Pandoro and Friends

2012, be warned: 2011 is a tough act to follow. The beautiful and exciting things that came my way in 2011 are too numerous to count, but Number Two on the list has to be the trip Jay and I took to Morocco and Venice in November (with Number One being our wedding a month later). And while the highlights of that trip are also too numerous to count, our day in Verona is on that list for sure.

The charming city of Verona is an easy 80-minute train ride from (equally charming) Venice, and we thought it would make a lovely day trip. Jay was thinking history, culture, architecture, photography. I — obviously! — was thinking Pandoro pans. I have been coveting genuine Italian pans for this star-shaped golden holiday bread forever, and they just can’t be found in the US. But Pandoro originated in Verona, so I was sure I could find some there.

And find them I did, but that wasn’t the best part. The best part was how I found them. I remembered that the lovely and talented Cinzia also hails from Verona, and when I emailed her to ask about where I might buy the pans, she not only came through with the name of a shop (Plurimix), but she came into the city to meet us! Over lunch and a slice of Nadalin (another Veronese holiday bread, reportedly the forerunner of Pandoro), I found Cinzia to be every bit as warm and delightful as her blog.

And that, my dear friends, is the real pleasure I derive from writing this blog: connecting with wonderful people all over the globe, whether face-to-face or through virtual pathways.  I can’t think of a nicer way to observe BreadBakingDay — the monthly event that celebrates baking and breaking bread together — than with Pandoro dedicated to Cinzia (who happens to be hosting BBD this month, too!), Zorra (creator of BBD), and all of my bread-baking friends everywhere.

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Gibassier

Gibassier-wild-yeast

When I was a student at SFBI, if you had asked any of us for a short list of our favorite sweet breads, Gibassier would have been on it every time. To get an idea of our collective response to the mere mention of this regional brioche, delicately flavored with orange and and anise and enriched with olive oil, think Les Simpsons en Provence: “Mmmm…. Gibassier!”

There seems to be some disagreement about whether Gibassier and Pompe à ‘Huile — one of the thirteen Provençal Christmas desserts — are the same thing. I don’t know the answer, but why quibble? I’m pretty sure no one will complain if this bread winds upon your dessert table — at Christmas time or any other time, with or without twelve other sweets — or on your breakfast table or your coffee table.

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Banana Crumb Bread

For this banana bread, inspired by my all-time favorite from The Moosewood Cookbook, I replaced a portion of the flour with fine dry bread crumbs. The crumbs I used were from a slightly sweet oatmeal molasses bread, but any crumbs should work if your banana is good and ripe.

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Cinnamon-Raisin Sourdough Bagels

There’s been a lot of bagel-making going on around here. More about that in a later post. These cinnamon-raisin bagels are a lot like the blueberry bagels, only with raisins. And cinnamon. Go figure.

And speaking of figures — at 85 grams, these bagels a little smaller than the 100-gram ones I’ve been doing recently. The missing 15 grams doesn’t seem to make the bagel appreciably smaller, but if I’m eating one every day (and I might be), those eliminated grams should eliminate more than three pounds from my waistline over the course of a year.

I guessed at how much cinnamon to add to the dough. It wasn’t a bad guess, but if you like your bagels really cinnamon-y, I think you could double the amount and still be in the ballpark. The bagelpark? Whatever.

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Sourdough Blueberry Bagels

Blueberries are everybody’s darling lately: antioxidant-rich, cancer-fighting, cholesterol-lowering, brain-sharpening, blood pressure-controlling, diabetes-battling. And they taste good, too! Even when they’re not in season, I usually keep a bag on hand in the freezer for smoothies, and a store of dried berries to throw into my oatmeal.

I can’t imagine why it took me this long — that is, until my number-one bagel eater made the request — to make blueberry-studded bagels. To keep the berries as intact as possible, I incorporated the dried berries into the mostly-mixed dough without soaking them first. I did make the dough a bit wetter than usual to allow for the berries’ absorption of some water.

If you haven’t made bagels before, don’t be intimidated! Bagels are one of my favorite things to make. There’s lots of hands-on time with the dough, a plus in my book. For more of my bagel opinions, take a look at my basic 100%-sourdough bagel recipe.

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Apricot-Pistachio Sticky Buns

apricot-pistachio-sticky-buns-2-wild-yeast

In these sticky buns, the traditional raisins and pecans are replaced with dried apricots and pistachios. Shelled pistachios can be a bit hard to find, but I came away from my last flour run to Costco with a big bag, roasted and salted. Of course, just about any nuts and dried fruit will work. Just remember to get a big package of napkins at Costco, too; they’re not called sticky buns for nothing!

apricot-pistachio-sticky-bun

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