So, I read Under the Tuscan Sun earlier this year, half expecting it to be like the movie. It’s not, though I can see how the story told in the movie (romantic comedy) was teased out of the threads of the original memoire by Frances Mayes.
I love both (my secret’s out!) for different reasons, but I’m not actually going to do a Compare And Contrast today.
Instead, I’m going to talk about Panatone.
A little less than two years ago, I tried Panatone for the first time. It was a $26 confection bought at Loblaws and the tall, fragrant cake was filled with custard. Heavenly. I could see why it was a regular holiday/holy-day treat in Italy and for the Italian community in my neighbourhood.
But, in reading Frances Mayes’ book, I learned that Panatone began (as so many things do) as a way of fancying up one’s regular day-to-day food – of creating a feast when you don’t have much to work with. La cucina povera, as they say in Italy (apparently), otherwise known as “making magic with what’s on hand”. AKA: What I’ve been doing for years.
So Panatone began as bread. Plain bread, made less plain by throwing in a handful of crushed chestnuts and another handful of raisins, maybe a couple of eggs, if your hens were doing well that winter or if you could spare them, and letting the dough rise for a long, long time.
I made bread yesterday evening. it was “speedy bread” – meaning that it did its first rise as a “sponge” (past the “chef” stage of “just water, sugar, and yeast”, but with a consistency more like batter than dough), and did its second rise in the loaf pan.
When it came out of the oven, with a decidedly bubbly looking crust, I brushed the top with butter and left it in its pan (covered with a reusable plastic “hat” to keep it from drying out) and this morning, when I cut into it, I smelled something… not quite bread-like.
I smelled panatone.
I smelled the smell I had, until now, understood as requiring three days of rising combined with a lot of grappa/vanilla extract/casis and a lot of sugar and eggs.
So. What I would like to try as an addition to this year’s (three weeks away!) Winter Solstice extravaganza, is to make a panatone featuring dried cranberries, dried currants, apple (or pumpkin/pear) butter in lieu of a straight-up sugar sweetener, and crushed walnuts thrown in.
Here’s the recipe as I’m hoping will be successful (has not been tried yet):
In a large bowl, blend:
2C hot water
1/4 C apple butter (or pumpkin butter, or pear butter)
1 1tbsp mollasses (optional – I may use pomegranate mollases for this)
1 tbsp quick-acting yeast
After the yeast is very frothy, add the following and blend until smooth:
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract (OR casis)
1/4 C grape seed oil (or other oil, or ghee, or whatever)
2 C flour
Allow to rise until batter has doubled or, if space allows, tripled in size (a deep bowl is good for this. So is a very warm kitchen. Bake cookies for the winter queen while it’s rising).
Once risen, stir batter to eliminate most of the air bubbles and drop it back down to “normal” size. Then add:
1 C flour
1/4 C ground almonds
Blend until smooth (NOTE: Use a fork or something for the blending, rather than a hand-mixer).
1/4 C dried cranberries
1/4 C dried currants
1/4 C crumbled walnuts
Stir the dried fruit and nuts into the batter/dough.
Pour the dough into a well greased loaf pan (or a spring-form cake pan, or a sacraficial 1kg coffee can… whatever works best for you) and allow to rise until VERY puffy and bubbly. Pre-heating the oven to 350F at this time is a good idea. 🙂
When dough is fully risen, put it in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden-brown (more golden, less brown, fyi) and everything smells AMAZING.
Pop it out of the oven. It should slide easily out of the pan and sound hollow when you knock on the bottom (the bottom should also be a little bouncy).
Brush the top with butter.
Cover, while still warm, with a reuseable plastic hat or other covering to keep it from drying out and let it sit for 12 hours.
Slice into pieces and serve, ideally with butter, fruit-butter, and/or goat cheese. 😀
In theory, this should be delicious. 🙂
Meliad the Birch Maiden. 🙂
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