A delicious mistake – my Genoese pan dolce

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I wanted to try a recipe from an old Saveur magazine article on a food writer’s search for the “genuine” Genoese pan dolce alto which is a traditional yeast-leavened Christmas bread of the Italian riviera.

By a lucky happenstance, my rendition of the dough turned out to be way off the mark. I knew it was, since the directions and pictures accompanying the recipe showed the dough being kneaded by hand, and formed into a traditional round before final rise and backing.

My dough, and I followed proportions I thought, exactly, was too soft to form a ball in the mixer and I could tell the amount of additional flour to make it stiff enough to remove from the bowl was going to make it a very different recipe. I decided to go ahead with the recipe as given, and I just let the mixer knead the dough, then added all the spices and candied fruits and let it do a final knead.

I scooped the very loose into a square ceramic container and let it rise. It was quite cool in the house and the final rise took about four hours (my yeast may have been a little weak). And the dough was still quite soft when I popped it in the oven.

I worried it was going to be a failure and wondered if the problem was in the recipe conversion from metric to English (the recipe in Italian would almost certainly have given flour as a weight not a volume, anyway) and I waited for it to brown in the oven.

Well, it turned out looking totally unlike the round bread that had been pictured, but instead I ended up with a sweet brioche-like loaf, stuffed with fennel seeds, cardamom and candied grapefruit (home made by Shmoopy!) and it is just delicious! More of a fresh and dense panettone I would say. Better than any of the store bought panettone, that’s for sure.

I’ve got to bookmark that magazine article and note that it is a very soft dough to be risen and baked in a dish. Squisito!

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