Learning Kitchen: Panettone & Decorative Loaves

It’s not always a fail case when I bake bread, I swear. Case in point: the panettone and stollen I made this past holiday season. Practice makes perfect, so I’m going to start practicing for this year’s baking soon!

My co-workers and loved ones were lucky last year: I made a few varieties, cranberry-pecan panettone, tropical fruit panettone, and cherry-chocolate stollen. The cranberry-pecan panettone went to my office and my boyfriend’s brother. When I presented it at the office, I drizzled rum-infused butter over it, then dusted it with powdered sugar. Moist, light, and scented with orange zest, it disappeared in minutes!

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The stollen that I made was a slight variation on the recipe found in Joy of Cooking, a lighter approach to the fruit filling because bread itself is already really carb-heavy, and I’d rather get my calories from chocolate. Glazed lightly with a mixture of powdered sugar, cointreau, and milk, this loaf had people talking all day. It’s a really nice alternative to those who are scared off of panettone because of its similarity to fruitcake, and the perfect little slice can make the most mundane office tea feel like an event.

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The tropical fruit panettone went to my mom, whose love of fruitcake turned into a voracious desire to try any and all variations before she found her favorite of all. I tried to replicate the tropical fruit panettone that she had from a fancy bakery somewhere, and while mine was tasty, it didn’t quite have the same moisture and strong flavors that she had become accustomed to. My panettone, though, makes for some darn tasty French toast!

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I think I’ll experiment with more fruits for my mom’s holiday bread this year, and perhaps add some flavor to the dough. Perhaps steeping fruit tea into the milk for the dough could be a good start, and I’d really like to play with adding candied nuts instead of roasted, as well. For now, though, I’m pretty happy with my first foray into baking pretty breads.

Don’t be afraid to jump into playing with your dough, fellow bakers. Sometimes the results are magical!

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