I had quite a different post planned out when I baked these tiny pan dulces. One about the thrill and warmth of the season, giving, the tradition of these yeasty sweet breads, and my two little ones just bubbling with excitement. And then the tragedy at Sandy Hook happened, and those cozy, Christmasy feelings got stolen away like a gust of freezing winter air blowing through an open door.
I feel deflated. Heartbroken, grief-stricken, and scared. I don't feel like 'doing' Christmas this year at all. I am sick and tired of hearing of yet another massacre. I attended Columbine High School in the early 1990s. I grew up in the Columbine area, a sleepy suburban community I returned to and live with my family today. I worked in Aurora the majority of 2010 and 2011, writing a guidebook of the city's ethnic restaurants. My son turns 6 in two months--the age of most of last week's victims. I simply can't disconnect from these occurrences and ignore them--they all hit too close to home. Like everyone, I can't get it out of my mind, can't stop wondering about the implications of last Friday.
I am at a loss as to think what the future will hold and how I can protect Esteban and his baby sister. I find myself terrified at the unpredictability of it all. I wake up at night and crawl into his bed, just to hold him close, if only for one night, just to have him safe with me for that time. The future feels so uncertain and anything could happen.
I feel there is no law or policy that can change what I see: we have become a culture in which many of our young people don't value life--not the lives of innocent children, nor the lives of their own family or themselves. What message are our children getting when occurrences like this are becoming commonplace? And what can we do to change the feeling of fear of our fellow citizens?
Today, I am going to be the change, at least in one small part, in what I have control over. We will spend this chilly evening making edible gifts (fudge, peppermint bark, and these little pan dulces) to give to our neighbors, friends and teachers. We will overcome the grief, the hurt, the fear, and reach out to the people around us and say, "I'm with you. I care about you. I believe in you." I will teach my children to care for each other, for our family and our community. I will teach peace.
I believe in us, in humanity. I believe that when tragedies happen, turning to tradition can provide stability and comfort. I believe that embracing the season's most wonderful things may help restore our faith in each other just a little bit more. I won't go so far as to say 'Let peace begin with Pan Dulce,' but it's a start--a tradition that connects us to something greater, a part of our family's heritage.
What holiday traditions do you think will help in the healing? Please share your thoughts below--what traditions will you keep to make the season bright? May peace and warmth be with you and yours this holiday season!
(This photo was taken right after Nora was born! She's 15 months old now, and getting the two of them in the same picture, being still, is almost impossible! I love the warmth of this photo, it is just what the holidays are all about for me.)
makes 1 large or 6-8 small breads
I make this sweet Christmas bread every year. Last year I posted about the homemade candied peel I used, and this year, instead of baking the bread in an empty coffee can, I purchased paper molds from Sur la Table. The bread rises and is baked right in those papers, no pan needed! They are fairly inexpensive, and look fancy for giving--just add the bow!
This year, I also did some more digging to perfect my recipe, and found the instructions at The Baking Pan very helpful, though I kept some of my own original recipe, too. The triple-rise takes more time but yeilds a much lighter dough. Leftovers make a delicious bread pudding (so easy--I just taught this at Whole Foods!) or French Toast. Use the leftover egg whites to make Turron, Chocolate Mousse or Merengues. Enjoy!
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup flour
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the water, sugar, salt and yeast. Stir until the yeast has dissolved and let sit until the yeast has foamed, about 10 minutes. Add in the flour and mix well. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for at least 2 hours or overnight.
1 and 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature (you can set them in a bowl of warm water to do this quickly)
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup warm whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 3/4 cup flour, plus a little more for kneading
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar. Add in the eggs and yolks and beat until combined. Add in the sponge, warm milk, and vanilla and beat until combined. Add in 2 cups of the flour and mix until combined, then add flour a quarter cup at a time until you have a soft but not sticky or dry dough. Switch out the paddle attachment for the dough hook, kneading on medium speed for 6 to 8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour if needed.
Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Turn the dough out onto the counter and form a ball, then place in the greased bowl, turning once to coat the dough. Cover with a towel and let rise about 3 hours or until doubled in size.
1 cup golden raisins
3 tablespoons rum
1 cup candied peel
zest of half an orange
zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Place the raisins to soak in the rum for 30 minutes. Drain (a bit of liquid can remain) and mix together with the zests of orange and lemon, the candied peel, and the lemon juice.
Prepare your panettone mold either by lining with parchment paper and greasing with butter or cooking spray, or if you are using a paper mold, simply place it on a baking sheet. Punch the risen dough down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Add the fruit and knead it into the dough until the fruit has been evenly distributed throughout. Form the dough into a ball (or several little balls) and place it into the pannetone mold. Cover and let the dough rise again in a warm spot for about 3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush the egg with egg wash (optional) and bake for 15 minutes before reducing the temperature to 350. Continue baking for another 30 minutes, or until a long bamboo skewer comes out clean.
Remove from the oven, cool on a wire rack. Dust with confectioner's sugar and slivered almonds if desired.