The holiday season may seem like a distant memory however like the ghost of Christmas past, remnants may still be found amidst the goods stocked in the kitchen cupboards. One such festive clinger, the Italian fruitcake known as, panettone. While a buttery slice makes a nice accompaniment to a cup of coffee or tea, a little creativity and reinvention can take the sweet loaf from the sidelines and turn it into the star of the show.
For those who may be unfamiliar with the sweet bread loaf, it is an Italian festive staple. Hailing from the northern city of Milan, its history is varied. Panettone which translates to “big bread” is made of a dough similar to sourdough that traditionally is sweetened with candied orange peel, raisins and lemon zest (modern varieties have seen the dough dotted with chocolate chips, dried cranberries and even filled with flavored creams). It then undergoes a lengthy levening and proofing process which gives the loaf it distinct and characteristic fluffiness. Prior to baking, the top of the panettone is marked with a cross (traditionally by the head of the household) as good omen for the year ahead. Paired with an espresso or a sweet spumante, the dome shaped dessert is cut vertically and served in triangular slices. Care should actually be taken in serving it correctly for it is considered bad luck to remove the domed top and to consume it on your own.
Because gifting a panettone seems to be affiliated with feelings of joy and love, that gift should in turn be shown some love at the end of the holiday season. With a little kitchen ingenuity that panettone can be repurposed and served up in a myriad of ways.
Cubing it, drowning it in an egg and cream custard, and baking it off, transforms it into a luxurious bread pudding. Along a similar vein, it can be cut into thick slices, dipped in an egg batter and presented as a decadent brunch of French toast. With a little coffee and mascarpone, a crema, chocolate chip panettone taking up shelf space in my pantry got made over into a tiramisu.
With a name that translates to large loaf, I discovered that much like any other bread, panettone makes a great sandwich. The proof was in the press as I made up both sweet and savory panini. I put a generous smear of cream cheese, Nutella and sour cherry jam between two pieces of the c hocolate chip panettone then gave it a dusting of powdered sugar before serving it with fresh strawberries. I made a tangy turkey sammie using an amarena cherry panettone, layering it with cranberry sauce, roast turkey and swiss cheese (had I had brie in my fridge I would’ve totally gone that route for the cheese).
So before you ship that panettone off to the office kitchenette, or save it for next Christmas (come on we all know that’s been done) try giving it a mouthwatering metamorphosis. Buon Appetito!
Panettone Bread Pudding with Amaretto Cream Sauce
(recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)
For the Sauce:
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup amaretto liqueur
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
For the Bread Pudding:
- 1 (1-pound) loaf panettone bread, crusts trimmed, bread cut into 1-inch cubes
- 8 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 2 tbsp amaretto liqueur
- Slivered almonds (optional)
To make the sauce: Bring the cream, milk, and sugar to a boil in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. In a small bowl, mix the amaretto and cornstarch to blend and then whisk into the cream mixture. Simmer over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Set aside and keep warm. (The amaretto sauce can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm before serving.)
To make the bread pudding: Lightly butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. Arrange the bread cubes in the prepared dish. Sprinkle in slivered almonds if desired for added texture and crunch. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, milk, amaretto and sugar to blend. Pour the custard over the bread cubes, and press the bread cubes gently to submerge. Let stand for 30 minutes, occasionally pressing the bread cubes into the custard mixture. (Recipe can be prepared up to this point 2 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake until the pudding puffs and is set in the center, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly. Spoon the bread pudding into bowls, drizzle with the warm amaretto sauce, garnish with slivered almonds and serve.