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No Panettone = No New Year's

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It's a family tradition: every year on New Year's Day, we toast slices of panettone and drink mimosas. The warm, buttery, alcohol-infused bread is the perfect compliment to a nice, dry champagne and nothing says ring in the new year like a little more liquor (provided you've survived the night before.)

Before you complain about how gross panettone is or how it resembles the much-maligned fruit-cake, listen up: don't be fooled into trying it as a "dessert." I have friends who refuse to eat panettone to this very day because someone tricked them into believing it was the equivalent of a birthday cake. It's not. It's bread. Toast it and enjoy, but don't ever think it will replace the intense goodness of a chocolate tart or a properly prepared tiramisu.

There are, however, a few tricks to enjoying panettone on New Year's and Los Angeles doesn't make it easy for the hung-over celebrant. If you aren't up for making it (and who is, the day after a big night of reveling?), store-bought panettone is cheap and easy. Trader Joe's and Whole Foods sell it in boxes starting mid-December. The rub? They start discounting it the day after Christmas and it flies off the shelves, making it difficult to find right about...now.

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What's a panettone wanna-be to do? Make your way to Trader Joe's or Whole Foods today and nab a few boxes of the good stuff while it's still in stock. If you're like me, you've been hoarding boxes since the 15th, but I'm guessing you have a little more class than I do in the panettone-hoarding department.

And if all else fails, you can make it. Yes, make it. Do it now and set it aside so all you've got to do on New Year's Day is roll out of bed, pop a champagne cork and nibble away. Panettone recipe after the jump...

Ingredients:
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup raisins
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted (optional)
1/2 cup sweet Marsala (optional, but why wouldn't you?)

Directions:
In a medium bowl, combine yeast, water and sugar. Cover and let stand 10 minutes, or until foamy. Add eggs, yogurt, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Mix well. Stir in flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough forms into a manageable ball. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary, until dough is soft and pliable, but not sticky. (May need up to 5 cups flour.) Place dough in a large, lightly pan-sprayed bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and spray a round 8-inch cake pan with non-stick spray. In a small bowl, toss dried fruit with confectioners' sugar. Punch down dough in bowl, transfer to floured surface, and knead in the fruit.

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Form dough into a ball, place in prepared cake pan, cover loosely with dish towel, and let rise 30 minutes. (Loaf will rise above the pan sides.) Brush with melted butter, if desired. Bake for 45 minutes, or until loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Makes 10 wedges.

Open a bottle of champagne, slice bread and enjoy!

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First photo by ben hanbury via Flickr

Second photo by cheeseroc via Flickr