Pan Dulce, the cylindrical bread studded with raisins and candied fruit is known here in the US by its Italian name, Panettone. This Milanese bread is eaten on Christmas in not just Italy and the US, but in Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay and Paraguay. Though its etymology and history are murky at best, I'll recount my favorite legend from the myriad that claim ownership.
In the 15th century, Milanese nobleman and falconer Ughetto Atellani fell in love with Adalgisa, the daughter of Toni, a poor baker. To woo her, he disguised himself as a baker, and invented a rich bread containing flour, sugar, eggs, yeast, raisins and candied lemon and orange peel. The Duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro Sforza, granted his blessing on their marriage, and encouraged the release of this new, cake-like bread: Pan de Toni. In Milanese dialect, 'Pan del Ton' means 'Bread of Luxury,' therefore giving another meaning to this bread full of rich ingredients.
You can buy Panettone molds and special printed paper for some added luxury to this already fine bread, but it's not necessary. I made this Pan Dulce (inspired by the recipe found in the December 2006 issue of Gourmet magazine) in an empty tin coffee can lined with parchment paper. The richness lies in the bread, not in its preparation.
No wonder Adalgisa fell in love. This sweet, fluffy bread is filled with little jewel-like fruit pieces and simple to make. The dough must rise twice; the wait makes getting to the eating part just that much sweeter. In Argentina, the candied lemon and orange peel used in this recipe is called 'abrillantada'--sparkling, shining, brilliant. Much like the jewels a noblewoman would wear, wouldn't you say?
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Don't be intimidated by the long ingredient list--the dough for this bread took less than 20 minutes to throw together, and many of the ingredients are some part of an orange or lemon. I used the traditional fillings, but there are a million recipes out there featuring everything from chestnuts to chocolate chips--feel free to substitute your favorite.
The time-consuming part of this recipe is that the dough has to rise twice--once in the bowl and once in the coffee can it's baked in. The Gourmet recipe suggests using two small coffee cans and baking for 45 minutes. In the larger coffee can, a longer baking time is required--2 hours, 20 minutes.
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup light Rum
1/2 cup warm milk
2 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons active dry yeast (or 2 packets)
3 1/2 cups flour
3 eggs plus 1 yolk, at room temperature
zest of one lemon
zest of half an orange
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, cut into 8 pieces, plus more for buttering coffee can
1/2 cup candied orange peel
1/2 cup candied lemon peel
egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash, optional
confectioner's sugar, for dusting
sliced almonds, for topping, optional
34 oz. tin coffee can, emptied, washed and plastic and paper labels removed
Put the golden raisins and the rum with 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes, and then remove from heat and let cool. Drain the raisins and reserve in a bowl.
Fit a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and rinse the bowl with warm water. Add in the warm milk, sugar and yeast and stir together. Let sit for five minutes, until foamy and spongy-looking. Add in 1/2 cup of the flour and mix at low speed until combined. Add in the eggs, yolk, lemon and orange zest, lemon juice, salt, and 2/3 cup sugar and beat until combined. Next, add in the remaining 3 cups of flour 1/2 cup at a time, waiting until each portion has been combined before adding the next one.
On medium-high speed, add in the butter a few pieces at a time, and beat on this speed for about 5 minutes, until the dough is shiny and shaggy. The dough will be very sticky and soft. On low speed, add in the raisins, and candied lemon and orange zests and mix until combined.
Remove the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place until it doubles or triples in size, about 3 hours. Meanwhile, generously butter the coffee can and line with parchment paper, using one round piece for the bottom and a rectangle to wrap around the sides. You can use the can to measure approximate sizes. Line the coffee can with the parchment paper, and leave an inch neck of paper coming out of the top of the can.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a cylinder about the width of the coffee can. I wrapped the parchment paper around the dough to get it into the coffee can, because my first attempt at simply dropping the dough down into the can lined with paper made the paper wrinkle up.
Cover the can with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the dough is coming out of the top of the can, 2-3 hours. (Or let it rise overnight in the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature 3 hours before baking.)
Put the oven rack in the lower setting in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Beat together the egg yolk and water and brush it over the top of the bread. Bake for 2 hours 20 minutes, or until bottom of the bread makes a hollow sound when tapped. (After being removed from the can) Remove the bread from the can by thumping firmly on the bottom of the can.
The traditional way to prepare Panettone requires this unusual step: Take two metal skewers and pierce the panettone about 3 inches from the bottom, either in an 'X' shape or parallel. Hang the Panettone upside down for several hours over an empty stock pot to cool.
We let our Panettone cool for about a half hour before serving, which was also just fine.
Dust the top with confectioner's sugar using a fine-mesh sieve. Remove the parchment paper before serving and slice into wedges. Serve with hot coffee or hot milk.