Saturday, December 31, 2011

Plus an hour ...

You didn't think that I would let 2011 go out without a recipe did you? I am totally sneaking this in so I have to make it quick but there was no way I was going to let this year go by without sharing this with you. And what else could I possibly do but leave you with a real, honest to goodness Panatone recipe.

That takes a week to make. Plus an hour.


It's a big recipe. It requires time and love. It is totally traditional and completely amazing. Just like I hope your new year is going to be.

Time to dish.

Insanely time consuming completely amazing Panatone
(Cuccina Italiana) 

**So the gist of it is this: You make a cool starter, which takes a week to develop, and there is some lengthy leavening, and then, there is Panatone heaven.**

Here is what you need for the starter:

  • 2-2.5 cups of unbleached all purpose flour (measured out in 1/2 cup portions)
  • 2-2.5 cups of whole wheat flour (measured as above)
  • 3-3.5 cups of room temperature water (measured out in 3/4 cup portions)

Here is what you need for the Poolish (Pre-Ferment):

  • 1/4 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of room temperature water
  • 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon of active dry yeast

Here is what you need for the dough:

  • 3 and 3/4 cups of unbleached all purpose flour (more if needed)
  • 1/2 a cup of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of fine sea salt
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
  • 3 large eggs
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of whole milk (no skimping here with less fat okay...)
  • 1 and 1/4 cups of currants, soaked in warm water (or warm rum) for 10 minutes and then drained
  • 6 ounces of candied orange peel cut into small dice
  • 2 and a 1/2 tablespoons of honey
  • 3 tablespoons of quality extra virgin olive oil
  • Finely grated zest of three lemons and three oranges
  • 1 vanilla bean split lengthwise, scraped and reserved
  • 14 tablespoons of cold, unsalted butter

Phfeww! Are you guys still with me? Okay, here we go.

Here is what to do for the starter:

  1. One week before your Panatone dough adventure starts, get a bowl out and mix the following: 1.5 cups each of the all purpose and whole wheat flours and add 3/4 cups of the water. Stir into a batter like mix. Then cover with a cheesecloth and leave it alone for three days. Yep. Three. You will smell it baby!
  2. Now, uncover, stir together, and throw out half the mixture. This is the beginning of your started dears..Now add again as above 1.5 cups of each of the flours and 3/4 cups of the water, give a stir, cover and leave it for two days.
  3. At this point repeat the "feeding" process (same quantities of everything) and leave it for another 1-2 days until the starter is "ripe". It will bubble and smell sweet and lactic, kind of like yogurt, and a small spoonful will float in water.

Here is what to do for the Poolish (night before baking the Panatone):

  1. Get another bowl and mix the flour, water and yeast and let stand at room temperature for 10-12 hours.

Here is what to do for the dough:

  1. Yet another bowl must come out. Preferably one of an electric mixer or your hands will be really tired...Once out, blend together flour, sugar, salt and yeast. In another bowl, combine 3/4 cups of starter, all of the poolish, whole eggs, egg yolks, and milk.
  2. With your mixer on low, slowly add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until everything belongs together. About five minutes ...Let the dough rest for about 20 minutes...
  3. Now, in another large bowl(have you kept count of how many we are at here?) mix together currants, candied orange peels, honey, oil, lemon and orange zests, and vanilla and put it aside.
  4. Butter time! Cut the butter into medium pieces, put between two pieces of saran wrap, then flatten out. Return flattened butter to fridge. Come on now! Breathe! You can do it!
  5. Mix the rest of the dough on medium speed for 6-8 minutes. With the mixer running, add the butter piece by piece until all is incorporated and the dough is smooth.
  6. Then take the bowl out of the mixer, using your hands now, add the currant mixture to the dough to incorporate completely, then take dough and put it in a huge bowl, cover and let rise for two hours.
  7. Turn dough once, then cover and let rise again for about another 2 hours.

It's time to bake!!! Haleluiah!!!

  1. Coat your Panatone molds with butter and put molds on a baking sheet. Decide your kick ass dough into rounds and place in molds about half way. Let the dough rise until it reaches the height of the papers, about 1-2 hours..I swear, we will bake it...
  2. Heat the oven to 400 with rack in the middle and bake! For about 15-17 minutes. Keep an eye on it, you'll know ...

Then dear readers, take it out, let it cool, and enjoy something from a time gone by.

Love and happy 2012,


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What I learned ...

Well, here it is. Three days to go until the New Year. A stack of late Christmas cards on my table. Patiently and knowingly (always late) waiting to be filled and mailed... Me, sitting in the kitchen being distracted by nightfall, snow and the blue lights outside ... reflecting (instead of getting to said cards) ... What a year it has been dear readers. Really. If I had to describe it in one word, that word would be scary. It is not a fancy word, but it is a word filled with truth.

Cards ...they so know they are going to be late ...

Distractions ...

This year has been a year filled with change and growth for me dear readers. Mostly in heart and spirit. Mostly because I had no choice. I've had to face many challenges and many fears. To look at life, people, relationships and myself in a light that I had never known before. And I had all the time in the world, in which to do it. My sabbatical is nothing like I thought it would be. I guess I kind of had an inkling of an idea that giving myself so much time on my hands after not having any for ..oh ..I don't know ..ever ..would have some kind of reflective, existential consequences but boy was I not prepared for the sheer physical and mental mind-bend of it all.

I'm going to share what I's personal, a little all over the place if you don't mind, and another scary thing to add to the proverbial list ...

This year dear readers, I learned to slow down. To take better care of my body because it is the only one I have and it feels really really good when I do. That I need to move. To sweat. To have screaming, kid like, heart pounding fun. I learned that I am very uncomfortable (like panic inducing uncomfortable) not having control and structure in work. I learned why. And to let that go a little more every day. I learned to be vulnerable. I learned to accept some of the not so pleasant parts of myself (yes, I have some :) because they are part of who I am. To soften up a little. To judge less. To be there for myself. I learned that I need to pay more attention to nature and light and cycles because they are a part of me and influence my well being tremendously. That I love rituals and marking the changes of time. I learned to talk about myself and that I would not burst into flames or die of shame if I did. That I cannot help sometimes no matter how hard I try. I learned that I cannot fix everything and that's okay. That I don't always have to be nice. That it is okay to be tired.

I learned to be okay with being scared, uncertain, in limbo and without a clear path for the moment, and to move forward anyway. I learned that everything I think I know (even the sealed in stone huge stuff) can change at any moment. And, that the human capacity for transformation and growth is a marvel.

Now, on to my dried flowers and other such things. I know I know, a little abrupt, but hey, a girl can only take so much heart on sleeve very public soul bearing. So, what I also wanted to share with you are some little things that put a smile on my face and remind me that things will be warm, bright and green again soon.

Time to dish photos ...

Flowers in jars on counter tops ..
Braided garlic and fuschia  flowers hanging on ancient sandwich press ...
Dried flowers ...
Red berries on dark branches ...

Wreaths made out of grapevines with dried grapes still hanging on them ...

Big, beautiful, regular wreaths ...

Happy New Year dear readers. As old fashioned as it sounds, may all your dreams come true.