December 2019 Fig Focus Newsletter

Dark chocolate panettone bread with dried figs and decorative winter berries on a platter.
Dark chocolate panettone bread with dried figs and decorative winter berries on a platter.
Photo & Recipe by Sally Pasley Vargas

Panettone with California Dried Figs & Dark Chocolate

Panettone, the tall, dramatic Christmas cake-like bread filled with dried fruit and almonds and wrapped in brightly colored packages, can be found in most grocery stores during the holidays. It’s made with a rich, slightly sweet, and eggy yeast dough, so it falls somewhere between a cake and a bread.  Once a hard-to-find specialty item, the most famous panettone originated in Milan, where it has been made for centuries. While the wrapping is alluring and the packages are convenient, quality varies. The very best panettone is the one you make at home with Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice® or Sun-Maid® California Dried Figs.  Add some chocolate and candied orange peel to the cake and you end up with something uniquely yours. Who wouldn’t want a slice of it with coffee on Christmas morning, or really, just about any time during the holidays when friends drop by?

This two-day bread project offers a lot of satisfaction for the effort, and the time involved is mostly rising time. The buttery dough is very soft. It starts with a sponge (starter), and after an initial yet relatively short rise, you mix in the eggs, butter, and the rest of the dry ingredients. It goes into the fridge overnight for its second, long rise. By the next day, the butter is cool and the dough is easy to handle, so folding in the fruit is also much easier than trying to mix into soft dough.

Roll out the cold dough into a large rectangle and spread it with bits of dark chocolate, golden and dark purple fig pieces, and candied orange peel before shaping it. Place it into a 7-inch paper panettone mold. (If you can’t find a mold—available online or at many specialty shops like Sur La Table—you could make it in a deep, nine-inch cake pan lined with parchment. It may not be as impressive as the tall panettone, but it will taste divine and no one will be the wiser.)

The third rise can take a long time (up to 6 hours), so be patient with it. You don’t want it to rise too quickly, but if your kitchen is cold, you can place it in a cold oven with a loaf pan of warm water. Once the dough reaches the top of the mold, it’s ready to bake.

Homemade panettone is best eaten within a few days of baking, but drier slices can be toasted and spread with butter, or turned into bread pudding or French toast. Do something special for your family and friends this year—make this luscious panettone and raise a glass to celebrate the season.

Get the Chocolate Panettone Bread Recipe

Cardamom fig thumbprint cookies
Fig Cardamom Thumbprint Cookies Recipe + Photo by Bob’s Red Mill

Holiday Baking with California Dried Figs

Deck the halls with holiday cookies and confections made with our Orchard Choice and Sun-Maid California Dried Figslike these Fig Cardamom Thumbprint Cookies pictured above. Get ready for cookie swaps, holiday parties, or even just holiday gifts that are handmade. Find freshly baked inspiration over on Instagram.

figs on leaf

Healthy Holidays and Food Gifts

‘Tis the season for family, festivity, and food—lots of food. Temptations are everywhere. Here’s how to keep yourself in a healthy place and enjoy the holidays.

1. Have a plan

  • Invited to a party? Offer to bring a healthy dish along.
  • Don’t skip meals to save up for a feast. You’ll be really hungry and more likely to overeat.
  • If you slip up, get right back to healthy eating with your next meal.
  • Find some compromises. Choose pumpkin pie instead of pecan pie with ice cream.

2. Outsmart the buffet

  • Have a small plate of the foods you like best and then move away from the buffet table.
  • Start with vegetables to take the edge off your appetite.
  • Eat slowly. It takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realize you’re full.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol.

3. Fit in favorites

No food is on the naughty list. Choose the dishes you really love and can’t get any other time of year. Slow down and savor a small serving.

4. Keep moving

You’ve got a lot on your plate this time of year, and physical activity can get crowded out. But, being active is your secret holiday weapon; it can help make up for eating more than usual and reduce stress during this stressful time of year. Get moving with friends and family, such as taking a walk after a holiday meal.

5. Get your rest

Going out more and staying out later often means cutting back on sleep. When you’re sleep deprived you’ll tend to eat more and prefer high-fat, high-sugar food. Aim for 7 to 8 hours per night to guard against mindless eating.

Most of all, remember what the season is about—celebrating and connecting with the people you care about. When you focus more on the fun, it’s easier to focus less on the food.

fig and toasted nut roll

Holiday Food Gift Ideas with Orchard Choice and Sun-Maid California Dried Figs

Create and give homemade food gifts with a healthy little twist this holiday season. Here are a few of our favorites. Be sure to share the recipe, along with some delicious figs from our growers. Figs make a great nutrient, fiber and energy-rich snack to take along and enjoy while holiday shopping.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Valley Fig Growers!

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