C said she forgot to mention that Devon kitchens are chilly places. And while cooler kitchens are preferred for pastrying, this is a bit much.
The windows have no glass, just chicken wire and vent plates, which has to do with the building’s age; it was built in the 16thC, so regulations require the air change 200 times a minute. Okay, so there is no snow on the ground, but having to wear a full sweatsuit under my whites and a hoodie over top, hood up and tied at the neck, makes it feel more like the holidays.
When I haven’t been warming myself over the grill, I’ve been working on Panettone.
Since this is an Italian restaurant, the chef wrote an Italian-style xmas menu. Unfortunately, he may have just written down several Anglo-Italian ideas without much thought, so I was stuck trying to bring the puddings on his menu to life.
Last week was the first time I had ever made panettone.
For my first batch, I went with a sourdough from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice, which allowed me to put to use Celine, the sourdough starter created to make my first sourdough:
The panettone took three days. Tasted alright, but it was a bit dry. And considering this is not having a slice with jam on January 3rd, the customary way of eating panettone, but a plated dessert, it couldn’t be dry.
The chef says it’s got to be an “easy” recipe, which seems to go against everything Wikipedia says about Panettone.
Martha Stewart’s was much like Reinhart’s, Nigella’s was written partially in Italian, so I didn’t understand the method (in all fairness, I don’t think it was Nigella’s, but a Nigella fan who posted on the site).
A Google search for “quick panettone” yielded several shops that ship the breads and a recipe by King Arthur Flour that only took about 5 hours including all the rising. The method was very weird and going through the process was horrifying to me, but I had faith.
It was shit.
Annoyed at by the fact that an easy recipe was a) cutting corners which rarely equals authenticity and b) ridiculous because I’m in the middle of bloody nowhere with no transport and nothing by spare time, the chef told to make a brioche with christmas fruits.
Did I mention I don’t have a mixer? Or electric hands?
I used Eddy Van Damme’s brioche recipe as it has a sponge base (guaranteed live, happy yeast in my eyes, as bread baking terrifies me) and uses invert sugar to help keep it moist.
It was beautiful, but after several plating attempts (soaking it, frosting it, slicing it, bread puddinging it), I realized panettone as a dessert was a terrible idea. I emailed my Italian friend, who laughed and said that serving the panettone with Devon cream was a poor pairing at best (this was not my idea) and that smearing it with Nutella or dunking it in espresso was the way to enjoy the bread.
A flash of panettone, sliced and toasted, stacked with little blister packs of Nutella flashed through my mind.
Though not traditional, in the end this was how I chose to serve it:
Italian bread served in the English countryside, New World style.
I blanched grapefruit (below) and orange peel for candying.
The currants, sultanas, and raisins are cooked in red wine with sugar, cinnamon, and star anise, drained tossed with the peel and glace cherries.
Rolled brioche flavoured with vanilla and cinnamon, speckled with fruits, cut with the only cutter we have in this kitchen. The centres I had to cut with a piping tip. Boo.
After letting the rounds and holes rise to 70%, I fried them for 3 min on each side at 170C.
Obviously, I had to make the English folks a taste of Canadian culture – the Timbit.
After cooling, I enrobed the doughnuts with a browned butter glaze to give the bread a bit of sweetness. Go, gravity, go!
The wine used to soften and infuse the fruits was reduced and blended with a mixed berry coulis, to be heated with fruit bits before service.
The doughnut is topped with hardly sweetened whipped double cream and strands of candied lemon zest. It tastes like christmas. And with all this practice, it doesn’t seem that I knead a mixer, wah waaaaah.