worldly wednesdays: pan dulce panettone a visit to argentina
Argentina is one of those countries that cannot possibly be spoken about in a few paragraphs. Its history, culture and food demands more attention. But, as we have little of that these days, with the holidays looming, we will try our best to give you a quick geography lesson.
Argentina is located in Southern South America, bordering the Atlantic Ocean, between Chile and Uruguay and is the second largest country in South America. It boasts the rich plains of the Pampas in the north to Patagonia in the south. Running along the western border are the stunning Andes Mountains.
In 1516 Juan Diaz de Solis became the first European to set foot in Argentina. At that time The Incan Empire had settlements in the North West and nomadic natives populated the region. Buenos Aires, the first settlement (1536) was destroyed by the native people. In 1580 Buenos Aires was resettled by Juan de Garay and fellow colonizers who introduced the Spanish language, Catholicism and European traditions to this part of the new world. And, the rest, as they say, is history, which means a lot of dates and even more data.
What is important for our purposes is the culture. Argentina’s official language is Spanish and Argentinean Spanish is different from the Spanish spoken in Spain. It may sound more familiar to Italian. You’ll find many other languages such as Italian, German, English and quite a few indigenous languages.
Most Argentineans come from European descent and therefore the culture, language and food reflect the European traditions. Roman Catholicism could be called the official state religion. About 90% of the Argentine population is Roman Catholic. And, therefore Christmas is celebrated with enthusiasm. The traditions, you will find, are very familiar to many countries. Homes are decorated; families attend religious services and then gather to eat.
Christmas dinner is served on Christmas Eve, December 24th. Because the weather is warm at this time of year in Argentina the meal may be taken out of doors. Delicious foods such as roasted pork or turkey, grilled meats, stuffed tomatoes, mince pies, cold salads such as the Russian salad, and Christmas bread.
It was pleasing to find that a tradition in Argentina is to eat pan dulce or as Italians know it, panettone, during the Christmas season. Pan dulce is, quite frankly addicting. Once you smell the delicious aroma you will not be satisfied until you eat as much as your stomach will permit. It can be eaten warm, out of the oven, toasted and smothered in butter or honey (or both), made into the most delicious French toast you’ll ever eat and, of course, a rich bread pudding. It wasn’t hard to decide what recipe we should make for this week’s trip to Argentina.
To our friends in Argentina we say an early “Feliz Navidad!”
Pan Dulce (Panettone)
1 cup SunMaid Golden raisins
½ cup Bacardi Superior (white) rum
2 tbs water
½ cup warmed milk
2 tsp Domino sugar
4 tsp Fleischmann’s active dry yeast (make sure it is fresh)
3 ½ cups King Arthur flour
3 eggs, plus 1 yolk
1 tbs lemon zest
1 tbs orange zest
1 tsp Neilsen-Massey vanilla extract
1 tsp Morton’s salt
2/3 cup Domino sugar
½ cup Land O Lakes butter (1 stick), cut into small pieces.
½ cup candied fruit such as orange or lemon peel
1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tbs milk for egg wash
1. In a small saucepan bring to a boil the raisins, rum and water. Simmer for about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Do not drain.
2. In a stand mixer bowl mix the warm milk, sugar and yeast. You can just mix it together with a fork. Let it proof (until it looks foamy).
3. With the paddle attachment on the mixer, add in the eggs, yolk, lemon and orange zest, vanilla, salt, and 2/3 cup sugar and beat until combined. Next, add in the flour 1/2 cup at a time until all flour has gradually and thoroughly been added without over mixing.
4. On medium-high speed, add in the butter a few pieces at a time, and beat on this speed until the dough is shiny. The dough will be very sticky and soft. Drain the raising well. Add in the raisins and candied fruit. Mix until combined.
5. Lightly oil a large bowl. Place the dough into the bowl, cover with a warm damp towel, and keep the bowl in a warm location. Let rise until it doubles.
6. Either use a panettone mold, coffee can or panettone paper (sold here). If using a mold or coffee can (large) make sure to butter the mold or can and line with parchment (or wait and wrap the dough in parchment. Cut a round to place in the bottom as well.
7. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a cylinder about the width of the coffee can or mold.
8. Either wrap in the panettone paper or wrap in parchment before placing into the can or mold. (You don’t need a mold if using the panettone paper)
9. Cover with a warm, damp towel and let rise until it reaches the top. If it is already over the top your mold, can or panettone paper is too small. Consider making two instead of one large panettone.
10. Put the oven rack in the lower setting in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush the panettone with the egg wash.
11. Bake for 2 ½ hours or until golden brown.
12. Cool at least a half hour before serving.