shape, but the taste and texture were exactly what I had been looking for. Success! Right out of the gate too, which is always encouraging, isn’t it?
There are of course, notes on tweaks I want to do next time, but I’m still basking in the glow of my success. I’m not sure it would have ever occurred to me to try this bread at home had it not been for the encouragement of my local baker friend. It’s interesting to me how others see abilities in ourselves that we fail to see, but that is a topic to muse on another day.