Homemade Panettone and Painting–Patience Is the Recipe for Success

I’m one of the lucky ones to have a three-day weekend, and though I have a number of tasks on my to-do list, I’ve been taking a leisurely pace getting things done.  At the moment, I’m waiting for some spackle to dry so that I can paint around the window in this room and finish it up.  I had promised myself that I would have this room painted more than two weeks ago, but this first go-round made the walls look too much the color of mint ice cream.  That coat turned into being the primer, and now it’s still green, but a nice, fresh green called Cool Cucumber, which makes this small room feel bright and maybe larger.

Between my efforts at getting the room painted, I baked a couple of loaves of panettone.  I doubt that there’s much Italian DNA in me, but after having tried the store-bought kind that appears near holiday time, I decided that an attempt at some homemade panettone would be my first real baking in my new kitchen.  I must admit I like the store-bought kind because of its texture, something akin to the light, stretchiness of crescent rolls or cinnamon rolls.  This is what makes panettone different than some other nut and fruit breads; it’s a leavened bread rather than a quick bread.

Because of the rising process, interspersing the baking and painting worked well.  The recipe I used was one which I found in my old Joy of Cooking, with some of my own adaptations.  I decided to use up some of the shelled nuts still left from Christmas and a lone apple, which, otherwise, would soon have seen its better days.

Homemade Panettone

Ingredients:

1 apple peeled and chopped into small pieces

1/2 cup white raisins (any type of dried fruit works well, as do fresh blueberries–a cup and a half of fruit total seems about right to me)

1 cup (approximately) orange liqueur (I used the cheapest brand I could find–still not cheap)

1 cup warm (not hot) water

2 packages active dry yeast

4 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 stick (1/2 cup) of softened butter

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2-4 eggs room temperature (2 eggs give a definite bread texture; 4 eggs give a texture more like that of cake)

Zest of one orange (I thinly peeled an orange, then pulsed the peel a couple of times in the food processor to grate it)

1 cup of coarsely broken nuts (I used walnuts)

Directions:

Put the fruit in a small saucepan and nearly cover with the orange liqueur.  Heat just to a boil; then immediately turn off the heat and let steep and cool.  You can do this while you’re making your morning coffee.

Put the warm water into a good-sized bowl and stir in the dry yeast until it is completely dissolved.  Let rest for 3-5 minutes; then stir in 1 cup of the flour and mix to get an even consistency.  Cover with a cloth and set aside for about 1/2 hour.  When ready,  it should have a light, spongy texture.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer.  Slowly add in the sugar and salt until well-blended.  Mix in the eggs one at a time and the cooled liquid drained from the fruit.  Then blend in the yeast-flour sponge.  Mix well.  Slowly beat in the remaining 3 1/2 cups of flour.  Fold in the fruit and nuts with a spatula or your hands.

Cover the bowl of dough with a cloth and let rise for about two hours or until about double in size.

Punch down and divide  and put into baking tins.  Traditional panettone looks round and tall.  Joy of Cooking suggests using 1-pound coffee cans, but most coffee isn’t packed in metal cans these days.  I used silicon and metal loaf pans and liked the result.  If you use a metal baking pan, try cutting a piece of brown paper (grocery sack type) the size of the bottom; grease the paper as well as the sides of the pan before putting in the dough.  This recipe makes two good-sized loaves.  After putting the dough in the pans, cover with a cloth and let rise one more time, at least 1/2 hour.

You may want to brush melted butter on the top before baking, but I didn’t do that and the crust looks nice.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Joy of Cooking says to bake for 1/2 hour.  Mine took longer.  The smaller loaf in the metal pan took 45 minutes and the large loaf in the silicon pan took 1 hour.  I always look at the crust.  When the crust is a nice, golden color all over (I don’t want it burnt), then the inside of the bread should also be done too.

My rendition of panettone is quite a bit different than the kind I bought in the box, which I like because of the light texture.  The texture of my homemade panettone is heavier, like a lot of good homemade.  However, the taste is another matter.  Every bite of my version is full of tasty fruit and crunchy nuts, with just a hint of orange that comes almost as an afterthought.

Baking most kinds of bread takes time and patience.  These days because of busy schedules, people are satisfied to buy ready-made or mixes.  However, I think that when time is not so much of a factor, there is a real pleasure in making bread from scratch, or any other foods, for that matter, working through the whole process.  You can choose  exactly what ingredients you use; for me, experimenting is half the fun.   What’s more, it’s hard to compare anything to the taste of homemade.

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Sunday Morning Musings: Great Day (Annise To Be Houston’s Next Mayor), Foggy Day (Wet, “English” Weather), Happy Day (House Getting Semblance of Order)

Fresh "calm" paint on the walls. How do you like the dark accent wall? And there's Annie resting on the bed.

During all the house-hunting, house-buying, moving, and now, finally, settling in, I’ve missed writing here and playing with photos because, even though I have added a few posts, I haven’t put a lot of time into them.

I haven’t really had the motivation to write much about politics.  One thing, being involved in something as wonderful, and, almost, all-consuming, as buying and moving into the first house I’ve ever owned, the emotional ride hasn’t left much room to get angry about the political defeats in Maine and New York or to worry about whether the healthcare system is going to be better or worse after the dust clears in Washington.

However, on the local scene, I’m pretty tickled that Annise Parker has been elected the new mayor of Houston.  (I’m not going to re-hash this topic.  Click onto my homepage to read more about the election.)

Looking from the bedroom into my bathroom. The copper wall decorations I brought back from Greece almost 35 years ago look just as great as they did when I bought them. Probably couldn't afford them now. Yep, and there's Annie posing.

Mostly everything that I’ve been doing has been “house, house, house”.  In a couple of days, I will have been actually living in the house for a month.  People have asked for pictures, and I will add more as time goes by (just to keep up the interest–heh, heh.)  I’d say the house from the front has a Georgian-style look to it.  Hence, the appropriateness of the weather we’ve been having lately.  This morning and the past couple of mornings, the area has had quite a bit of fog; then spells of rain come.  The ground is soggy, quite a difference from spring and most of the summer, when there was a scarcity of precipitation, and there were cracks in the ground.  It’s a great to be in my own house, somehow feeling all protected and cozy, when it’s raining outside.  I suppose that will wear off, but it’s something I never experienced living in an apartment.

Yes, writing here has had to be put a little on the back burner, because with the house come a lot of other “hobbies”.  Mind you, I was aware and looking forward to them.  Even with just the moving in, there have been other projects.  Physically, the house is in pretty good condition, so I haven’t had to do much.  Though I plan to paint all of the rooms sometime, I can stand most of the colors for awhile.  I couldn’t take the “pumpkin” color (some would call it terra cotta) in my bedroom, so even though I had started painting it something more cool and calm, I didn’t get it completely finished until last weekend.  Now it’s done, and I’ve even got the blinds put back up.

(There are so many new things to learn when you get a house, like valance clips.  Not only had I never thought about valance clips before, I would never have imagined that there are so many different kinds of them, and, that when you need to find replacements, that even though the blinds themselves are sold in the fourth largest city in the U.S., it is impossible to find the clips for those blinds locally!)

Foggy morning from my back yard (if you can see the fog). Yep, I have a fountain. And a dead tree that needs to come down.

I need tools.  It’s a good thing that Home Depot and Lowe’s are both less than a mile away, conveniently next to each other, and located before what I would call the slowest and busiest intersection in Harris County–the corner of 529 and Highway 6.  Yes, I live in the county now–definitely “the burbs”.  I had some tools–the typical ones, hammer, screwdrivers, and wrenches.  Now, though, I need yard tools.  So far, I got a saw.  I needed to cut back some of the limbs from the bottle brush trees (yeah, they’re trees not bushes) that were rubbing against the front of the house.)  And hedge clippers.  I don’t have a hedge but there was a huge clump of decorative grass that was spewing way over onto the driveway intertwined with the most devilish rose bush.  After a lot of whacking, the grass appears to have gotten a marine haircut and the rose bush, for want of a better word, has been circumcised.

Oh, yeah, I need some heavy gloves too.

After boxing up and moving so much stuff, especially stuff I’ve collected, I shouldn’t need or want more, but there are things I do need to help me furnish my house–that I didn’t have or need in an apartment.  I guess partly because of my taste and also the style of the house itself, I’ve started looking for pieces at antique stores.  Quite a few years back, antiqueing was one of my hobbies, but when the space ran out, perusing through antique malls and country festivals came to an end.  However, after looking at all the badly-made, somewhat pricey items which come from countries I’d rather not support if I don’t have to, I once again started looking at antique and second-hand stores.  It’s fun, and it’s possible to find something nice and well-made.  And, hey, every bit of the money that I spend at the antique store stays in the U.S.  Yes, so?  What if I’m a liberal and an isolationist?  We need to learn to use what we have and not send our money out of the country when we don’t have to.

"Stilllife--Hopalong Cassidy Cup and Other Kitchen Items". And I like the glass cooktop better than sliced bread!

OK, there my diatribe.  Anyway, yesterday I went to one of the antique malls here in Houston.  (There’s a nice new one in my new area.  Check them out if your anywhere near the northwest part of the beltway–Antiques on 8.)  I really was looking for a side table or some kind of chair to put in my bedroom, but what did I find?  A Hopalong Cassidy cup–just like the one we had when I was a kid.  I had been on the lookout for one of those for a long time.  I’ve even written about that cup before on here. (Check out “Coffee Milk and Hopalong Cassidy”.)  But there it was.  I probably paid a little too much for it, but, really, when it comes something like that, I guess I’m paying for the sentiment and memories as much as anything.

Dang!  I’d better stop musing and get some lunch made.  It looks like the morning’s over!

Sunday Musings: Hand-washing the Dishes Gets the Paint from under the Fingernails

army-jeepWhy would anyone paint a laundryroom the color of a military jeep?  Not the Desert Storm sand-colored variety of jeep, but the traditional dark olive green.

I primed the walls twice with two coats of Kilz so far and the green still wants to come through.

This has been my first project in my new house.  I ordered the washer and dryer yesterday,  and this morning I carried my last loads of clothes across the complex to the laundromat.  I’ll wash my clothes next weekend at the house even though I don’t expect to be sleeping there yet.  My plans are to have the movers come in two weeks.  Then I’ll definitely be moved in.

Why so slow?  Besides the laundryroom, I also want to paint my bedroom before I set up my bedroom.  Yep, I’m one of those people that has and loves his waterbed, so once it’s filled up, changing its place in the room is not an option.

Annie went with me a couple of times and already loves having a backyard; the empty house doesn’t have so much appeal, but she hung out and laid on the sunlit carpet, while I applied the primer.

We’re both going to miss our evening visits with our friends, both human and canine, at our little neighborhood park, but we can come back for visits, especially on the weekend.

I was reminded how much Annie means to me (not that I haved to be reminded at all) when one of our park friends lost her dog.  We had just seen them on Wednesday at the park and heard that Sophie, a German Shorthaired Pointer, had passed out on their walk.  Then on Friday, she came into the room where her owner was and just collapsed again and that was it.  Apparently, she had heart problems.

Sophie was a sweet dog who just liked to sit and wait for any squirrel she might see in the tree.  Her owner is single and Sophie was her only dog.

There are quite a number of us, single, one-dog people, that come to the park.  And not that others don’t care for their dogs just as much as we do, but our dogs are such an important part of our lives, because we are single.

On that sad note, it’s time to go to bed.  The hour’s not that late, but with the time change and all the ups-and-downs on the ladder, I can feel that it’s time.