pannetone

One chilly winter’s day in England, not so long ago, the great baker Aidan Chapman taught a few River Cottage students how to make pannetone. This winter fruit bread dates back to the Romans, and Milan is its birthplace. Aidan was kind enough to let us share his recipe, and so I pass it on to you, on the first day of winter.

pannetone recipe © elisa rathje 2013

We’re going to need:

  • 300g flour
  • 5g yeast
  • 10g sea salt
  • 100g sponge/starter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2tb yogurt
  • dried fruit
  • citrus zest
  • 2 drops pannetone essence
  • a splash of brandy or rum
  • butter for drizzling
  • a pannetone paper case or lined cake tin

pannetone recipe © elisa rathje 2013

Mix the ingredients with water to form a loose batter. Pour into a pannetone case or a lined cake tin, cover with a clean cloth and leave overnight, ideally up to eighteen hours. Snip the surface with scissors before baking 45 minutes in an oven preheated to 160C/320F. Melt the butter with rum or brandy, pierce the cooled loaf and drizzle it over. Dredge with icing sugar and serve, warmed, with ice cream.

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p>This recipe first appeared in a winter edition of appleturnover’s newsletter – get it here. You might like to read about making winter bread at River Cottage, too.

breadsticks

When I’ve made flatbreads or English muffins or pizza, I love to make breadsticks out of the last of the dough.

stick-dough

I use a simple recipe for everything inspired by recipes from the River Cottage Bread handbook by Daniel Stevens. Mine is 500g each of whole and white spelt, 10g of yeast, 650ml of warm water, though I usually make up part of that with sourdough culture to deepen the flavour, 20g of sea salt, and a good glug of olive oil. I knead that well and leave it to rise, covered, overnight before using it for various recipes. Preheat the oven to about 200 C/375 F.

Roll out a good handful of the dough to a half centimeter on a floured surface.

cut-dough

Slice lengths of about a finger’s width;

spirals

Arrange them on an oiled tray in shapes as you please. The spirals are delightful, my children adore them. I like to drizzle the bread with garlic-infused olive oil and sprinkle them with coarse sea salt.

garlic-baked

Bake them through, about 18-20 minutes. I once made the mistake of putting them in a piping hot oven I’d been baking pizza in, and it swiftly turned them to charcoal.

breadsticks

Breadsticks! So great for simple meals out in the garden.

winter bread

T
hree sisters, elders in my family, taught me to knit, each a variation on the next, adding to what I’d learned from my grandmothers as a child. All of these teachers contributed to my style of knitting, just as so many drawing teachers in art school changed my drawing, and musicians altered my playing. I’m ever so pleased to develop my baking in the same way, revisiting River Cottage Cookery School and studying with a passionate baker, Aidan Chapman from The Phoenix Bakery in Weymouth. He taught a great friendly group of us, enthusiastic cooks, and we had a glorious time making biscuits and breads together.

river cottage baking © elisa rathje 2011

Aidan’s approach to breadmaking is improvisational, working by feel more than by measurement, and he talked to us about developing our own style and making a recipe our own. We observed a sourdough begun in the morning and very gently turned through the day, with great ideas about fitting breadmaking into busy lives – bringing the dough through its rising, proving, forming it into shapes, then possibly setting it in the fridge, to bake in the next day or two, whenever we’re ready. I was amazed at how wet a dough Aidan uses, fascinating ideas about the grains absorbing all the water and gaining firmness and structure as it develops, I never would’ve thought such a sticky dough could be so successful. Usually he would work with a long, slow ferment of about eighteen hours, which we didn’t have time for in our little class! But some of the sponges had been started the day before, it makes a huge difference. One of the most amazing suggestions from this baker is to use the sourdough culture in many other forms of baking, so that when I remove half of my starter when I go to feed it, if I’m not baking bread with that starter, instead of tossing it I could make pancakes with it (which Aidan did – gorgeous ones) or throw it into Yorkshire puddings, add it to yeasted breads, anywhere, to increase the depth of flavour and help with healthy digestion. I love this!

river cottage baking © elisa rathje 2011

We made a beautiful fruit & nut bread using raisins and walnuts, but cranberries and pistachios might be gorgeous, or dates and almonds to ring the changes. This one is a yeasted bread. Most folks used a combination of flours, while I used spelt, which is a little more reserved in how it rises, but still produces a wonderful bread.

river cottage baking © elisa rathje 2011

We mixed our ingredients very gently at first, then kneaded the wet dough in long pushing forward and pulling back movements, made a well, dropped the fruit and nuts into it, and tucked them in.

river cottage baking © elisa rathje 2011

Then kneaded it all some more. Aidan surprised me by suggesting that I don’t knead spelt as long, as it has lower gluten, it doesn’t need it. I’ve been taught the opposite! So I’ll experiment there.

river cottage baking © elisa rathje 2011

After covering with cloth and leaving the dough to rise;

river cottage baking © elisa rathje 2011

We gently knocked it down with fingertips;

river cottage baking © elisa rathje 2011

And Aidan showed us a few ways to shape the dough. I’m already very fond of making boules, so I thought I’d try out his plaiting technique. It reminds me of my Finnish grandmother’s traditional braided pulla which I shall have to ask my mother how to make!

river cottage baking © elisa rathje 2011

Let me see if I remember this style. Cross the lower two. Move the upper right across, between the upper and lower left. Move the upper left between the lower two. Repeat.

river cottage baking © elisa rathje 2011

Turn upside down into the floured proving basket. Oh, how I want these proving baskets! Three, please, to fit the boules of my regular recipe. They give the bread perfect support and allow it to breathe just enough. And the spirals are awfully pretty. Aren’t they gorgeous, rising?

river cottage baking © elisa rathje 2011

Those wonderful spirals. We sliced the boules that weren’t plaited just before baking, to allow the bread to open up and give it a strong structure as it rises in the oven. I love these details, not unlike the specifics of wedging and throwing clay.

river cottage baking © elisa rathje 2011

Our winter bread turned out beautifully, I took mine home to my little family and it’s gone, though it would’ve kept beautifully for days. Beautiful bread and pizzas, flatbreads, biscuits, and most gorgeously, our pannetones. Those were a dream to make, intoxicating citrus scents. I’m saving mine for Christmas. If you’d like to make one, Aidan’s pannetone recipe is here! If you’re in Weymouth, you’re a lucky person, for you can visit the Phoenix Bakery. As ever, River Cottage was a delight.

rosehip cordial

Last year we made a rosehip infusion, sweetened lightly with a little stevia, and used within a short time like you would fresh juice. This year we wanted to preserve rosehip cordial to use medicinally throughout the winter. Gathering rosehips to make a vitamin C-rich cordial was encouraged during wartime in Britain. We’re growing very fond of the tradition. We used a combination of rosehips, including apple roses like the ones Alÿs Fowler showed us. We’re so fond of nibbling round those fresh, but they were starting to go, so we hurried to collect a bowl of them.

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Give the hips a rinse,

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Then remove the stems. Aren’t they just gorgeous?

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Chop them roughly. Keep in mind that the seeds are used for itching powder! You needn’t remove them though.

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Toss them in a pot of boiling water using just less than double the volume of water as their weight – so if you have 400 grams of rosehips, use about 700ml of water. Bring it all to boil again, leave it to cool somewhat, and pour through a scalded cloth.

rosehip-5

Hang up your muslin or jelly bag full of rosehips and let them drip for a while, and repeat the whole process again. This time leave it to hang overnight.

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Combine the infusions and measure them. The River Cottage Preserves recipe calls for 650 grams of sugar to about 1 litre of juice.

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Slowly heat til the sugar is dissolved, then boil for a couple of minutes.

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

I sterilise my cordial bottles in the dishwasher and if I can’t time it well to have warm bottles ready, I fill them with hot water while they’re waiting, then quickly pour the water out just before ladling in the hot syrup and corking them. Preserves says to use within 4 months. This won’t be a problem over here. Sterilise in a water bath if you want to keep it longer, and keep refrigerated once opened. We love a couple of splashes of rosehip cordial in a glass of water and we’re very much looking forward to having it all through the cold seasons.

elderflower cordial

We all went quite mad for elderflower cordial after our first time making it, putting it in jellies, cocktails, popsicles, so I was relieved to have time to put up a few bottles this year. I hope we can console ourselves with elderberry preserves later on, when the flower cordial has disappeared. I’m delighted to bring you the great elderflower cordial recipe I use, courtesy of the good folks at River Cottage, from their essential Preserves handbook, number two in the series that I find so gloriously inspiring. Preserves makes a particularly nice companion to Hedgerow, for putting up wild edibles.

© elisa rathje 2011

  • Makes about 2 litres
  • About 25 elderflower heads
  • Finely grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons and 1 orange, plus their juice (about 150 ml in total)
  • 1 kg sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp citric acid (optional)

© elisa rathje 2011

Inspect the elderflower heads carefully and remove any insects.

© elisa rathje 2011

Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the orange and lemon zest. Bring 1.5 litres water to the boil and pour over the elderflowers and citrus zest. Cover and leave overnight to infuse.

© elisa rathje 2011

The colour is quite something. Heady scents.

© elisa rathje 2011

I measured out the sugar on my trusty scales.

© elisa rathje 2011

Strain the liquid through a scalded jelly bag or piece of muslin and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar, the lemon and orange juice and the citric acid (if using).

© elisa rathje 2011

Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes.

© elisa rathje 2011

Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilised screw-tops or corks.

Ours will keep for about four months, as we sterilised the bottles first and poured the hot syrup in, and sealed, while the bottles were still hot. A water bath process would allow storage up to a year. Of course, it’ll be gone in a wink. Pam Corbin suggests having it with champagne, or over fruit salad. A couple of days ago we spotted a recipe for an elderflower and gin cocktail. Heaven. I’ve brought the handbook with me to Canada in hopes of preserving a few other things. Exhilarating prospect. Thanks again, River Cottage!