Monthly Archives: December 2010

Festive Christmas Panettone – Part II – The Baking

Brace yourselves dear readers.   This is a long post.  It follows on from Festive Christmas Panettone – Part I – The Fruit Mix.  I have included lots of photos to hopefully make sense of what I’ve done along the way.  I hope they will make it easier to follow for anyone who is not used to working with yeast or if you’ve not made a panettone before.

Making great panettone requires some planning and  a lot of patience, although the real work involved is not that much.   Okay, there is a good deal of frantic and vigorous waiting around during the lengthy rising sessions (or catch some zzzz during the overnight proofing!).  You can cheat and let the dough rise for only a couple of hours each time, however, the long slow rise times do allow the dough to develop texture and flavour that you don’t get if you cheat.  I have to admit, this time around I feel like I’ve been making this panettone for at least a week 🙂  But then, I always have to do things the hard way!  It has been a lot of fun, also a little nerve-wracking, but totally worth every minute.  Even the washing up.  Which was rather time-consuming in itself 😦

Ideally, one would use a natural or ‘mother’ yeast, as a leaven for panettone, as this adds to the flavour as well as keeping qualities of the panettone.  Fresh yeast will still give a great result if you use the sponge method I’ve outlined below.  To be honest, when I make panettone, the idea is generally to eat it sooner than later and so keeping qualities are not exactly a major requirement.  I’ve not had the chance to find out if it lasts more than a few days let alone a couple of months.  Baker’s yeast does give the finished panettone a rather yeasty aroma and flavour but this dissipates if you leave it for a day or two before serving.

I’ve made panettone on many occasions but each time I vary what I do to improve it so it’s been a haphazard journey over the years.  This is the first time I’ve made it using really long proofing times, although I’ve used that method when making breads and focaccias in the past.  I’ve also been modifying the recipe over the years to make a panettone that is light but rich, soft and not at all dry.  Past attempts haven’t always been successful, with panettone that has sometimes been a little dry, even when quite light in texture.  Researching why keeps bringing me back to one’s ability to work more eggs and butter into the dough.  It’s apparently easier if you use natural yeast starter.  Well, yeah, okay.  I’ve upped the ante a bit for myself and sought to do just that here, using a sponge method.  I’ve managed to work more butter into the dough and used more egg yolks rather than whole eggs, although I suspect the increase in the quantity of the butter is the key.  In any case, this is my recipe based on lots of late night research and many experiments that resulted in failures, near misses, and some successes over the years.  It pays to have realistic expectations.  It’s quite a complicated cake to make but it’s worth persevering.

How did it turn out?  The best yet!  Seriously.  Lots of flavour and just the right amount of fruit and chocolate.  If you like it really choc-full of fruit, double the recipe for the Fruit Mix.  I have a new oven so I think I probably baked them just a little too long (it’s a fan forced which I’m still getting used to).  Definitely worth sharing.  Definitely worth all the extra effort and a mess in the kitchen.  Waiting for hours for the dough to proof gave me plenty of quality clean up time though …

Note that I set aside about 1/2 cup of flour for the final kneading by hand, below.  The reason for this is simple.  Flour is quite sensitive to temperature, altitude and humidity.  Anyone who makes bread on a regular basis knows that the amount of flour you need for a given recipe can vary a little as a result.  To that end, I’ve given a rough guide.  You will need to add some extra flour because the dough is very sticky.  Just add it gradually until the dough is still soft and silky but not completely sticking to the board or bench.  I found I needed about 1/2 cup.

I’ve also indicated that you can add either 6 egg yolks or 3 whole eggs for the second kneading.  The former will make for an even richer dough.

I also used my trusty Kitchen-Aid mixer to mix and knead the dough – the mixer paddle initially and then switching to the dough hook before adding the sponge in the first kneading.  Panettone requires a decent effort at kneading and to do it properly by hand (which I’ve tried before … OWW) takes some serious muscle and endurance.  So do that if you want an excuse to skip the gym  🙂

Makes: 1 very large panettone or 1 standard plus 3 individual-sized panettoni


For the sponge:
30 grams fresh yeast
2/3 cup lukewarm water
1 cup Italian tipo “00” or unbleached plain flour

For the first kneading:
185 grams unsalted butter at room temperature
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups Italian tipo “00” or unbleached plain flour

For the second kneading:
65 grams unsalted butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar                                                                                                                 2 tablespoons glucose syrup
grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon vanilla paste or 1 vanilla pod, scraped
6 egg yolks OR 3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups Italian tipo “00” or plain flour
1 quantity (400 grams) prepared Fruit Mix
1/2 cup good quality chocolate chips or couverture, chopped

extra flour for kneading, about 1/2 cup at least                                                            small knob of unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the glaze:
100 grams sugar
50 millilitres water


For the sponge: Whisk the yeast into the lukewarm water.  Stir the yeast mixture into the flour using a whisk until smooth.  Cover and allow to ferment at room temperature for about 45 minutes, until almost tripled in volume.

For the first kneading: In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, beat the butter with the sugar until light.  Add one cup of the flour and beat on low to medium speed until incorporated.  Add the egg yolks and continue beating until the dough comes together.  Add the remaining two cups of flour and mix well on low-speed until fully incorporated.   Change to the dough hook on the mixer.  Add the sponge to the dough and knead the dough until it is shiny, smooth and elastic.  This will take some time, up to 20 minutes.  If you were to knead the dough by hand, it would take considerably longer!

Place the dough into a large lightly oiled bowl and allow to rise at room temperature for about 10 -12 hours (I leave it overnight).  Ideally, the temperature of the room should be about 25°C – 28°C.  In reality, our overnight room temperature this year dropped considerably lower than that (hello Melbourne, what about summer?).  I let the dough rise for about 13 hours.

For the second kneading: Deflate the risen dough and return to the bowl of the mixer.  Add the salt, sugar, glucose, orange zest, and vanilla to the dough and knead on the lowest speed until incorporated, using the dough hook.  Cut the butter into small pieces.  Add the butter and the egg yolks (or whole eggs) to the dough and knead until smooth.  Add the flour and again knead until smooth and elastic.  This will take time.  I give the dough a real shellacing with the mixer for a good 15 minutes or more.  Finally, add the fruit mix and chocolate and knead until incorporated evenly throughout the dough.

Turn the dough out on a floured surface.  It is sticky so might be hard to work with.  Make sure you flour your hands as well.  Finish off the kneading by hand as this ensures you evenly distribute the fruit and chocolate.

Form the dough into a round for strength and place it in the prepared mould.  I place the mould into a cake tin for extra stability during the last proofing.  If you don’t have a traditional paper panettone mould, see the notes below on creating a panettone mould.  It works really well and I used it for years before the paper moulds became available here in Australia.  Allow the dough to rise again at room temperature for about 6 hours.

I used a standard panettone paper mould and three small individual moulds as I wanted to make little ones for my folks for a breakfast the next day.

Preheat the oven at 190°C/375°C.

Slash a shallow X in the top of the panettone with a very sharp knife or razor and place a small pat of butter in the cut.  This step is optional but traditional.

Place the panettone in the oven and bake at 190°C until golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean.  For a large cake, this can take anywhere from 50 to 75 minutes or so, depending on the size of the panettone.  If your oven has a tendency to over-brown cakes and breads, place some foil over the top of the panettone once it achieves a rich colour.  Make sure the shiny side of the foil is facing outwards.  My new Ilve oven seems to do this for cakes that require long baking times and I have to admit, I waited a little too long before attaching the foil cover.  It didn’t hurt the panettone (cooked perfectly, no burning!  phew!) but the top of the large one was darker than I wanted.  Ah well, a valuable lesson learned …

When ready, remove the panettone from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.  In Italy, pasticcieri typically hang their panettoni for about 3 hours or so to prevent them collapsing.  Well, I can’t do that so a wire rack has to do.  So far, I’ve happily had no collapses.  Hopefully, they won’t be famous last words …

You can use small (individual) panettone moulds to make a batch of smaller panettoni for gifts.  Divide the dough after the second kneading and place in the moulds, and allow to rise as above.  Depending on your oven, bake for about 20-30 minutes.  Keep an eye on the panettoni to make sure you don’t overbake the smaller ones.

For the glaze: Place the sugar and water into a saucepan over low heat to dissolve the sugar.  Do not stir the syrup.  Bring to the boil and boil for a few minutes but do not allow the syrup to colour and caramelise.  Brush the hot syrup over the top of the panettone to give it a sugary and shiny glaze.

Store the panettone in a sealed plastic bag in an airtight container for up to a week.  Okay, it will probably keep a little longer than that, but I really don’t know.  It’ll probably disappear this weekend for Christmas.

Leftover panettone can be used in any manner of ways.  Toasted and topped with ricotta cream and fruit for breakfast, or used to make bread puddings and as a base for many desserts.  So it won’t go to waste.

Homemade panettone mould: Oh no!  I don’t have a panettone mould!  Don’t panic.  This is what I used to do before panettone paper moulds were available here in Australia.  To be honest, it was much more successful at preventing any over-browning and gives a great result.

I used a high-sided 20cm/8-inch round cake tin with sides about 4 inches high. If you don’t have one, use a standard 2 inch high tin, but you will need to make a taller reinforced paper and foil collar.  I also lined the base with a double thickness of non-stick baking paper and lined the sides with it as well, making the collar stand up several inches above the rim of the pan.  For added strength, I made a foil collar which I tied around the outside of the pan to stop the dough bending over the paper collar during the last rise.  I tied the foil collar securely to the underneath of the cake tin with string.  Make sure you use standard string that is okay to place in the oven (ie not plastic or chemically treated).  When risen, the dough should reach the top of the paper collar, making the panettone about 6 – 8 inches in height.



Filed under All Recipe Posts, Chocolate, Fruit, Yeast Breads

Pistachio Praline Paste

Praline paste is an ingredient used in pastries and desserts, but commercially prepared ones are often hard to track down.  It’s easy to make at home and the flavour when freshly made is so good, it’s worth the effort.  Actually, it’s usually less effort than trying to find where to buy it 🙂

I’ve made the praline with pistachios because that’s what I happen to need for Christmas but you can use any nuts or combination of nuts.  The most commonly used and flavourful are hazelnut (remove the skins after toasting), almond, walnut and macadamia but all are good.

I use a non-stick pan to make the caramel because I find that it is less likely to burn and easier to clean under hot water.  Remember that hot syrup really burns if you get it on your skin, or worse, your tongue.  Don’t be tempted to lick a spoon, or dip your finger into it!

125 grams raw shelled pistachios
125 grams sugar
20 grams glucose syrup
30 millilitres water

Preheat the oven to 150°C.
Prepare a baking sheet with a lining of non-stick baking paper or use a silpat sheet.  Set aside.  You will need this to tip out the praline.

Place the pistachios in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for
about 5 to 7 minutes until golden.  You will smell the lovely aroma as they toast.
Watch them carefully as they will start to burn very quickly once toasted.  When golden, remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Heat the sugar, glucose syrup and water, in a non-stick saucepan, over a low flame.   Bring to the boil and let the syrup boil.  DO NOT STIR.  Don’t even think about it.  The syrup will take a while to start to caramelise but once it starts to colour around the edges it will quickly colour.  This is what it looks like as it starts to caramelise:

Keep your eyes on the syrup once it does start to colour and when it turns a nice golden hue, remove from the heat and quickly tip in the pistachios.  At this stage you can stir the nuts into the syrup.

Tip the praline out on the prepared baking sheet and set aside to cool.  There is no need to spread the praline flat as you will be grinding it to a paste.  If you wanted to make the praline to use in chunks or shards, you should quickly spread it out with a lightly oiled spatula or flat-sided knife.

When cool, break the praline into chunks and place in a food processor.  Process
until the praline becomes a thick paste.  You don’t want powder so keep processing until it forms a paste.  This may take a few attempts so that you don’t overheat the processor.

The praline will keep for weeks, if not longer, stored in a clean airtight jar, in a cool, dry place.  In warmer weather, I store it in the refrigerator.

These quantities are easily doubled, tripled etc.  Unless I need a large batch, I like to make smaller batches more often as I think the flavour is better when it’s fresh.



Filed under All Recipe Posts, Fillings, Nuts, Special Diet

Festive Christmas Panettone – Part I – The Fruit Mix

If I’m being honest, I have to admit that my heart belongs to pandoro not panettone.   Maybe it’s my Veneto roots (pandoro hails from Verona).  Or because I think it’s streets ahead of panettone in texture and flavour.  For as long as I can remember it’s been my traditional birthday cake.  A few years ago I found a beautiful pandoro made by an artisan bakery near Verona called Perbellini so now I snap one up before Christmas and keep it tucked away somewhere safe until my birthday rolls around in January.  I draw the line at making my birthday cake 😉

But for Christmas day we usually have panettone … everyone  in my family loves panettone.   It’s nice to make it a bit special for Christmas, but I steer clear of fancy cream fillings.  Just doesn’t seem right.  So …

OUT with the boring sultanas and candied fruit peel.

IN with the dried sour cherries (amarene) and whole candied orange with Kirsch and Grand Marnier.


The candied orange bears no relation to that hard rubbery peel you tend to find in packets at the supermarket.  It’s citrusy and syrupy and is basically a whole orange candied so the juice inside forms a lovely syrup-like interior.

See?  We want to use that here, it’s intensely lovely.   These oranges are a small italian variety and each typically weighs about 200 grams or so.  You can find whole candied oranges at good Italian delis and specialty food shops (or should I say providores?) around Melbourne so it’s easy to get.  Dried sour cherries can sometimes be a bit of a challenge to track down but it’s getting easier.

It gets better.  This is just the first part to prepare the fruit.  We’ll be adding chocolate later.  Amarene, orange, liqueurs, and chocolate.  FESTIVE  🙂  It’s a very Christmassy combination.  It’s cherry season here in December. Oranges also have a long association with Christmas in Europe and chocolate … well, it’s chocolate.  ‘Nuff said.

Down to business.  You could prepare the fruit a day in advance of baking the panettone.   I like to let the fruit and liqueurs macerate for a week or two so that the fruit absorbs and intensifies the flavours of the liqueurs.  I highly recommend you try that.

This mix is also great as a basis for a fruitcake with a difference or even folded into your favourite ice cream or dessert.   It’s also good in a baked cheesecake.  It keeps well for ages in a sealed container in the fridge.

200 grams dried sour cherries
200 grams candied orange (about one whole candied orange)
1/2 cup Grand Marnier
1/2 cup Kirschwasser

Chop the sour cherries and the candied orange into small pieces.  The orange will be syrupy on the inside so make sure you keep all that goodness!
Place the chopped fruit into a bowl, with any oozing syrup from the orange.  Add the Grand Marnier and Kirschwasser to the fruit and mix well.

Place the fruit mixture into a jar or airtight container.  Store in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator until ready to make the panettone.

It’s worth giving the jar a shake every other day during storage to make sure that the mixture absorbs the liqueurs evenly and well.

Clapping my hands in gleeful anticipation … watch this space for Part II with the recipe for the panettone over Christmas.


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Filed under All Recipe Posts, Fillings, Fruit, Yeast Breads

Flourless Mango Cake

On the weekend, I bought a beautiful book that I’ve been secretly lusting after for a while, Grand Livre De Cuisine: Desserts: Alain Ducasse’s Desserts and Pastries.  It gave me tingles.  And inspiration to make a spectacular mango dessert.  There was going to be a crispy chocolate layer, macadamia praline, moulded mango jelly shapes, creamy mango centre, maybe a hint of rum, chocolate glaze, and the distinct possibility of gold flecks.  I needed the oven to bake my base.   I haven’t been allowed near the oven for almost a week because it’s been so hot and humid.  There was some debate.  I lost.  So I ended up making a mango version of a zuppa inglese instead with a packet of savoiardi.  I’d already made the mango cream and it was a shame not to use it.  Delicious?  Well, yes.  Spectacular?  Hell. No.

And now I’m a little more time poor.  My day job kind of gets in the way of important stuff like kitchen lab experiments.  I needed something simple and quick but divine.  And it had to be mango.  Mango season is in full swing and I’m officially mango mad while it lasts.  I love mangoes.  Doesn’t everyone love mangoes?

Choose your loveliest, sweetest, most perfumed mango for this moist, flourless cake to get the best flavour.  The banana adds extra sweetness without being sickly and it doesn’t overpower the mango.  It’s very easy to make.  I mixed it up in a food processor.  You could easily just puree the fruit and toss all the ingredients in a bowl and mix.  Dead simple.

It’s really good on its own for afternoon tea, dusted with icing sugar.  It’s also yummy served with mango slices and cream, ice cream, or yoghurt as a dessert.  If you love frosting (I don’t), swirls of mango or rum buttercream might be your thing.  Go ahead, layer it with buttercream.  It would be fabulous.  Otherwise, it’s actually quite a healthy treat.  But don’t tell anyone, because it doesn’t taste healthy.

Makes: 1 x 18cm round cake

1 ripe banana
1 large mango
1/2 cup coconut sugar* or brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
1/4 cup macadamia nut oil or coconut oil
250 grams almond meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts (optional)

* Coconut sugar is sold in organic or health food stores.  Granulated coconut palm sugar is used in this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Line the base and sides of a 18cm round cake tin with baking paper (unless using the non-stick variety).
Chop the banana and mango pulp and place them in a bowl of a food processor with the sugar, eggs, vanilla paste, and macadamia or coconut oil.  Pulse until well mixed.

Add the almond meal and baking powder and pulse again for a few seconds until well mixed and the batter is smooth.  Remove the bowl and stir in the chopped macadamia nuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top.  Bake at 180°C, in the centre of the oven, for about 45 – 50 minutes or until golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.  Place on a serving dish and cool before serving.

I’ve updated this post with some new photos but for posterity, I’ll keep the original photo (via dodgy phone cam!):


Filed under All Recipe Posts, Cakes, Fruit, Nuts, Special Diet