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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

January ABC Challenge: Panettone Muffins

My first ABC challenge and my first blog post EVER!  (This is the edited version, as of 7/19/14.)

I did my usual and made some substitutions.  I know -- the advice is always to follow the recipe exactly as written the first time, then modify according to taste.  Well... no.  I don't usually make anything more than once, so it's gotta be NOW...

According to the King Arthur Flour recipe page, these muffins are "intended to mimic the flavor of Italy's classic Christmas bread, panettone. They're flavored with Fiori di Sicilia — 'Flowers of Sicili' — traditionally used to flavor panettone."  I didn't have it, but I had this mystery bottle of Princess Cake &  Cookie bakery emulsion:


I thought it tasted similar to panettone -- a bit citrusy -- so I used it. I'm not a big fan of white flour, and I usually use at least half whole wheat in my baking.  But the more delicate in texture and/or flavor something is, the less I feel it can handle whole wheat flour, and that included this recipe.  Nonetheless, I used 3/4 cup white whole wheat.  And since I didn't have the coarse sugar, I sprinkled on some nonpareils -- these muffins look a bit naked undecorated.

I had an interesting discussion in another forum about cake enhancer, particularly King Arthur's.  Cake enhancer is intended to extend the life of the product, and can be made of natural products or chemicals, or a combination.  I don't know what KA makes theirs out of, and I don't see the need to add any weird artificial ingredient to my baking, so I left it out.

I used these silicone "baking cups" for the first time, and found they didn't quite sit down in the muffin tins.  That created a bit of an insulating air layer, which left the bottoms pale and spongy.  For better success, I should probably use them on a baking sheet.  There is a toasty ring around each muffin where the cup met the tin.  The batter did fill the cups "quite full", and the muffins didn't rise a whole lot after that -- just another 1/2" or so, though I got some great cracking in the tops!

I had to bake these about 25 minutes, and I still found them a bit doughy while warm, even though they were fully cooked.  (The extra time necessary might have been due to that insulating layer, or my crazy oven.)  Doughy/gummy muffins are usually the result of too much liquid.  The batter was quite thick, but not heavy or dry.  It seemed "fluffy" and held its shape, like whipped cream.  I've certainly had batters that were much thicker, so this recipe could probably use about 1/4 cup less milk.  (It might depend on how dry the fruit was.)

Here's what I used:

1 1/2 cups diced, dried fruit:  golden raisins, mango, pears, Rainier cherries, orange-flavored cranberries
1/4 spiced rum
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia, to taste princess bakery emulsion
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons King Arthur Cake Enhancer, optional, for enhanced freshness
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
2/3 cup milk
2 generous tablespoons coarse white sparkling sugar, for topping
non-pareils, for decoration

Mix the dried fruit and liquid of your choice in a bowl. Cover the bowl, and let the fruit sit overnight. Or speed up the process by heating fruit and liquid in the microwave till very hot, then cooling to lukewarm/room temperature, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a standard muffin tin, or line with 12 paper or silicone muffin cups, and grease the cups with non-stick vegetable oil spray; this will ensure that they peel off the muffins nicely.  (I did not grease the silicone cups and did not have a problem.)  In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream together the butter, vegetable oil, and sugar until smooth.  Add the eggs, beating to combine.  Stir in the flavoring and vanilla. Whisk together the baking powder, salt, and flour; stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour and making sure everything is thoroughly combined.  Stir in the fruit, with any remaining liquid.  Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared pan, filling the cups quite full. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins generously with the nonpareils.  Bake the muffins for 18 to 25 minutes, or until they're a sunny gold color on top, and a cake tester inserted into the middle of one of the center muffins comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and let cool for a couple of minutes, or until you can handle them. Transfer them to a rack to cool.

Conclusion:  The warm muffins were very delicate and soft, much like cake.  I found them to be a little too sweet and somewhat lacking in flavor; I think that came from the minimal amount of butter and no spices.  I don't really like quick breads much anyway, and I think there is something lost in this recipe by removing the yeast.  For one thing, yeasted bread provides a nice structure that supports all that fruit, which these muffins didn't have.  Perhaps if they had less milk. Once cooled, they were much less gummy and delicate, and the flavors seemed to round out better.  I even started to like them.  But on the second day I was back to thinking they were too sweet.  Ironically, I took them to work and they were very well-received!  "Those are  AWESOME!" said one person.  "Not too sweet."  And someone else, "I like the texture."  They were appreciating the two very things I liked least!!  So whaddya gonna do?

Recipe:  Panettone Muffins via King Arthur Flour


  1. Looks nice with the added topping. Iv never made panettone with out yeast. Im more on the lines of you that im not much of a "quick bread" type person. i like the rising and falling I guess. I say if your never going to make again then tweak away! :)

    1. And I love the taste of yeast -- it mixes so nicely with the fruit! Now I want the real thing.

  2. Welcome to ABC! Your muffins look cute with the non-pareils on top. I forgot to sprinkle mine with turbinado sugar which I had sitting on the counter :o) In the end, they didn't need the extra sugar anyway. I did reduce some sugar and that was fine for me. Great to know that the recipe worked with some WW flour. I typically like to do that with yeast recipes. Haven't subbed white flour with WW flour much in other baked goods.

    1. Thanks, Hanaa. You're right -- they certainly didn't need any extra sugar. I wish I had reduced the sugar as well, but I didn't think they would be THIS sweet. The really nice thing about the nonpareils is that they don't get soggy after the first day the way plain sugar would. (Weirdly, though, some people thought it was salt.)

  3. I love your idea of using the whole wheat flour. I was thinking about trying to mix these up again using baking splenda instead of sugar, just not sure how much rise they will give. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

    1. I've never baked with Splenda, but I think it would work fine. They advertise it as being a good substitute in baking, and I'm not aware that sugar affects the rise anyway. After all, you could cut out all the sugar if you wanted and just have a fruity bread!

  4. lovely muffins, good to see that the whole wheat works good too.I don't think you can compair these with real Panettone, they're more like panettone flavoured muffins/cakes.

    1. I agree. I suppose if you want the festiveness of panettone but don't want to spend all the time, these would be a good substitute. But there are plenty of festive muffin recipes out there -- I'll leave the panetonne with the yeast from now on! :) (However, these would make a great gift, since they're so pretty and look very special.)

  5. Love the look of the non-pariels on the top. I like the scalloped shape of your cute! They look delicious!

  6. I had to laugh when I read your frank admission that you usually don't make things more than once - that reminds me a bit of me, always curious to try something new.
    And you are absolutely right about the sugar. I fortunately read some of the others' posts before I baked my muffins, and therefore halved the amount - and they were still sweet enough!
    I can imagine that the silicone liners within the muffin cups definitely must be a game changer for the baking time.

  7. I have a set of "normal" silicone muffin liners that fit solidly in the pan, and those have never affected the cooking time. But they are right up against the metal on all sides. These other ones were called "baking cups" and they left a good inch or so at the bottom where they didn't sit down all the way. I used them again for a different recipe and just set them on a cookie sheet. The muffins baked better, but they overflowed a little. So, while I like the silicone muffin liners, the verdict is still out on these little fluted deals.

  8. I'm a big yeast fan too, and not a big fan of quick breads. I did like these though.. your topping looks great and love how you improvised.