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As a child I remember very well, every Christmas and every Easter the way that Panettone (=cozonac, in Romanian) was made in our kitchen.
My mother and my grandmother was preparing as for a special procedure: the kitchen was closed for one day and a half, they worked and worked for many, many kg of dough: using 10-15kg of flour, 30 eggs, butter and butter…and more butter.
All I remember is the strong smell of Vanilla, orange and lemon peel that was penetrating, under the kitchen door, because we were not allowed to open or enter there. The temperature should remain constant, high, and the oven was prepared special for the procedure.
We use this dough in many, many way: for Christmas, beside the tall panettone, my mother would make frayed donuts, panettone rolls with walnuts, with cocoa; for Easter, beside the loaf panettone, my mother made different “pasca”, a pie shaped panettone dough, filled with chocolate (my absolutely FAVORITE), or with cheese, or with rice pudding (I liked the least of all)….
This is way I have a big respect and a big love for making panettone=cozonac.
I have tried many recipes,over last 2 years, starting with my mother's ( I wanted a recipe to use the stand up mixer) and following the “Bread Baking Challenge” as Peter Reinhart teaching us the bread baking technique…. Neither one recipe was so good, as perfect as I remember as a child: a very fluffy desert, very light and not very sweet.
This recipe is the one that gave the best result: 3 small, fluffy light panettone in brown bags ( a good gift, for anybody!). This recipe I have seen first time in Martha's show Martha Stewart Living, December/January 1993/1994 and I realized is going to be a good recipe.
My own notes:
*You will found a day (full day) to make this panettone when you have nothing else planned, just having love, patience and nursing the dough and the whole process.
* I am using the oven set and off at 100F to be a constant temp for rising the dough.
* Prepare a night before all the ingredients, butter and eggs kept at room temp, peal the orange and lemon, make the rum/cognac soaked raisins, pass and fluffy flour through the sieve.
1/3 cup warm water,( 100-110 degrees )
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3cups and 1/2 all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups mixed dried and candied fruit
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
Canola oil, for bowl
1 large egg yolk + 1 tablespoon heavy cream to brush tops os panettone
You will need three 3/8-by-7-inch brown paper bags +
+ 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, for paper bags.
1. To make the sponge, warm a small bowl by rinsing it with hot water. Pour in 1/3 cup warm water, and sprinkle 1 package yeast on it. Let stand until yeast has dissolved. Stir in 1/2 cup flour, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand until doubled, about 30 minutes.
2. Sprinkle remaining package yeast over warm milk. Let stand until dissolved.
3. Beat together sugar, room temp eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla, lemon and orange zest. Mix in yeast-milk mixture. Add sponge, and stir until well incorporated.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine one stick room temp butter and remaining 3 1/2 cups flour until crumbly.
5. Slowly pour in egg mixture, and beat on high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until dough is elastic-looking and long strands form.
6. Beat in soaked raisins.
7. Turn dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled, 2 to 3 hours.
8. Fold down tops of bags to form a 3-inch cuff. Brush inside and out with melted butter.
9. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured board and knead a few times to deflate.
Divide dough into three pieces. Roll each into a ball, and drop into prepared bags.
My own notes: I had a lot of trouble with these bags: They are a little higher than a mug and they are very easy to break, once they are oiled with melted butter It is a little better if you oil the bag only inside, not outside, they are more strong; you can't put a round nice dough inside, will break; you could leave the dough to "fell" inside of the bag; it settle nicely.
You can use small metal coffee can, lined with parchment paper with good results.
10. Place bags on a baking sheet about 4 inches apart, and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place to rise until doubled again, about 2 hours.
Heat oven to 400F degrees.
11. Carefully cut an X in the top of each loaf with oiled scissors.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and heavy cream to make an egg wash.
Brush top of each loaf with egg wash.
12. Place baking sheet in bottom third of oven, at 400F
After 10 minutes, lower heat to 375F degrees.
Bake for 30 more minutes; if tops get too brown while baking, cover with foil.
13. Loaves are done when a wooden skewer inserted into centers comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack.
I love panetonne with honey! This is a real treat after such a long day, to love and to nurse this wonderful dessert.