Panettone, In Miniature

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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.

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Panettone

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.

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Sourdough Carrot-Ginger Cake

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Although carrot cake has been around for centuries, I think of it as the 1970s’ attempt to rationalize dessert.

Come on… it’s dessert! Putting carrots into your cake doesn’t make it any better for you than, say, putting sourdough into it. Together they make a pretty good cake, though. And a nice way to use leftover sourdough starter.

(And if you really want a healthful cake, you can substitute collard greens for carrots, spirulina powder for sugar, and fish oil for vegetable oil. There. Don’t say I never do anything for you.)

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Semolina Sourdough with Plums, Walnuts, and Fennel

I am notoriously bad at planning. I’ll be in the market when I’m hit with the overwhelming urge to bake with, say, pumpkin seeds. So I buy some up, oblivious to the fact that I might have three or four small remnant bags of same lurking in the recesses of my freezer. And now my freezer is starting to complain about the buildup.

So I made a deal with myself: I am not to buy any new dried fruits, nuts, or seeds, but I can buy as many flours as I like so I can bake away until my odd lots are used up. (I tried to negotiate different terms — something involving a new sports car in exchange for ingredient restraint — but I couldn’t manage to sell it to myself. Clearly I need a better agent.)

Fortunately, I have some workhorse recipes that work wonderfully with the “one from Column A, one from Column B” approach. This semolina-fennel sourdough recipe, originally conceived with currants and pine nuts, baked beautifully with dried plums (commonly, but less charmingly, known as prunes) standing in for both currants and caramelized fennel, and walnuts for the pine nuts.

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Sourdough Waffles and Low Tide

What is a recipe for a perfect Sunday morning? How about sourdough waffles followed by a trip to the reef at low tide?

Good to eat on Sunday morning.


Not good to eat, but nice to look at on Sunday morning.

A waffle iron is a necessary contraption. Although I’m pretty good at jury rigging equipment, I haven’t quite figured out how to make waffles without one.

  

I have a Cuisinart Belgian waffle maker and I love it. The surface is truly nonstick and it makes perfect waffles if I remember a few things:

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Sesame Sourdough Bagels

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If you think these don’t look like the sesame bagels you’re used to seeing, you’re right. We love sesame bagels, but seed loss was putting us at risk for sprouting a sesame plantation right on the dining room rug.

Sesame Field 20020400 2 Although it is a unique and lovely look, we decided this wasn’t quite the decorating direction we wanted to be taking. The solution turned out to be simple: sesame seeds in the dough rather than on top of it. If you want to make a generic dough for several different toppings, this isn’t the way to go (try these bagels instead). But if you’re willing to commit to your sesame seeds, it works well.

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For maximally chewy bagels, remember to use high-gluten flour (or add extra gluten to your regular bread flour) and mix the dough until it’s very strong! Add the toasted, cooled sesame seeds to the dough once it’s fully mixed.

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