warm pizza

In our continuing quest for good, vegetarian-friendly grub, the husband and I decided to make ourselves a homemade margherita pizza, with our own flair (queso fresco instead of mozzarella, plus some spinach… I’d say it was a result of culinary innovation, but really it was because we had nothing else in the fridge). I’ve always hated the buttery taste of store-bought pizza doughs, so I searched for a healthy, easy pizza dough recipe, as I’ve been longing to make my own pie base for quite some time now. Leave it to my handy dandy Food Network Magazine to come through in the clutch with a pullout section for what? Pizza. Schwing.
wheat flourwhisk!
2 1/4 tsp yeastpouring water

The recipe was so short it fit within the confines of a 3/4-by-2-inch box in the center of a list of 50 pizza recipes, and despite the gashes in my current food supply I had all of the ingredients necessary for not one, nay, but TWO pounds of pizza dough. My stars!

The original recipe calls for all-purpose flour alone, but in an effort to make a healthier dough I incorporated 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour with 2 cups all-purpose (I could have tipped the scales more in favor of whole wheat, but at the risk of make a super-tough dough I declined this time). In a matter of minutes the dough was ready for kneading, and my wonderful husband decided to take a stab (or a fist) at kneading for the first time (I guess he had a lot of stress to release).

kneading pizza dough, part deux

kneading pizza dough, part three

ball o' dough

After the dough doubled (which took just about 1 1/2 hours, per the recipe), we separated the mass in half and reserved one pound in the fridge for the next day, leaving one pound to spread thin, thin, thin across a 15-inch round pizza stone (also from Food Network — psh, what are the ODDS?)

rolled out pizza dough

closeup of pizza

We smeared on olive oil and crushed tomatoes; sprinkled a smattering of dried oregano, salt and pepper; and topped it off with crumbled cheese and torn spinach leaves. Into the oven for 15 minutes (barely) and bellissimo! That’s amore.

pizza squares

Seriously, if you’re salivating over these pictures (which you should be, because this pizza was ah-mazing), grab these ingredients out of your cabinets (or cupboards, if you are a gnome and live under a thatched roof) and get to business. It’ll be easier than poaching an egg! (I know, because I did just that this weekend.)

Debrief: This was certainly an inspirational recipe, to say the least, in the sense that it got me thinking about so many different kinds of pizzas I could make with this simple dough. Maybe a breakfast pizza or fruit pizza is in my near future.

Pizza Dough
Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

Whisk 3 3/4 cups flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Make a well and add 1 1/3 cups warm water, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 packet yeast. When foamy, mix in 3 tablespoons olive oil; knead until smooth, 5 minutes. Brush with olive oil, cover in a bowl and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Divide into two 1-pound balls. Use 1 pound per recipe (unless you want to make a thicker crust, deep-dish or a stuffed pizza… in which case follow the recipes on Food Network).

Extra punches: Really, you can make any pizza your little heart desires using this dough. It’s mild enough that it can be topped with anything from tomato sauce to barbecue sauce to hummus to yogurt. Go crazy! And send me the recipes.

7

rosemary-raisin monkey bread

So, after a series of days of movie-watching, article-reading and conversing with the husband, we decided it is in our best ethical interest to go what he says is called “flexitarian.” The term, if you are too lazy to look it up, refers to people who live on a mostly-vegetarian diet but will occasionally consume meat. For us, this means we will no longer eat meat or buy egg/milk products unless they are grass-fed or cage-free. It’s been tough for someone like me who loves her meat and has always had it readily available at the family table, but it’s important to me to start eating food that coincides with my morals.
egg separationbuttermilk for monkey bread
2 1/4 tsp yeastrosemary
Which is why I am so happy that my morals recently coaxed me into making this recipe, which (though the name refers to an animal) is friendly to both the environment and to my empty tummy.
buttahbrown sugar and rosemary
ballz, againbundt pan pre-fridge

I first read about monkey bread from another bread blog I highly regard, and when mine eyes laid upon it they widened in awe that this! — This satiating creation! This caramel-coated wonder! — was bread, indeed! I knew right then it had to be made, in my kitchen. I didn’t use that exact recipe but found another on the Food Network Web site, an overnight recipe courtesy of Mr. Alton Brown.

closeup rosemary-raisin monkey bread

At first, the idea of mixing rosemary with butter, brown sugar and raisins sounded a little funky, but after stirring all of said ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat, the aroma was so deliciously sweet and savory that I thanked the rosemary for sticking through the fight despite my initial cynicism.
This recipe does require a bit of patience (as in, waiting overnight to eat it), but let me tell you, it is so much better than rolling pieces of store-bought biscuit dough together. May your own morals coax you soon.

Debrief: Not too much to change. Maybe I’ll try a different recipe for monkey bread altogether? I know The Bread Bible has its own with pecans. And yet, that rosemary…

Overnight Monkey Bread
courtesy of Food Network

Ingredients
Dough:
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 large whole egg, room temperature
2 ounces sugar, approximately 1/4 cup
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted, approximately 6 tablespoons
6 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
20 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 cups, plus additional for dusting
1 package instant dry yeast, approximately 2 1/4 teaspoons
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
Vegetable oil or cooking spray

Topping:
8 ounces unsalted butter, approximately 16 tablespoons
8 ounces light brown sugar, approximately 1 cup packed
1/2 teaspoon ground rosemary
3 ounces raisins, approximately 3/4 cup

Coating:
2 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, melted, approximately 5 tablespoons
1 teaspoon ground rosemary

Directions
For the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter and buttermilk. Add approximately 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook. Add all but 3/4 cup of the remaining flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough and add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the 8 ounces of unsalted butter, brown sugar, rosemary, and raisins. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Pour half of the topping into the bottom of 2 bundt pans and set aside. Cover and store the other half of the topping in the refrigerator until the next morning.

Place the melted butter and rosemary for the coating in a medium shallow bowl and stir to combine. Once the dough has risen, turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Portion the dough into 1-ounce pieces; roll each piece into a ball. (You should have approximately 36 balls.) Roll the balls in the melted butter and rosemary.

Divide the balls evenly between the 2 bundt pans. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.

Remove the bread from the refrigerator and place in an oven that is turned off. Fill a shallow pan 2/3-full of boiling water and set on the rack below the bread. Close the oven and let the bread rise until slightly puffy looking, 20 to 30 minutes. Once the bread has risen, remove it and the shallow pan of water from the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Once the oven is ready, place the bread on the middle rack and bake until slightly golden on top, approximately 25 to 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.

Place the remaining topping in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Reheat until the mixture is pourable, approximately 5 minutes. Fifteen minutes into baking, pour the remaining topping over the bread, and finish cooking. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then invert onto a platter or cutting board. Serve immediately.

2

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If ever there was a tasty bread baked for instant gratification, this is it. I was having one of those “Good Lord I reeeeeeeally don’t even want to lift a finger today” kind of days, but my internal deadline was nagging at me about how “it’s been almost two weeks and your next post is due, and I don’t care that you were on vacation in the Bahamas because what kind of an excuse is that, anyway?” This is true, being away from the kitchen because I was too busy sipping Bahama Mamas from a coconut monkey head while lying on a boat deck trying desperately to change my skin color to anything darker than the vampiric translucence it was is not much of an excuse for a belated bread post, but nevertheless, I haven’t had much time.
flour en vogueoops! a spill
closeup of yellow cornmeal... yumhuevos y leche


I found this bread in Joy under the “Corn Breads” section, and I was feeling mildly southern that day (I don’t know, maybe it was my subconscious wishing to be back in warmer climates) so my hankering + laziness led me to this spoon bread recipe. Heck, I didn’t even know what a spoon bread was, and I’m still not completely sure (the closest I got to an explanation was “corn souffle“), but it sounded like something warm and slightly gooey and cornmeal-y, and if it requires nothing more than a spoon and a mouth, I’m in.

my wedding colors! no, i'm serious

mixing the batter

Truth is, it wasn’t much more than a slightly softer version of regular corn bread, but the golden brown, crusty edges in combination with the melt-in-your-mouth buttery center was like eating one of those baked mac n’ cheeses where you crack off the burnt cheese on the end of the casserole dish and douse it in warm, melty cheese noodles and… egads, it’s good. And very, very easy to make, too. Perfect for a day when you’d rather be back on a tropical island drinking cocktails at noon, but instead you’ve got bread to bake.

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closeup of crusty soft-center spoon bread

Debrief: I’m very aware that this is barely passes for a traditional bread, but if it has the word “bread” in it, I say it mildly counts. Next time I make this, I may disperse the batter in ramekins and bake it for less time so it more truthfully becomes a “corn souffle.”

Crusty Soft-Center Spoon Bread
courtesy of The Joy of Cooking

Makes 4 servings (which is a mighty-fine heapin’ helping, I’d say. I served mine to 8 with no complaints.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Sift together:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp double-acting baking powder
Add:
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
Stir in until well blended:
1 beaten egg
1 cup milk
Melt in a high-rimmed 8 x 8-inch baking dish:
2 tbsp butter
Pour in the batter. Pour over the top:
1/2 cup milk
Bake 45 minutes or more, until good and crusty. (My overzealous oven completed its task in 38 minutes.)

2

homemade bagels

This weekend my grandfather (from my mom’s side) and my grandmother (from my dad’s side) came to visit. For lunch, my grandmother brought two pounds of German deli meat — all some sort of “wurst” — and rye bread for sandwiches, and for dinner made us her household-famous stuffed cabbage, making the house smell so much of warm bacon and sauerkraut I felt as though I was walking through the piping-hot platter itself dressed in a dirndl while simultaneously listening to “yodel-ay-hee-hoo”s in the background. After dinner we played a heated battle-of-the-sexes version of Trivial Pursuit, which only took two and a half hours for the ladies to prevail, and I thought the whole time how wonderful it is to be surrounded by family and home and actually like them, and how things so organic as these are what I love most in life.

This attraction to simplicity permeates into my thoughts about baking as well. I (almost) always refuse to eat dessert if it’s not homemade, and a good chunk of the reason I have been baking bread from scratch is because I am drawn to the idea of taking something so foundational to my daily diet and making it from tangible ingredients that I have personally divided and mixed and kneaded together into an edible (and hopefully delicious) item. I know where it came from and I know of what it is made, and I don’t need any additives or extra stimulants to make it better. Which is why, on any occasion, I would rather play a trivia game at the kitchen table with my 70-something year old grandmother and grandfather than sit on a couch and watch a rerun of “The Office” while eating Ho-Hos (which I would never do anyway, but the principle still stands).

envelope turn

envelope turn, part deux

envelope turn, part... tres

But enough of my rambling. I decided to take a stab at a recipe for a bread I think many of us take for granted when we buy them in those tube bags from the grocery store. When we buy bagels, we forget they are even bread, and we burn them and butter them and slab on top of them so much cream cheese and peanut butter and high fructose corn syrup — I’m sorry, jelly — that they become nothing more than a porous vehicle by which their gooey toppings enter our mouths. I, too, was a follower of this ghastly abomination, but since having bitten into a homemade bagel and undergoing a “bagel awakening,” I doubt I’ll ever go back to eating those oversized, cakey frisbees disguised in bagel form.
artisan bread toppingprebaked bagels
boiling bagelsegg wash
The process of making these bagels was — pardon my French — really freaking hard. Leave it to Rose Levy Beranbaum to make what she calls an “easy-to-read” bagel recipe one of the most confusing and particular recipes I’ve ever attempted (no offense, Rose, but you left me feeling quite daft). I added too much flour to the sponge at the start of the recipe, and in order to fix my mistake I opted out of adding flour when mixing the sponge and the starter in the stand mixer. It worked, but, finicky as these bagels were, the process still resulted in a fairly chewy product. The rounded dough also came apart in the boiling process, so I had to put them back together with toothpicks, which, if the eater was not aware, could have resulted in a terrible bagel experience.

levy's bagels

I must say that the “Artisan Bread Topping” from King Arthur Flour (given as a gift from my sister-in-law — thanks, Natalie!) was the best part of the bagel. Despite the fact that they were mildly overdone, their crusty outsides and soft, peppery insides made them taste fantastic all on their own — no fancy additions, no toppings, just what they were. And that was good enough.

Debrief: I think I’ll try the other method of shaping the bagels (not posted) to see if they come out less chewy. And I’ll leave off the seeds, or use one of the other topping ideas offered by Beranbaum. I learned through this process that I don’t care too much for chewy bagels.

Levy’s Bagels
Courtesy of The Bread Bible

Makes five 4-by-1 1/2 inch-high bagels

Dough Starter (Sponge) Ingredients:
1/2 tsp instant yeast (I converted this to a little less than 2/3 tsp for active dry yeast, as Beranbaum suggests using 1.25 the weight of instant yeast if using active dry)
1 liquid cup plus 2 tbsp water, at room temperature (70 to 90 degrees F)
1 1/2 cups King Arthur high-gluten flour, preferably, or bread flour

1. Make the sponge: In a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, place the yeast, water and flour. Whisk about 2 minutes, until very smooth; scrape down the sides. The sponge will be very thick. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Flour Mixture Ingredients:
(Optional) 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup plus about 3 tbsp King Arthur high-gluten flour, preferably, or bread flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast (or 2/3 tsp active dry yeast)
1/2 tbsp malt powder or barley malt syrup (I used malted milk powder because that’s all I could find, and it worked for me)
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

2. Combine and add the ingredients for the flour mixture: In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the flour, the yeast, malt, sugar, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the mixture lightly over the sponge; do not stir. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature, or, for the best flavor development, 1 hour at room temperature and then refrigerated overnight, or up to 24 hours. (During this time, the sponge will bubble through the flour mixture in places; this is fine.)

3. Mix the dough: Add the butter if using it (I didn’t) and all but 2 tablespoons of the remaining flour and mix with the dough hook, starting on low speed (#2 if using a KitchenAid), mix until all the flour is moistened, about 1 minute. Raise the speed to medium (#4 KitchenAid) and knead for 10 minutes if using high-gluten flour, 5 to 7 minutes if using bread flour, adding the remaining 2 tablespoons flour toward the end if the dough doesn’t pull away from the bowl. It should be very elastic and smooth and should jump back when pressed with a fingertip. Empty it onto the counter and knead in a little more flour if it is tacky (slightly sticky) to the touch. More flour will make a heavier, chewier bagel, which some prefer.

4. Let the dough rise: Place the dough in a 2-quart dough-rising container or bowl, lightly greased with cooking spray or oil. Press the dough down and lightly spray or oil the top. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark the side of the container at approximately where double the height of the dough would be. Allow the dough to rise, ideally at 75 to 80 degrees F, or 1 to 2 hours until doubled (this part took about 3 hours for me, and even then it didn’t fully double… hmm). Deflate the dough by firmly pushing it down. Give it an envelope turn and set it back in the container. Oil the top of the dough, cover it, and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours, or overnight for the most flavor. (If you want to make the bagels later, at this point the dough can be wrapped and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Let the dough stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before shaping.)

5. Shape the dough and let it rise: Set a sheet of the parchment or lightly floured towel on a countertop near the stovetop. (Alternatively, line the baking sheet(s) with parchment or floured towels and place the shaped bagels on them so you can move them easily when you are ready to boil them.) Transfer the dough to an unfloured counter. Cut the dough into five equal pieces. Allow the dough to rest for about 10 minutes.
(There are two shaping methods here. For the sake of avoiding writing a novel, I’ll only post the method I used.) To develop slightly more chewiness, roll each piece of dough on an unfloured counter into a 12-inch-long rope. Make a ring, overlapping the ends by 2 inches and joining them by pressing down and rolling on the overlap until it is the same thickness as the rest of the dough ring. There will be a 1-inch hole in the center. This technique results in rounder, slightly higher bagels with smaller holes. Allow the bagels to rise for about 15 minutes or until they puff slightly.

6. Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F 30 minutes before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating.

Water Bath and Toppings Ingredients:
2 tbsp molasses or 1/4 cup sugar (I used sugar)
1 tsp baking soda
Glaze and Toppings Ingredients:
2 large egg whites
1 tsp cold water
3 to 4 tbsp poppy, sesame or caraway seeds; kosher or sea salt; minced onions sauteed in vegetable oil; and/or dried garlic chips or dehydrated onions softened in hot water

7. Boil the bagels: Bring a large pot (about 9-by-4-inches high) of water to a boil. Stir in the molasses or sugar and baking soda until dissolved. With a skimmer, transfer the bagels, one at a time, to the boiling water, without crowding them; cook them in batches of 2 to 3 at a time so that they can swim around without touching one another. If they are slightly underrisen, they may sink at first but will then rise to the surface. Boil for 30 seconds to 2 minutes on each side, gently flipping them over with the skimmer; the longer time will make a thicker crust. Remove the boiled bagels, shaking off excess water over the pot and set onto parchment or the unfloured towel to drain, then move them, using a pancake turner, to the prepared baking sheet(s) or peel, after just 30 seconds to 1 minute, so that they don’t stick. The bagels will look wrinkled at this stage. Don’t worry — their appearance vastly improves on baking.

8. Glaze the bagels: Whisk together the egg whites and cold water to break up the whites. Pass through a sieve into a bowl, and brush each bagel with the glaze. Do not let the glaze drip onto the baking sheet or peel, or it will glue them down. Brush with a second coat of glaze and, if desired, sprinkle any topping of your choice evenly over the bagels. (If you are using seeds, lift each bagel with a thin pancake turner or your hand, and, holding it over the pan with the seeds, sprinkle some more seeds on top. This way, you don’t have any seeds that would burn on the baking sheet.)

9. Bake the bagels: If using baking sheets, place one sheet directly on the hot oven stone or hot baking sheet. If using a peel, slight the bagels onto the hot stone. Bake for 5 minutes. Lower the temperature to 450 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes. Turn off the oven, without opening it and let the bagels remain for 5 minutes. Then open the oven door and leave the bagels in the oven for 5 more minutes.

10. Cool the bagels: Transfer the bagels to a wire rack and cool completely.

Extra punches: The bagels keep well for 1 day at room temperature in a paper bag. For longer storage, wrap each in plastic wrap, place in plastic freezer bags, and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw, still unwrapped, at room temperature.

10

IMG_3294

Sometimes, when I’m feeling a little insecure about my current talents, I reminisce about the days when I used to be able to do certain things. Like do flips on a trampoline. Or fit through one of those collapsible play tunnels. Or have enough imagination to act out an entire three-hour scenario of soap-opera proportions with my Barbies.
And sometimes I wish I could do things I’ve never been able to do before. Like run a marathon. Or speak fluent German. Or sustain the energy to write a novel.
Alas, though I haven’t met all of my goals, this week I have been able to cross one achievement off my list: make a pretzel. Actually, a bretzel.
measuring cupsyeast
temperaturedough in food processor
What is a bretzel, you ask? That’s a good question, one I couldn’t answer myself until I looked it up on the glorious World Wide Web. A bretzel — more specifically, a bretzel roll — is a Bavarian pretzel sandwich roll. In laymen’s terms, it’s a yummy, warm bundle of salty, fluffy, pretzel-y tastiness. And a super-easy recipe, too.

separating the pieces

cross bun

The ingredients and process are simple — mix some yeast, water and flour in a food processor, knead the heck of it, shape it, give it a bath, and you’re done! Yep, that’s right, a bath — a foamy pot of baking soda, the pivotal moment when the dough becomes “pretzel” dough. When the little dough babies are plopped into the pot, the steam gives off that very familiar aroma you waft while walking past an Auntie Anne’s at the mall, or a German bakery — whichever is more relevant.

thisclose

The dough was extremely elastic but took forever to knead — at least 15 minutes, and even then it didn’t pass the good ol’ windowpane test. When dividing the dough into rolls I used a pizza cutter to ensure more even pieces, and was pretty impressed with my craftiness. And when the rolls came out of the oven, all warm and caramel-brown with a crispy outer shell and an inner fluffy stuffing, the smell of salt dissipating from the soft crosscut in the center… Oh. They. Were. Heavenly.

Debrief: Though the recipe I found (adapted on the food blog Smitten Kitchen from Bon Appetit) strongly encourages/reminds you not to cover bretzel rolls when you store them, but instead leave them uncovered for up to two days, my rolls were as hard as rocks the following morning. In other words, eat them right when they emerge from the oven doors, or at least within several hours. But I’m sure that won’t be too difficult.
P.S. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Pretzel Rolls
Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Bon Appetit, January 1994

2 3/4 cups bread flour
1 envelope quick-rising yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast, which increases the initial rising time to nearly an hour)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (about) hot water (125°F to 130°F)
Cornmeal
8 cups water
1/4 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg white, beaten to blend (glaze)
Coarse salt

Combine bread flour, one envelope (2 1/4 tsp) yeast, one teaspoon salt and one teaspoon sugar in food processor and blend. With machine running, gradually pour hot water through feed tube, adding enough water to form smooth elastic dough. Process one minute to knead. Grease medium bowl. Add dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then towel; let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 35 minutes (or, with active dry yeast, closer to an hour).

Flour baking sheet, or clear area of counter. Punch dough down and knead on lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into 8 pieces. Form each dough piece into ball. Place dough balls on prepared surface, flattening each slightly. Using serrated knife, cut X in top center of each dough ball. Cover with towel and let dough balls rise until almost doubled in volume, about 20 minutes (in this time, I suggest prepping the water bath and preheating the oven so the rolls don’t rise too much… maybe this is common sense, but I have to remind myself sometimes).

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease another baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Bring 8 cups water to boil in large saucepan. Add baking soda and 2 tablespoons sugar (water will foam up). Add 4 rolls and cook 30 seconds per side. Using slotted spoon, transfer rolls to prepared sheet, arranging X side up. Repeat with remaining rolls.

Brush rolls with egg white glaze. Sprinkle rolls generously with coarse salt. Bake rolls until brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Serve rolls warm or room temperature.

5

numero dos

In case you live in a bubble and/or somewhere warm like Hawaii or Florida or California (and, in which case, of whom I am green with envy), it is snowing. Yes, those tiny white flakes are falling from the sky and landing in a puffy blanket of similar friends who are all congregating in a slushy mass in an effort to A) make people drive like idiots or B) make people drive like geriatrics (also potentially idiots). I, however, drive perfectly, but that’s another story.
I don’t hate the snow, especially in the season of glad tidings and making merry. It provides a picturesque landscape, a glittering backdrop for a tree twinkling with lights, silvery tinsel and spherical gems doming over bows and wrapping paper. With such a jolly spirit, it’s hard to do anything not festive at this time of year.

fruit!flour
yeast, flour, sugar120 degrees


I chose this recipe because my husband, Elliott, drools over panettone almost every Christmas. He painstakingly compares every store’s version of the loaf until he finds the “perfect” one — a sweet tower of bread studded with ornaments of candied, dried fruits. So when I happened upon a recipe for it in my Food Network Magazine, I thought I’d try to make a panettone that blew away all the other versions.
How silly of me.

pannetone mixture

lightly beaten eggs

The recipe, though seemingly simple, turned out to be a miniature holiday meltdown. First, it was the candied orange peel — I couldn’t find it anywhere. So I substituted dried pineapple for the MIA fruit. Then, while preparing the bread, I noticed a void in the cabinet which honey — honey that I needed for the recipe — usually fills. I also forgot to buy a lemon for the necessary lemon zest, so I had to stop midway through the recipe to buy the missing products. Of course, upon return, I realized I should have bought several lemons for the required 2 tablespoons of zest, and I almost pulled a muscle grating the single lemon until it was completely bare. I managed only to get about a teaspoon, so I used lemon juice for the remaining five teaspoons needed. Whew. Everything was back on track.
Until… until the mixture didn’t rise. It struggled, and puffed up just a hair, and was then defeated. After waiting two and half hours as opposed to the intended hour, I gave up and put the un-risen dough in the loaf pans, and crossed my fingers it would rise for the first time, the second time. It didn’t. After giving up again, I put the pans in the oven and baked them for 50 minutes, when they came out a little overdone. It was a disappointment.

holiday pannetone bread

Though the process was less than a success, the taste of the bread is light, citrusy and delicious. And my husband approves.

Debrief: I’m honestly not sure what went wrong with this recipe. It seems my active dry yeast, which is very fresh, just didn’t work. Perhaps it was due to all of the substitutions I made, but none of them logically contribute to the dough not rising. Hmph.

Holiday Panettone
courtesy of Food Network Magazine

Makes two loaves

Ingredients:
1/3 cup diced candied orange peel (or dried pineapple, which I used and works just as well, though the taste may differ)
3/4 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup diced dried apricots
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk (I used skim, for convenience)
1 stick butter
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp grated lemon zest (or lemon juice?)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix together candied orange peel, dried cherries, golden raisins and dried apricots in a large bowl. Add sugar, active dry yeast, flour and salt. Heat whole milk, butter, honey and grated lemon zest to 120 degrees in a saucepan; stir into the mix. Mix in 2 lightly beaten eggs and vanilla extract; cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Butter two 5-by-9-inch loaf pans or two empty 10-ounce coffee cans and line with parchment paper. Add the dough; cover and let rise 1 hour. Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 55 minutes (or, in my case, about 45 minutes). Cool before slicing.

Extra punches (from Food Network Magazine): For a nut lover, add 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts in place of some of the dried fruit.

1