Panettone becomes building block for Christmas breakfast dishes

December 22, 2014

Cubed, toasted, then soaked in an egg yolk-rich custard, panettone makes a delightful bread pudding for Christmas breakfast or dessert that night.

ĎTis not the season without panettone. The mile-high domed Italian Christmas bread, studded with raisins and candied orange, light and airy in texture yet richly flavored with eggs and butter, tastes like the holiday. Our mom had it at Christmas always, a reminder of her Italian homeland, though she had to travel far from our little Ohio village to the one grocer for miles that carried it.

I have it every year. My sister-in-law even gets it for me when we travel to her place in Charleston, S.C., for the holidays. In recent years, given enough time, Iíve taken to making it ó though that wonít happen this year; there wonít be a whole day to set aside for the rising, kneading and rising again. For me, the store-bought brands shipped from Italian bakeries are nearly as delicious. Biting into the yeasty goodness, I donít feel like Iím settling.

As much as I love eating panettone straight-up, with a cup of coffee as sole accompaniment, Iíve wondered about playing with the sweet bread, using it to create other dishes. This year, I bought several of the breads in their festive boxes and stepped into the kitchen. Cutting up thick slices, cubing big blocks, mixing in milk, cream, eggs, and definitely breakfasting on extra pieces, Iíve answered my question: Yes, panettone is delicious as a building block for such dishes as bread pudding, French toast and panini.

Here are ideas to serve Christmas morning for breakfast or that night for dessert. Oh, and what about a trifle?

PANETTONE BREAD PUDDING

Adapted from "The New Family Cookbook" by Americaís Test Kitchen. Skip the amaretto if you prefer to go without alcohol. Or sub with another spirit, like orange liqueur.

1 Heat oven to 325. Cut about half a loaf of panettone into 3/4-inch cubes. (Panettone sizes vary, so plan for about 14 ounces or 12 cups cubes.) Spread cubes in a single layer on two rimmed baking sheets. Bake, tossing occasionally, until just dry, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool. Measure out 2 cups; set aside for the topping.

2 Whisk 9 egg yolks, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest, 1 tablespoon amaretto and 3/4 teaspoon salt together in a large bowl. Whisk in 2 1/2 cups each heavy cream and whole milk. Add remaining dried panettone cubes; toss to combine. Transfer mixture to a 13-by-9-inch baking dish; let stand, occasionally pressing on bread to submerge, until cubes are well saturated, about 30 minutes.

3 Combine 2 tablespoons light brown sugar and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Sprinkle reserved panettone over bread pudding, pressing gently into the custard. Brush with 1 to 2 tablespoons melted butter; sprinkle with sugar mixture. Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until custard is just set and center of bread pudding registers 170 degrees, 45-50 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.

4 Let cool until pudding is set and just warm, about 45 minutes.

Makes: 8 to 10 servings

PANINI

Youíll want to cut the slices thick, as the airy bread compresses a lot. For each sandwich, cut two 1-inch slices of panettone. Spread one side of one slice with filling; cover with top slice. Toast in melted butter in a skillet until golden, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Or in a panini press or waffle iron (but just 1 minute ó the bread browns quickly.)

Fillings:

Chocolate-hazelnut spread. Nutella rules the market, but other brands have been popping up in stores.

Ricotta cheese sweetened with a little honey and finely grated orange zest, about 1 teaspoon of each per cup.

French toast

Use your favorite recipe, subbing the bread with thick slices of panettone; or use this one from Tribune archives.

1 Whisk together 6 eggs and 1 cup heavy cream in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 teaspoons each vanilla and cinnamon; whisk until well combined. Pour mixture into a pie plate or shallow bowl.

2 Cut 12 slices panettone; dip each into egg mixture, turning once. Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add enough bread slices to cover bottom of skillet without overlapping. Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Turn; cook until second side is golden. Remove slices to warm plate. Repeat with remaining bread slices, adding butter as needed. Serve with maple syrup.

Makes: 12 slices

 

 


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