Next bread on the lineup of the BBA Challenge – Panettone, an Italian Christmas bread. I was really excited about making this bread, because this was the first bread you need a sourdough starter for.
The first thing you have to do is making a seed culture. I used coarse rye flour (that I ground with my flour mill), and added pineapple juice (instead of water), because the acids in the juice take care of organisms that impede the growth of the bacteria we desire. This jump-starts the whole process.
I followed Peter Reinhart’s directions, but will use a different approach if my sourdough culture ever dies – imho he’s wasting way too much flour in the whole process. I don’t need THAT much sourdough.
Anyway, compared to many of my fellow bakers, I didn’t have any problems with the seed culture. It was really well-behaved and did everything it was supposed to do (see pictures below).
When the seed culture was ready, I made the barm which worked really well, too. There must be some good bacteria in my house. In reference to my friend Sara who had trouble with this whole sourdough thing: does this mean I’m not cleaning enough? 😉
OK, now on to the Panettone. The day before making the panettone you have to make the wild-yeast sponge by combining the barm, milk and flour. You let it sit for 4 hours till it begins to bubble – then you put it in the refrigerator overnight. That day you also need to mix the fruits with the extracts and soak them in rum, brandy or whiskey. As it is virtually impossible to find all the extracts Peter Reinhart is always talking about in a German supermarket, I found an online source where I ordered the following extracts: vanilla, orange, lemon, and almond. But unfortunately, due to bad weather conditions or other reasons unknown to me, the day I wanted to finally make the panettone, I only had vanilla extract (the other extracts have arrived by now, so I’m all set for all the other baking adventures that call for “vanillaorangelemonalmond” extract). Anyway, to replace the lemon extract I used lemon flavoring – this is pretty artificially tasting and normally I don’t use it (even though it’s pretty popular in German kitchens), but the supermarket didn’t have organic lemons – otherwise I would have used lemon peel. I didn’t want to use alcohol either, so I soaked the fruits in apple juice.
The next day, you mix the wild-yeast sponge with more flour, sugar, salt, yeast, egg, egg yolk and water. After some kneading, you add the butter and the soaked fruit mixture. Kneading, kneading, kneading, until everything is evenly distributed. You add the almonds and do some more kneading. Then the dough is set aside to proof for about 2 hours.
Next, you have to prepare the panettone pans. I didn’t have a special panettone pan, but since every German household should have a springform – which I have 3 of, by the way – I chose the smallest one which is 6 inches in diameter (this is good for 2 lb of dough, i.e. half the recipe), covered the bottom with baking paper and made a baking paper collar to prevent the dough from overflowing the pan. After the fermentation I transferred the dough to the pan and set it aside for some more proofing. After approximately 2 hours it had pretty much doubled, as you can see below.
Into the preheated oven it went where it baked for approximately 90 minutes. After about 40 minutes, I covered the loaf with aluminium foil because I didn’t want it to burn in the oven. The result was a golden-brown, divinely smelling loaf. I let it cool overnight (it was REALLY late that day) and wrapped it up in aluminium foil to prevent it from drying out. 2 days later we (2 adults and 3 kids) ate half of the loaf – the kids asked for more, but I wanted to save the other half for the next day. It really tasted great and I was asked to please make it again very soon. 😉