Negroni-infused candied orange, white choc and macadamia enriched bread

"Briottone" or "Panettoche"?

Gin bread, image by Stillmotion

Gin bread, image by Stillmotion

Great British Bake Off season is upon us once again! To mark it, those fun folks over at Glasgow Gin Club asked if I'd like to write a guest recipe for them. Gin-themed of course, to tie in with this week's episode. Bread.

Gin bread? I was temporarily flummoxed. Then inspiration hit. An enriched bread (brioche or panettone style) chockful of negroni-infused candied orange peel, white chocolate and macadamia nuts. 

Recipe development went something like this:

Orange and white chocolate are fab together. The bitter orange flavour from the negroni and peels is going to offset the richness coming from the chocolate, dough and nuts. And on those nuts, what nuts do I want to eat with a negroni? In Italy, I'd be served a little bowl of salted almonds alongside, but I want something richer here. Macadamias. So far so good. And it’s got a classy gin cocktail in there. What’s not to like??!!

Taking inspiration from both brioche and panettone, the dough bears a resemblance to each while not quite being either. Unlike any bread I've encountered before, the mixture is so liquid you literally pour it into the cake tin! But that contributes a wonderful moistness.

I want to call it "briottone" or "panettoche". Since it has the same shape and orangey additions as the Italian classic, I've settled on panettoche. 

This is great eaten on its own. But with a bit less chocolate, 50g say, I reckon it would go very well with a top-quality pâté as a posh starter, toasted brioche being a classic French accompaniment to pâté. Duck liver would be my first option; duck and orange being another classic combo, and also because the bitterness from the negroni and peels is going to work so well against the richness.

Let me know how you enjoyed eating it!

Makes 1x6inch round cake tin

Ingredients

100g whole glacé orange peel, excess sugar rinsed off and diced fairly finely*

100ml Negroni (33ml each of gin, Punt e Mes** and Campari)***

10g fresh yeast (or 1¼ teaspoons dried)

125ml lukewarm water (not more than 30C)

250g strong white flour

15g caster sugar

1/2 level teaspoon salt

50g unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 whole medium egg, beaten

zest of 1 whole orange

50g macadamia nuts, quartered

100g best quality white choc you can get your hands on, chopped roughly (I use Valrhona Opalys - leave the pistoules whole so they don’t completely melt)

egg glaze made with 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Notes on specialist ingredients

*This has a far better flavour than the diced mixed peel you get in tubs, fairly yukky stuff saturated in sugar syrup, which means it will absorb hardly any of the steeping alcohol. However, it's not that easy to get hold of whole glacé peels these days. Try your best local health food shops and delis. Or order from Wholefoods online: Peel - Whole Orange 125g.

**Punt e Mes is an Italian red vermouth with a strong, distinctive flavor, half-way between regular rosso vermouth and Campari. It works better here because it's drier and less sweet. If you can't get hold of it, substitute with a regular red vermouth. 

***Unless you're a regular negroni drinker you're unlikely to have Punt e Mes, any other red vermouth or Campari in your drinks cupboard. In which case, drop into a local pub or cocktail bar with a small tupperware tub. They'll have no problem giving you a few measures to takeaway. Thanks to Paul from Epicures who did just that for me!

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Method

Soak the chopped glacé peel in the negroni. The aim here is to get as much of the alcohol into the fruit as possible, so soak for 24 hours at least. Longer if you're not in any hurry.

This can actually be done days, even weeks, in advance; the peel is preserved and alcohol is a preservative. Just pop everything in a tupperware tub with a tightly fitting lid, or place in a small bowl and cover with cling film. Let the fruit soak up the alcohol at your leisure, and use whenever you're in the mood to bake the loaf.

When you're ready to make the bread, crumble the yeast into 100ml of the lukewarm water in a small jug/bowl. Leave for 5 minutes, then stir to dissolve.

Mix the sieved flour, sugar and salt together in a large bowl.

Make a well in the centre of the flour and add in the yeasted water.

Use a wooden spoon to draw enough of the flour into the yeasted water to form a soft paste. Cover the bowl with a tea towel, and leave to "sponge" until frothy and slightly risen, 20-30 minutes.

(NB: The sponge method adds a period of fermentation to mixing, resulting in a bread with a lighter crumb and a less yeasty flavour.)

Strain the excess negroni liquid from the glacé orange peel.

Combine 50ml of the strained negroni with the remaining 25ml water.

Mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, gradually stirring in the 75ml negroni and water mixture. As the liquid is added, the texture of the combined ingredients will move from a crumbly mixture to a slightly sticky mass that will begin to come away from the sides of the bowl and form into a ball. The end result will be a soft, sticky dough.

Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface. Knead until soft, smooth, silky and elastic, about 10mins.

Return the dough to the large bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave to rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. 

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Grease a 6inch round cake tin (at least 3 inches tall) and line with silicon baking paper (aka baking parchment). If you only have greaseproof paper, brush the insides with melted butter (15g will do) or it will stick so fast you won't be able to peel it away from the bread.

Knock back the dough, knead for 5 minutes, then leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Meantime, place the soft butter in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Add the strained peel and orange zest and beat with the paddle attachment until thoroughly combined. Gradually add the beaten egg and continue to mix until combined. At this point you'll have a softish paste.

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Next, add the remaining strained negroni and beat until combined. The mixture will now look like a thick cake batter. Finally, add in the chopped macadamia nuts and chunks of chocolate/whole pistoules. Mix briefly until just combined.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer, and using a spatula fold the mixture to ensure the fruit, nuts and chocolate are evenly dispersed throughout.

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Pour the batter into the prepared tin and level the surface, pushing any visible chocolate chunks just below the surface to ensure they won't burn.

Holding the tin a few inches above your work surface, drop it down. Repeat several times until the surface is completely level.

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Cover with a tea towel and leave to prove until the dough has doubled in size, about 2 and a half hours (check after 2 hours).

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Preheat the oven to 180C.

Using a soft pastry brush, brush the dough with the egg glaze. Be very gentle so as not to rip or deflate the dough. Also, be careful not to "glue" the loaf to the edge of the baking tin.

Bake for 45mins until the surface is glossy and a deep golden colour (think of the colour of brioche here). Check at 35 minutes, turning the tin 180 degrees to ensure even browning.

Turn out of the tin, place upside down on a baking sheet, peel away the lining papers and return to the oven for a further 10-20 minutes until hollow-sounding when tapped underneath - check after 10 minutes, giving another 10 minutes if need be.

Turn out of the tin onto a wire rack to cool.

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Best eaten within 1 day.