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Pandoro, a close relation to Italy's most famous holiday bread, panettone, is an egg- and butter-rich bread baked in a traditional star-shaped pan. The biga helps keep it fresh right through the 12 days of Christmas!
1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cool water
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia*
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) water
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces) sugar
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour; OR 1 cup (3 3/4 ounces) Italian-style flour and 1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) golden raisins
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) diced dried apricots
*Substitute 2 teaspoons vanilla + 1/4 teaspoon lemon oil (or 2 teaspoons lemon zest), if desired.
Biga: Combine the flour, water and yeast, mix till fairly smooth and VERY stiff, and allow to rest, covered, overnight.
Dough: Next day, add the dough ingredients (except for the fruit) to the biga, mixing and then kneading–by hand, mixer or bread machine–till you've made a soft, very smooth dough. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 1 hour.
Knead the fruit into the dough, trying to leave most of it inside; any fruit on the surface will tend to burn as the loaf bakes. Round the dough into a ball, and transfer it to a lightly greased pandoro pan. Allow it to rise, covered, for 2 hours; it'll become noticeably puffy, but won't fill the pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F towards the end of the rising time.
Bake the bread for 10 minutes. Tent it lightly with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 35 to 40 minutes, until its interior temperature measures 190°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove it from the oven, let it rest for 10 minutes, then gently remove it from the pan. When cool, sprinkle the bread with confectioners' sugar or non-melting white sugar, and serve it, sliced, with mascarpone cheese, if desired. Yield: 1 loaf.