Friday, January 25, 2019

White Chocolate and Blueberry Panettone

Christmas baking was a challenge once again this year. The holidays normally take me surprise, but the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas seemed like a few days rather than weeks! I did manage to crank out the normal favorites for the kids - the sugar cookies, the seven layer bars, the gingerbread. However, the holiday breads are normally what i crave this time of year - Babka, Stollen, Walnut Twist, and Panettone.

I used to make Panettone every single Advent and Paul would look forward to enjoying it for breakfast with jam and coffee in the days leading up to Christmas Day. Of all the Christmas breads, it was his absolute favorite. It was certainly a labor of love - the recipe I used at the time was a very traditional one that involved a couple days devoted to the project, some tricky steps, and prolonged rising times for the very sticky dough. So, when we kept adding crazy kid after crazy kid to our tribe, the need to make Panettone around Christmastime took a back burner to making sure everyone had clothes on and stayed alive, but not necessarily in that order.

This year was no exception. I did not make Panettone for Christmas and frankly I didn't really regret that I didn't get around to it, although I had every intention of doing so. But then, once the kids headed back to school and I frankly had a tiny bit more time on my hands, I thought why not make it now? We had finished off all our other Christmas sweets and certainly had not enjoyed enough sugar over the past month, so naturally it was the perfect time to concoct a white chocolate and blueberry laced Italian cake. 

But I wanted to finish the Panettone in an afternoon. No more ridiculous rise times, or hanging upside down papered loaves after baking (for real, it's a thing with traditional Panettone). This time, I was going to use a non-traditional recipe and bake it in a non-traditional mold, and finish it in a non-traditional period of time. And you know what? I did. And it turned out awesome.

I had bookmarked a recipe from Cook's Country months ago that promised a quicker, easier way to Panettone. It involved an easy mixing stage, a shorter rise phase, and promised that the bread would bake up into the traditional dome shape perfectly in a standard round cake pan. I gave it a shot and couldn't have been more pleased with the results.

The original recipe called for chocolate and orange to be the flavor additions to the dough. I really like a fruity panettone, so I went with chopped white chocolate and a combination of dried blueberries and cranberries - but mostly dried blueberries. Blueberry and white chocolate is one of my favorite flavor combinations. But really, you could put anything into this bread/cake/thing. 

As promised, the recipe was simple and I was able to complete the majority of it while Daniel happily played on the kitchen rug next to me. He's been doing this thing lately where he will "summon" whomever's attention he desires by pointing at them. Then, the person, usually me, must point back at him and walk towards him until his fingertip is touching their fingertip. We call it the "tractor beam finger" and it delights him to no end when we respond to his summons. However, when we don't, as is usually the case when I am cooking, he gets very upset, very quickly. However, that was not the case while mixing this dough - not once did he employ his "tractor beam finger" demanding my attention, so it was a very non-stressful experience!

If you have been dying to try Panettone - and really, you should because it's delicious - then I highly reccomend this recipe as a starting point. The flavor was wonderful, soft and delicious but not quite as deeply developed as a traditional recipe. No surprise there given how much shorter the rise times were, but it was delicious none-the-less. Unfortunately for Paul, he still did not get to enjoy a piece since he was traveling for work at the time and this loaf was devoured by my ravenous school-age children for a snack within 12 hours of its removal from the oven. Matthew ate 1/2 the loaf by himself while practicing multiplication. Sorry, Paul. At least this easy-peasy recipe is so simple that I can make it all year long. But then, it wouldn't really be all that special of a treat anymore, would it?

White Chocolate and Blueberry Panettone
adapted from Cook's Country

3/4 cup warm whole milk
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups (13 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and softened
1 tablespoon orange zest plus 1/4 cup white sugar
1 cup chopped white chocolate or white chocolate chips
1 cup dried blueberries

Whisk milk, 1 egg, egg yolks, corn syrup, and vanilla in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup until combined. Using a stand mixer fitted with dough hook, mix flour, yeast, and salt on medium-low speed until combined, about 5 seconds. With mixer running, slowly add milk mixture and knead until cohesive dough forms and no dry flour remains, 3 to 5 minutes, scraping down bowl and hook as needed.

Use your fingers to rub the orange zest into the 1/4 cup of white sugar until softened and fragrant. Set aside. 

With mixer running, add butter 1 piece at a time until incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and knead until dough pulls away from sides of bowl but still sticks to the bottom, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add the white chocolate, orange sugar, and dried blueberries, and knead until fully incorporated, about 2 minutes.

Turn out dough onto lightly floured counter and knead until smooth, about 1 minute. Form dough into tight ball and transfer to greased large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Grease 8-inch cake pan. Pat dough into 12-inch disk on lightly floured counter. Working around circumference of dough, fold edges of dough toward center to form rough square. Flip dough over and applying gentle pressure, move your hands in small circular motions to form dough into smooth, taut ball. Transfer ball, seam side down, to prepared pan. Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rise at room temperature until center is about 2 inches above lip of pan, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. 

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly beat remaining egg and brush over dough. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Rotate pan, tent with aluminum foil, and continue to bake until center of loaf registers 190 degrees, 30-40 minutes longer. Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Remove loaf from pan and let cool completely on wire rack, about 3 hours. Serve.

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