Thursday, December 27, 2012

Daring Bakers - Panettone!

The December 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by the talented Marcellina of Marcellina in Cucina. Marcellina challenged us to create our own custom Panettone, a traditional Italian holiday bread!

Oy, I almost forgot to post this, which would have been a shame, because a lot of work went into it! It hit me last night, but I was tooooo tired. All this lounging, you know, it's a lot of work.

I kind of internally cringed when I heard the challenge this month was Panettone (which I have an incredibly difficult time spelling, by the way). To me, it's basically a small step up from fruitcake in terms of deliciousness, fruitcake being at all bottom of the hierarchy of baked goods. I. Do. Not. Like. Dead. Fruit. Unless it's in the hands of Ned the Piemaker (swoon)

Chocolate and nuts is more my speed. So instead of candied citrus I used almonds, hazelnuts, and chocolate. Oh yeah. It's still not my favorite thing in the world, but I really enjoyed making this bread and have a greater appreciation for the work that goes into it. Know that this is not something you can whip up on a takes planning and many hours. PS: There's an optional almondy topping you can make, but I decided to go without, and use the extra egg whites to make these gluten free cookies for my sister. Everyone wins. 

Chocolate and Nut Panettone (makes two large)

1 satchel (2¼ teaspoons) (7 gm) active dry yeast
1/3 cup (80 ml) warm water
½ cup (70 gm) unbleached all purpose flour

First Dough
1 satchel (2¼ teaspoons) (7 gm) active dry yeast
3 tablespoons (45 ml) warm water
2 large eggs, at room temp
1¼ cup (175 gm) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour
¼ cup (55 gm) (2 oz) sugar
½ cup (1 stick) (115 gm) unsalted butter, at room temp

Second dough
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
2/3 cup (150 gm) (5-2/3 oz) sugar
3 tablespoons (45 ml) honey
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
1 cup (2 sticks) (225 gm) unsalted butter, at room temp
3 cups (420 gm) (15 oz) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour; plus up to (2/3 cup) 100 gm for kneading

Filling and final dough
1½ cups (250 gm) (9 oz) almonds and hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
½ cup (75 gm) (2-2/3 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
2 to 3 tablespoons (30-45 ml) (15-25 gm) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour

  1. Mix the yeast and water in a small bowl and allow to stand until creamy. That’s about 10 minutes or so. Mix in the flour. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to double in size, about 20-30 minutes.
First Dough
By hand:
  1. Mix the yeast and water in a large bowl and allow to stand until creamy. Again, about 10 minutes or so
  2. Mix in the sponge and beat well with a wooden spoon
  3. Stir in the eggs, flour and sugar.
  4. Mix in the butter well
  5. This should only take about 5 – 6 minutes
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and allow double in size, about 1 – 1 ¼ hours
By Mixer:
  1. In the mixer bowl, mix together the yeast and water and allow to stand until creamy. Again, about 10 minutes or so
  2. With the paddle attached mix in the sponge, eggs, flour, and sugar.
  3. Add in the butter and mix for 3 minutes until the dough is smooth and even. Cover with plastic wrap and allow double in size, about 1 – 1 ¼ hours
Second dough
By Hand:
  1. Be sure to have your dough in a large bowl as above.
  2. With a wooden spoon mix in eggs, egg yolk, sugar, honey, vanilla, essences/extracts and salt.
  3. Mix in the butter.
  4. Then add the flour. Stir until smooth.
  5. At this stage the dough will seem a little too soft, like cookie dough.
  6. Turn it out and knead it on a well-floured surface until it sort of holds its shape. Don’t knead in too much flour but you may need as much as 2/3 cup (100 gm). Be careful the excess flour will affect the finished product.
By Mixer:
  1. With the paddle mix in thoroughly the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, honey, vanilla, essences/extracts, and salt.
  2. Mix in the butter until smooth.
  3. Add the flour and slowly incorporate.
  4. At this stage the dough will seem a little too soft, like cookie dough.
  5. Replace the paddle with the dough hook and knead for about 2 minutes. Turn out the dough and knead it on a well-floured surface until it sort of holds its shape.
  6. Don’t knead in too much flour but you may need as much as 2/3 cup (100 gm). Be careful the excess flour will affect the finished product.
First Rise
  1. Oil a large bowl lightly, plop in your dough and cover with plastic wrap
  2. Now we need to let it rise until it has tripled in size. There are two ways to go about this.
  • Rise in a warm place for 2 – 4 hours
  • Or find a cool spot (64°F -68°F) (18°C – 20°C) and rise overnight
  • Or rise for 2 hours on your kitchen bench then slow the rise down and place in the refrigerator overnight. 
Filling and Final Rise:
  1. Combine all filling ingredients and mix well
  2. Divide dough in half and press out one portion into an oval shape
  3. Sprinkle 1/4 of the filling over the dough and roll up into a log
  4. Press out again into an oval shape and sprinkle over another quarter of the filling
  5. Roll into a log shape again.
  6. Repeat with the second portion of dough
  7. Shape each into a ball and slip into your prepared pans, panettone papers or homemade panettone papers.
  8. Cut an X into the top of each panettone and allow to double in size.
  9. Rising time will vary according to method of first rise. If it has been in the refrigerator it could take 4 hours or more. If it has been rising on the kitchen bench in a warm place it should be doubled in about 2 hours.
  1. When you think your dough has only about 30 minutes left to rise preheat your oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 and adjust your oven racks
  2. Just before baking carefully (don’t deflate it!) cut the X into the dough again and place in a knob of butter.
  3. Place your panettone in the oven and bake for 10 minutes
  4. Reduce the heat to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 and bake for another 10 minutes
  5. Reduce the heat again to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3 and bake for 30 minutes until the tops are well browned and a skewer inserted into the panettone comes out clean.
  6. Cooling your panettone is also important. If you have use papers (commercial or homemade) lie your panettone on their side cushioned with rolled up towels. Turn gently as they cool. If you have used pans cool in the pans for 30 minutes then remove and cushion with towels.
  7. Panettone can also be cooled suspended. How to do this? Firstly you need to use papers (commercial or homemade), insert clean knitting needles into the bottom of the panettone in a X shape. Flip over and support the knitting needles on the edges of a large saucepan with the panettone suspended within the saucepan. Yep, a lot of trouble and I didn’t really find that much difference – maybe I took too long to insert the needles.
Almond Glaze for Panettone
1 cup (140 gm) (5 oz) whole blanched almonds
1 cup (125 gm) (4 ½ oz) confectioners' (icing) sugar
2 tablespoons (18 gm) (2/3 oz) whole wheat flour
3 large egg whites
3 tablespoons (45 ml) good quality extra virgin olive oil
Few drops of almond essence, to your taste
Pearl sugar, flaked almonds or course sugar to decorate

During the final rise, prepare the almond glaze. Process almond, confectioners’ sugar and flour until the nuts are finely chopped and well blended. Mix in the egg whites, oil and essence. Process to combine. It is meant to be thick and glue like. All is well! When the panettone are well risen carefully spread half the mixture over the top. Don’t worry about spreading it to the edges, in fact keep well away from the edges because the glaze will melt and spread. Bake as per the panettone recipe above.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Merry Christmas, friends! I hope your holidays have been filled with love and family and relaxation and delicious foods. I've basically been on a rotation of sleeping, reading, playing this game, and eating. We did our Italian, scaled down version of Feast of the Seven Fishes last night, and it was quite tasty. Lobster and clams are kind of a rarity in the midwest.

A while back OXO sent me some strange tiny measuring beakers for small amounts of liquids. I've been deliberating about how to use them for a while, and then remembered thatI've been wanting to make this super cute dessert called Zuccotto for a while. Zuccotto means little pumpkin in Italian, which is adorable, and it's traditionally a chilled, hemispherical dealie made with cake, ice cream, and brandy. The version I found used pound cake, chocolate, amaretto, and almond whipped cream, which is a is a little more my speed. The amaretto and almond extract were perfect in my measuring beakers, and made me feel like I was doing science things instead of just baking.

It turned out beautiful, like a little, perfect cake igloo! D'aw. It was a little too boozy for my tastes, but delicious nonetheless. 

But I've gotta go. It's time to eat more food! And then maybe take a nap. 

From Baked Bree


1 (12-ounce) pound cake (you can make one or buy one, no judging)
1/4 cup amaretto
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds (toasted)
cocoa powder for dusting

Coat a large bowl (1 1/2 quarts) with cooking spray. Cover the cooking spray with plastic wrap and let the wrap hang over the edges. Slice the pound cake into thin slices, and cover the bowl with the pound cake. Save some slices for the top. Brush the cake with amaretto.
Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Let cool.
Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream with the powdered sugar until thickened. Fold half of the cream into the chocolate mixture.
Spread the chocolate mixture on top of the pound cake.
Add the sliced almonds and almond extract to the remaining whipped cream. Fold gently until combined.
Add the almond whipped cream on top of the chocolate mixture.
Cover the top of the zuccotto with the remaining pound cake slices.
Chill for 3 hours, or overnight. Unmold onto a cake plate or platter.
Dust with cocoa powder and slice.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pretzel Bunnies

I'm moving out. 

It makes me a little panicky to see empty space in the corner where my futon was, to see my life neatly (well, maybe not so neatly) packed up into boxes. New chapter's beginning soon. Just have to get through this darn accounting final first. If you need someone to do a balance sheet or income statement for you...I'm your gal. Y'know, if you're not into letting professionals handle that sort of thing for you. 

Some of my friends who had been away all semester stopped by on Saturday, and it just felt so right to have them back. Telling amazing stories about their experiences, discussing everything from Nicaraguan government to Cabin in the Woods.
I missed these late nights. But as soon as everyone returns, I'll be gone. But I can't miss my own adventures because I'm too busy thinking about the ones happening at home. 

If I was a better storyteller, I'd be able to find a way to connect these pretzel bunnies with the above ideas. But...not quite there yet. But these cute lil' buns are a great way to use up that last egg, that bit of flour, you get the idea. 

I'll be back home, baking up a storm for the next couple weeks. But after that, changes are coming. I'm getting closer to coming to terms with the fact that this is real. 

Pretzel Bunnies
by Kirbie's Cravings

3/4 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoons salt
1 1/8 tsp active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 ounce unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk

1. Combine the warm water, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow it to sit for about 5 minutes. Add the flour and butter and using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl. Remove the dough from the bowl, and place the dough in a glass bowl oiled with vegetable oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
2. Take a chunk of dough about the size of a ping pong ball and roll into an oval shape. Repeat with remaining dough.
3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Using a large sauce pan, fill with water. Bring the water to a boil and add the baking soda.
4. Place the pretzels into the boiling water for 30 seconds, a few at a time. Make sure to gently place in and don't let the dough roll around too much in order to preserve the oval shape and so the dough doesn't get too wrinkled or bubbled. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Place pretzels on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat mat.
5. Using kitchen shears, cut two ears. Beat one egg yolk. Brush the top of each pretzel bunny with the beaten egg yolk. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 8 minutes. Add eyes with edible marker or food coloring after pretzels have cooled.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!

I love when I can use my passions to help other people. So when I caught wind of the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, I jumped at the opportunity to bake for a good cause. Food bloggers from all around the word gathered together to partner with Cookies For Kids' Cancer, an organization dedicated to finding new ways to fight pediatric cancer. Here's their mission statement:

Cookies for Kids' Cancer is committed to raising funds to support research for new and improved therapies for pediatric cancer, the leading cause of death by disease for children under the age of 18. Through the concept of local bake sales, Cookies for Kids' Cancer provides the inspiration and support for individuals, communities, and businesses to help fight pediatric cancer. 

Additionally, my beloved OXO promised to match every donation made by the bloggers of the cookie swap, up for $100,000 dollars. I think that's pretty awesome. They gave us some pretty sweet spatulas as well. I am amazed by people's generosity. Whenever I'm feeling generally angsty about humanity, I can just think of things like this cookie swap and feel better. 

For my cookie contribution, I wanted to make something that was sturdy enough to last in the mail but still delicious and not rock-like. These butter toffee cookies are perfect. They've got some substance to them and stack nicely, but still have a delicious chewy center. I hope they were still good upon arrival! 

Overall, the cookie swap was a wonderful experience and I'm so glad I got to take part. If you're interested in hosting your own bake sale or donating, head on over to Cookies for Kids' Cancer's website to get more information. I'm sure it will be appreciated.  '

Butter Toffee Cookies
from Land O' Lakes
makes 3 dozen

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup English or almond toffee bits
Sugar for rolling

Heat oven to 350°F. Combine sugar, butter, egg and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add flour, baking powder and baking soda; reduce speed to low. Beat until well mixed. Stir in toffee bits by hand.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten each with bottom of glass to 1 1/2-inch circles. (If glass sticks, dip glass in sugar.)

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until edges are just lightly browned. (Do Not Over Bake.) Sprinkle with sugar while warm. Cool completely.


Monday, December 3, 2012

White Chocolate + Almond Banana Bars

Don't ask me why I did it. Maybe it's to strengthen my food street cred. Maybe it's because I'm still at the age where trying food because you know it's bad is still appealing in a perverse sort of way. The point is, I ate lutefisk. And it was AWFUL. If you don't know, lutefisk is dried out fish re-hydrated in lye (which I wouldn't think is safe for consumption). It smells, and has the texture of mushy shrimp. Kind of gelatinous and stringy. *Shuddershudder*. 

We got into a small conversation about lutefisk in one of my classes today. Since Norwegians established my school, and lutefisk is a "traditional" Norwegian food, it's served for four days every year in the dining hall around Christmas. Everyone hates it. And very few Norwegians actually eat it, as it's kind of considered peasant food. When you had no other choice, lutefisk seemed pretty okay. Eating it today doesn't really connect us with modern Norwegian culture (and maybe it never did, since it's the food of poor immigrants). Anyway, if it's okay with you, I would like to talk about food that is actually delicious now. 

These banana bars do a fine job of washing the taste of lutefisk or anything else unsavory out of the mouth. Though the recipe called them blondies, they're somewhere between a bar cookie and a cake, and studded with almond slivers and white chocolate! They turned out a bit sweeter than I would like, so next time, cut back on the sugar a bit.

And if someone offers you lutefisk, say no. 

White Chocolate + Almond Banana Bars
adapted from Honey, What's Cooking?

1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 ripe, mashed bananas
2 cups flour
1/2 cup chopped almonds

1/2 cup white chocolate chips 

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine butter and sugar until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add bananas and blend again. Fold in flour, nuts and chocolate until no dry spots remain, but do not over mix. Pour batter into a greased 9x13 tray. Bake 20-25 or until a toothpick comes out clean.