Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Midweek Roundup: The Bread that Needed a Spreadsheet

This is the most brilliant idea I've ever had!  I've always thought that the Midweek Roundup is too text-heavy, but I didn't want to use my own pictures again.  Then, when I was going through every else's blogs, I thought, "Wait!  I can use someone else's picture!  It will be different every time!  People will wonder when it's going to be their turn to have a photo showcased."  I was so excited that I couldn't wait to get started.

And, of course, this lovely shot with the chocolate sauce being drizzled on the panettone in perpetuity belongs to Kim.  A beautiful photo of a beautiful bread.

As Kristina said, "There was a lot of angst in our baking group about this week's recipe."

Vicki claimed that it took "extraordinary mental energy" for her to follow the recipe, and the only way she could do it was writing down all the steps:  "one through thirty-three."  If I'd known there were 33 steps, I'm not sure I could have made it.  Catherine described it as an "endurance test," requiring "the Alpha Bakers to map out a campaign that a three star general would be proud of, with the cooking starting one week in advance."

Glori described the process as "EPIC!  Five pages long and so many steps that I actually wrote my time line in the book."

And you should see the timeline that Chef Tony put together!  Not to mention devising his own recipe for candied orange peel.  Not to mention having has dishwasher die - dramatically and stinkily - during the biga process.  Just a normal week's work, right Tony?  Welcome--and I hope that you can get through next week's project without losing another appliance.

Raymond originally found the recipe "daunting" and was grateful for the timeline he devised, but in the end he thought the recipe was not difficult..Maggie joined him with that opinion. She thought it was "very easy to make and understandable to read in the book."  No idle bragging on her part, I assure you--her version was perfectly beautiful and looks like it was a breeze.

And Nancy has made panettone before, so was not intimidated by the instructions.  In fact, she imagined "Rose and Woody read[ing] all the Alpha Bakers' posts and think[ing], 'If these people just did what the recipe said, it would have been fine!'  (I get that feeling myself sometimes, Nancy, but both Rose and Woody are way too nice to call us "these people!")

Some of us had never before tasted panettone; for others, it was a holiday or a cultural tradition.   Kim never understood the appeal of giving a panettone as a gift--it's just a storebought cake, after all, even though she hails from Montreal, where "there are hundreds of thousands of them hanging from the ceilings in specialty shops, or sitting at the cash.  You practically trip over them in the markets.  Now, having made her own, she understands why it's a "treasured holiday bread that is given to very special people, not from a box, but from your heart."

 Vicki buys one every year at Trader Joe's, never thinking it would be within her ability to make her own.  I have a feeling that Trader Joe's has just lost a panettone customer.

For both Raymond and Michele, making this bread was both a reminder holiday baking in their pasts and a tribute to their baking grandmothers.  Michele didn't actually remember if her grandmother, Grazia Palazzolo Alfano, ever made panettone (she was famous for her lemon meringue pie!), but knows that she would have loved this recipe.  Raymond thought the bread "was every bit as good as any that my mom or grandmother ever made and I was totally pleased with it."  High praise indeed.

Some of us liked the orange peel; some couldn't get over a dislike of any kind of candied fruit.  Kristina was somewhere in the middle:  she didn't think she's like it, and "found that the first bite of each slice was a slightly unexpected flavour, but by the time I finished each slice, I wanted more.  A sign of a good result, I think!"  I think so too.

And some of us made our own orange peel!  For a bunch of people suffering angst about the number of steps involved in this bread, you'd think people would think twice about adding the steps necessary to candy their own orange peel! 

Jenn made her own, and blogged about it separately.   She says it was easy.  I'm unconvinced.   In passing, I'd like to note that our Knitty Baker--she of the 1/2 recipe, the 1/4 recipe, the 1/6 recipe--made the whole, the entire recipe!  What greater compliment could she give to this panettone.  (And I should note that Whole Foods has also lost a panettone customer).  At this rate, Rose is going to bring all the upscale grocers to their knees.  Vicki also blogged separately about her adventures with orange peel, using a recipe from Kate (of Kate Flour fame) and passing the recipe on to her fellow bloggers.

Surprisingly, Jill also made the candied orange peel herself, even though as a general rule she "dislikes baking with anything orange flavored."  (She also dislikes panettone, which also seems "so dry and a lot of work."  So props to Jill for trying something she thought was going to be a dried-out, yucky orange-flavored thing.  But it turned out to be pretty good, and "quite moist," so sometimes moving out of your comfort zone can be a good thing.  Glori also made the orange peel, although she claimed it was just because she was "too cheap" to go out and buy some.

Mendy used Kate's orange peel recipe too (I'm beginning to feel like the only sluggard who actually just purchased it), but burned it, er, slightly overcooked it, er caramelized it!  Yes, that's it.  Mendy pumped up the flavor profile with his caramelized orange peel!

I think that everyone agreed that this was a project whose end result easily justified the week's time, and the complicated time lines, involved in making it.  There was a little disagreement about the chocolate.  Mendy thought that the chocolate sauce definitely enhanced the panettone, and thought he might even add chocolate chips to the dough next time.  Monica, as a rebellious little Italian girl, (surprise, Monica was a rebellious child!) much preferred plain pan d'oro to panettone, and so she just sprinkled hers with powdered sugar, omitting the chocolate sauce.  (But then she smeared her slice with Nutella, so I'm not really sure which side of the chocolate fence Monica is on).

Hanaa "Moroccanized" her panettone (Italy and Morocco aren't that far apart) by using orange flower water and adding anise, and both she and her husband loved their cross-cultural bread.  Hanaa did not add the chocolate sauce because believed that "chocolate wasn't necessary and could potentially overpower all the other subtle flavors which were already playing so nicely together."

Now Faithy....  Faithy I just have to give her own paragraph to and not try to fit her into any category.  Why?  Well, for one, Faithy is the only person who had to gather up her panettones and keep them in her bedroom at night so the "stupid house lizard" wouldn't eat them.  And second, our beautiful Faithy was so worried about the state of her panettone that, even after being assured that it was fine, forgot to put her makeup to go to work!  No foundation, no lipstick.  Thank goodness she at least remembered her sunblock.  I love Faithy, and so I put her in her own section.  Anyone else who can provide documentation of fighting off lizards and forgetting their makeup may join her there.

I hate to end on a down note, but Patricia's blog, succinctly titled "BIGA FAIL," was too sad to be ignored.  You know how Patricia's blogs generally read:  she's got the pictures of her glorious results, the baking tips that we mortals never heard of, those hints for success.  So to see her attach the word "fail" to her blog is like finding out that Catherine's imaginary three-star general was wounded in battle.  But!  The wound is just a graze and Patricia will try again during Catch-Up Week, when I expect she will be fully revived.

Next week:  A well-deserved vacation in Q&E land with gingersnaps, whose praise cookie-hating Raymond is already singing.  I believe that I botched mine, but will post them anyway and try to figure out what went wrong.  I will be on another vacation next week (don't be envious - I'm going on a Disney cruise with my grandson, who is not yet reliably toilet-trained, and his parents.  As I said, I'll post, assuming that my automatic publishing setting works, and I should be back in time for the midweek cookie roundup, when I'll post someone else's photo (unless I forget).

After that, another adventure with fruited bread!  Hmmm, how did that happen?


  1. ב''ה

    "At this rate, Rose is going to bring all the upscale grocers to their knees."
    Ha love it.

  2. Ha, so funny. I love the bit about Jill baking something she thought was going to be dried out yucky-orange.

    Enjoy the Disney cruise. I always think that parents are exclusively responsible for cleaning up little accidents. Loving relatives are for entertainment and having fun.

  3. LOL! I want to go Disney cruise too! Actually it's more because I think my son wants to go Disney cruise!
    Gingersnaps..i baked mine so long until it becomes crisp..but after the next 2 days becomes really hard like rock..hahaha.. but still taste good but only for those without dentures. LOL!

  4. In fact when I brought the panettones into my bedroom with me, my husband complained that he wont' be able to sleep as the sweet smelling panettone will filled up the whole aircon room and make him hungry. But I told him that's not my problem is only the lizards..hahaha..

  5. Marie--i can't imagine a more entertaining or detailed summary! i've been wanting to tell everyone how awesome their efforts were. i do think this is the most complex recipe in the book as far as instructions go. it is my feeling that everyone who bakes should, at least once in their lives, make this bread. now you're all going to laugh, but looking at the photos and rereading the instructions, i can't imagine what sitting on a soft pillow is going to do for the bread! i think i meant that it should lean against the pillow so that the sides don't cave. but this goes very far back to the bread bible when i did my first panettone and i'll have to make it again to make sense of it. seeing the panettone sitting on top of the pillow i just had to scratch my head and think "WHY?"! i think i meant "on" not "on top of" and should have said "leaning against.? thank you all for trusting me and following all or, at least, most of the directions including that one. it reminds me of a story i read in Gourmet magazine in the '60s. an English housewife living in India was making a suckling pig for Xmas and told the server she wanted him to present it with an apple in the mouth. he was horrified and refused but she insisted and when the day came he presented the pig with an apple in his mouth--not the pig's. so much for prepositions. And Marie--i stayed up late to see this mid-week roundup as i'll be computerless for the next few days during the upgrade to a desktop imac--scary but exciting, and i so wanted to congratulate everyone and was rewarded by your delightful prose. what a terrific idea to chose photos from others! meantime, have a wonderful cruise!

    1. You are going to love your new Apple computer! From a die hard fan of that brand...if you need direction, reach out.. Be happy to help navigate your new Apple world.

    2. Well Rose, the thanks should go to you for giving us such a beautiful recipe. We were all successful because of your impeccable instructions and good taste (though the pillow idea could have been a little over the top). We trust you for good reason. Enjoy your new Mac!

  6. Wow, this was a long one... But I love them.. Like Rose mentions in her comments.. I look forward to them a bit too much. After this one you sure deserved that vacay with family... Enjoy it, I'm sure you guys are looking forward to some sunny weather.

  7. Awesome round up, Marie. You missed your calling as a comedian. Have a great cruise!

  8. Marie your round ups are wonderful and have a nice holiday.

  9. Monica, that is so generous an offer. Actually I'm hoping for a smooth transition as I'm going from a Mac book air. It's going to be separation anxiety leaving it at the Apple Store to move everything over.

    1. I can relate.. I since started using Backblaze to back up everything in my computer not using time machine or external drive (which I also have to store my pictures) - my blog photos are as precious as my family photos... and I now have peace of mind that if anything goes wrong I can get everything back with no issue. Good luck with the apple guys.

  10. Thank you Marie for your great mid-week round up. Your paragraph dedicated to Faithy couldn't have been better said. I love her too. She's adorable.

  11. What a great Round Up. I find myself looking forward to these more and more each week. I wondered about the pillow too and just plopped the bread on top of some towels. Have a great trip.

  12. "At this rate, Rose is going to bring all the upscale grocers to their knees" - yes!!!

    I wondered about the pillow as well. I had to read it twice to make sure I didn't misread. And Faithy definitely deserve her own paragraph. She is so funny and sweet.

    Love the photo idea Marie! Now we will look forward to your midweek round up even more!! (if that is even possible). Have a good time at the cruise. Please have a margarita (or two) for us!

  13. good to know about the pillow! i couldn't figure that one out, either. great roundup and have a fun cruise Marie!

  14. I still want to know exactly what a house lizard is, if it's not a pet is it a working lizard like a working sheep dog? Who knew baking Panettone would expand such a cultural horizon?! Love Kim's picture. It summed up the week of Panettone perfectly. Have a lovely cruise.

    1. Vicki, here is more info on the Asian house lizzard ( Of course there's a wiki page on it LOL. I think they are not a pet but an uninvited guess.