This is my first Fresh from the Oven experience...
Fresh from the Oven is a group of (primarily foodie) bloggers who set themselves monthly baking challenges. I stumbled across their host site through my usual random click-throughs, but I loved their cinnamon rolls challenge and asked if I could join in. It is a closed group so you have to have get permission to see the challenge site, so I wasn't at all sure I would qualify, but it has been lovely to be 'let in' ;-)
This month is panettone, the traditional Italian christmas sweet bread. I love sweet breads - they remind me of hot milk bread toast which we used to have when we stayed with our grandparents, and still make me smile when I see the round loaves on the shelves in the supermarkets.
The challenge has been set by Maison Cupcake, who has also really helpfully added two different recipes to her challenge post, with hints and tips from her first run through. But the instructions for panettone are daunting beyond measure. It has three rises in all, needs a special tall tin and gives the impression of being very unforgiving to interpretation. Which for a baker who doesn't need much persuading to be flexible with the rules isn't ideal.
On the good side, it isn't an artisan bread in the sense that you have to save up for a month and go to three specialist shops to get the ingredients. If you make both bread and cakes, you'll have everything you need in the store cupboard.
I ended up using a recipe from the Encyclopaedia of Bread, which I chose mainly on the basis that I have the book and therefore didn't need to print it off, plus it used a cake tin which I thought was worth a try. Unfortunately, I didn't take into account that books have MISTAKES! I know it is bad when I have got a pencil out to tick off the ingredients and stages and I still can't make it make sense.
The first stage is to mix together the yeast with flour and the warm water, to have the first activation and to let it 'go spongey'. It neglected to say NOT ALL of the flour, so I ended up with a dry dough, not a sponge, which was then really hard to mix soft butter and eggs into at the next stage. It looked dreadful, the second rise looked more like a split cake mix than bread and kneading it was just messy, but by that point there was no going back.
I used a double height greaseproof lining for the cake tin, to enable the bread to rise over the top of the tin, which it had done already by the end of the third rise (although still looking a bit dodgy in every other way).
I shoved it in the oven anyway and when the bread came out, well, it was much better than I was expecting. It was a bit dense and cakey rather than light and fluffy, but the fruit had stayed distributed and it tasted lovely.
Really pleased I had a go. And yes, I added cherries as I love them :-)