Panettone, In Miniature

mini-panettone-wild-yeast

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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Pan de Muerto

pan de muerto

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.

Charles W Tenney Jr

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.

Stanton and Mary Strawson

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.

Mildred and Charles Tenney

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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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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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Stollen

Today is December 16, 2011. Is this an important date because …

A) It’s the posting (and my hosting) day for the Bread Baking Babes

B) I get married today

C) Both of the above, and by the time you read this I will have pulled the Stollen from the oven, dusted the flour off my dress, and made my way to City Hall to exchange vows with my beautiful, brilliant, sweet, funny, gentle, loving…

Ahem. Back to the Stollen. A perfect choice for this month, because it practically makes itself, leaving us Babes to occupy our minds with… whatever other things we may wish to occupy them with.

Stollen is one of my favorite holiday breads, and quite easy to make. It is a traditional bread from Dresden, Germany, and the shape is said to represent the swaddled child in the manger. You kind of have to use your imagination to see this.

Mixing the dough is simple if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, although it takes some time. Just throw the ingredients in the mixer, turn it on, and go buy a wedding dress or something.The dough will be ready when you get back.

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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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