No, it's not. It's not really quick and easy. Just so we get that established right away.
Since I don't have anything to catch up on, I planned to do one of the other things I suggested doing for Catch-Up week. I planned to make the gingersnaps again, and make them right--this time with caster sugar and using the correct amount of ginger. But my caster sugar, ordered from deepest England, hasn't arrived yet. So I decided instead to make the panettone again, and this time make it wrong. Deliberately.
The main thing I did was to skip the biga altogether, and add the water, flour, and yeast from the biga into the sponge and flour mixtures. I have nothing against bigas, and I don't mind making bread that takes a week. In fact, I like projects like that because they don't require much work on a day-to-day basis, and as long as I don't completely forget about it and leave the biga in the refrigerator for a month or two, I figure I'm doing all right in the memory department. But sometimes if you want a piece of panettone for breakfast, you don't feel like waiting for a week, by which time you'll probably have lost the yen.
The only other thing I did was to add more yeast (3/4 of a teaspoon more) to make up for the fermenting power of the biga. More yeast also allowed me to shorten almost all the suggested resting and rising times. The dough was still sticky and supple, as in the original one-week panettone (OWP)--perhaps a little harder to handle, but not much. I think I may have added more flour in the two-day panettone (TDP).
Even my shortened version requires an overnight sponge and a few restings and risings during the second day. So if you want instant gratification, you won't get it even with a TDP. My real question was how much taste and texture I'd lose by speeding up the process.
The additional yeast really made the dough go to town! I planned for a three- to four-hour first rise, but it was billowing over the top of its bowl after two hours. And the oven spring! I had to remove the top rack in my oven or the top of the bread would have vined itself onto the rack. As it was, I had to remove one dough tendril to free the rack.
Here is a comparison between the two slices of bread:
The OWP has a smaller, denser crumb, making it more cake-like in texture. The TDP is definitely bread. The OWP wins the texture contest, but the TDP's isn't terrible.
Taste? Jim had a slice of the TDP, and exclaimed, "That's really good!" I asked him how it compared to the OWP, and he said, "Didn't that one have chocolate sauce?" I said it did, and he said he couldn't compare chocolate to non-chocolate.
I think that if you tasted the TDP and didn't know it had been hurried up, you'd say, "That's not quite as good as I remembered." But a bread made with all that butter and all those eggs and Lyle's syrup and excellent-quality candied orange peel isn't going to be bad. I think I have to make this again two or three more times in the course of a year in order to use up the rest of the expensive orange peel. Next time it'll be the OWP.