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|Flat Breads, Sweet Breads, and More|
It’s cherry season! I never get tired of eating them one by one, but for something different, I took a pound of dark, firm sweet cherries and baked them into a schiacciata.
Wait… a what? Say: skya-CHA-ta. Think: a Tuscan classic (often made with grapes) whose name is Italian for “squashed.” See: a golden flat bread, similar to focaccia, bejeweled with juice-oozing fruit. Taste: the sweetness of cherries, rosemary, and anise against the backdrop of an olive-oil scented bread, wonderful for breakfast or a snack.
The cherry version is a bit more messy than the grape version because pitting the cherries (and for heaven’s sake make the small investment in a cherry pitter) allows their juice to escape into the dough as you are mixing them in, making the dough both wetter and pinker. I did not find this to be especially troublesome, but an alternative to mixing the fruit in would be to sandwich it between two layers of flattened dough.
It’s panettone time again! I bake this rich, light, citrus-and vanilla-scented bread every holiday season. It’s one of my favorite things to make because, although it requires meticulous mixing and handling, a more festive bread never graced a holiday table.
This year I used my go-to recipe, which I detailed in last year’s panettone post. The only difference is that, for the first time, I baked it in these wonderful diminutive molds. Although it was a bit more work, I loved ending up with 20 small breads — each perfect for one, or sharing with a friend.
Pan de muerto is the traditional Mexican sweet bread eaten during Día de los Muertos, observed November 1 and 2 to honor loved ones who have died and celebrate the eternal cycle of life. The signatures of this soft, sweet, orange- or anise-scented bread are the “skull” and “bones” and that decorate its top and sides.
This pan de muerto recipe is richer in butter than one I have made in the past, and zestier with the use of sourdough starter. I present it in honor of mis muertos, who made my life richer and zestier in countless ways:
My father: Charles W. Tenney, Jr., a brilliant mind and playful wit, who encouraged me to dream first and ask questions later.
My maternal grandparents: Mary Strawson, who taught me to make things with my hands, and Stanton Strawson, who thought hammering together wooden vessels to float in the tide pool was a perfectly wonderful pursuit for little girls.
My paternal grandparents: Mildred Tenney, who loved nothing more than sitting down at the piano to play a lively tune, and Charles W. Tenney, Sr., who gave me stamps that inspired me to learn how to use an atlas and discover more about the big world out there.
I started making panettone at Christmastime in 2006. Over these few years, I have tried variations on the recipe (here’s a chocolate one, and here’s one studded with bits of chocolate and ginger), but this is the one I keep coming back to. I still hold my breath each time I make it, because it’s fussy and needs to be pampered. But given patience, discipline, and a loving hand, it does not disappoint. Light and buttery, citrus-y sweet and holiday-special, its baking is a ritual that comforts and satisfies me. Sharing it with my family, and with you, makes me unreasonably happy.
I first posted this panettone in 2007, and the recipe hasn’t changed. But I have accumulated a few refinements and lessons learned, so I thought it was time, once again, to tell you everything I know about making panettone.