Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Festive Loaf

This is actually a Russian Easter bread called kulich, but the 'panettone' entry in the index of Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters sends you to the same page. It had all the right ingredients--flour, yeast, milk, fruit, peel, nuts, sugar--so I thought I'd give it a try. The result was a very small, but very festive loaf. If you plan to bake this recipe, I suggest making at least two, but more like four or eight loaves at a time. It's just too much work and waiting for only one.
This bread is one of the more wholesome things I've baked this month. The whole wheat flour gives the bread some substance, though it's still very soft and not at all dense, and the sugar is kept to a minimum. I used my quince brandy to soak the fruit and the flavors of cinnamon and star anise came through nicely.

A Festive Loaf

adapted from Andrew Whitley

  • 60 g raisins
  • 50 g slivered almonds
  • 40 g candied mixed peel
  • quince brandy to cover
  • blank
  • 5 g sugar
  • 2.5 g active dry yeast
  • 60 g milk, warm
  • 50 g whole wheat flour
  • blank
  • 30 g sugar
  • 70 g white bread flour
  • 40 g whole wheat flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ferment, from above
  • 50 g salted butter, softened
  • The night before you're going to bake, combine the raisins, almonds, peel, and brandy (or rum, or vodka, or fruit juice) in a jar. Cover, shake, and set aside.
  • Get out your paper panettone cases and set aside, or prepare an improvised version. Line the sides of a 5-inch cake pan with heavy brown paper about 6 inches tall. Then line the bottom and (now high) sides of the cake pan with parchment paper.
  • For the ferment: Dissolve sugar and yeast in the warm milk. Mix in flour to make a paste. Cover and put in a warm place to rise and fall, about an hour.
  • To make the dough: Combine flours and sugar then add egg and ferment. Mix to form a dough. Knead for a minute or so to fully combine, then knead in the butter. Your dough will become very soft and sticky, but do not add any more flour. Keep kneading and after about 10 minutes you will have a soft, but coherent dough. Alternately, you could knead the dough using the dough hook attachment on you mixer.
  • Form dough into a ball and place in a small greased bowl. Cover with plastic and leave to rise in a warm spot for about an hour.
  • Drain any excess liquid from your fruit-nut mixture and gently fold/knead into the dough. Allow the dough to rise for another half hour.
  • Carefully shape the dough so the top is tight, smooth, and unbroken, removing any bits of fruit or nut that might be sticking through the top. Place in baking case. Allow to rise to maximum expansion, about a half hour longer.
  • Bake at just over 350°F for 30-40 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned and a thin skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean.
This slice is pictured plain--I wanted you to see the golden raisins and bits of almond--but it's much tastier with butter. It might be better yet toasted and spread with butter. In any case it's perfect for tea or coffee and I'm sure the loaves wrap quite well in brown paper and string to give to friends and neighbors.

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