Bet you didn't know New Year's could be so thought provoking, did you?!
But I digress! While I may have mixed feelings about the end of the year, I have absolutely clear feelings on this panettone bread pudding -- it's delicious and splendid and I love it -- and so even if I'm not so enthusiastic about New Year's, I am about this bread pudding. Panettone, in case you're not familiar, is an Italian Christmas sweet originally from Milan but enjoyed all over Italy before Christmas and on Christmas day. It is somewhere between a cake and a sweet bread, filled with raisins, lemon zest, and citron, tall and proud and cupola-shaped, finicky and complicated to make, requiring several days of proofing and rising and coddling. I usually bring my panettone home from Rome -- no easy feat, cramming a few pounds of panettone in to a suitcase packed with sweaters and gifts -- realizing only this year that it is now available in supermarkets and other food stores here in Rhode Island. Panettone has apparently gotten itself a passport and is now traveling all the way from Rome to the U.S's very smallest state.
If you're like me you probably have some leftover panettone from Christmas laying around, and if you'd like to turn it into something even more magnificent than it already is -- oh yes, that is possible -- then I highly recommend you make this bread pudding, a dessert just decadent and elegant yet still cozy enough for any New Year's Eve dinner in you might be planning. This pudding makes quite an entrance out of the oven, puffed and golden and glorious, smooth and custardy as any good bread pudding should be -- its silky texture interrupted only but a welcome juicy raisin or two -- downright perfect with a dusting of powdered sugar and a dollop of whipped cream. My lactose intolerant sister-in-law allowed herself the tiny requisite tasting bite before deciding this was a dairy-heavy dessert good enough to make an exception for this one, popping a few Lactaid pills and risking any potential stomachache for a square of it (such sacrifice!) The majority of the pudding, meant to serve 12-14, disappeared quickly. Consider this dessert a comforting ending to a tough year (as I'm writing this, I've just learned that Carrie Fisher has also passed away, too -- seriously, 2016?!) and here's hoping that 2017 will be a little sweeter.
Notes: The bread pudding can sit for up to two hours (refrigerated) after you add the custard to the bread pudding cubes. I was baking for a crowd that prefers desserts on the not-so-sweet-side, plus I figured that the panettone is already quite sweet on its own, so I didn't use too too much sugar here -- this pudding is just barely sweet. If you want a sweeter pudding, feel free to up the quantity. I made this to serve a crowd (thus I used the whole loaf of panettone that had gone uneaten) so know that you can easily halve this recipe to serve 6-8 people. You'll note below that I reserved a bit of the custard; that's because I was experimenting with quantities for this recipe and found in the end that the custard I had whipped up was slightly too much. Next time I make this I'll edit the recipe with more precise quantities, but for now, you like me might find you have to reserve some custard depending on how big the eggs are you're using/how much custard your panettone is able to absorb. This panettone was delicious served slightly warm a few hours after coming out of the oven, but I also found it was fantastic the day after eaten cold out of the fridge (yummm). Finally, I suppose this dish lands more squarely in the "dessert" category, but you could probably serve it at brunch as a decadent riff on French toast, if you wanted. (Phew, that was a lot of notes!)
Looking for other recipes using leftover bread as their main ingredient? Of course you are! Check out this recipe for Canederli, this recipe for Individual Baked French Toasts, this Pumpkin French Toast, or this recipe for Apricot, Apple, and Sausage Stuffing. Want some more ideas for fancy desserts fit for New Year's Eve? How about this Chocolate Fudge Souffle Cake, this German Chocolate Cake, this Chocolate Truffle Tart, this Vanilla Layer Cake with Nutella, Mascarpone, and Raspberries, this Pear and Chocolate Custard Tart, or these Dulce de Leche Brownies?
PANETTONE BREAD PUDDING
1 panettone (1000 grams or 2 pounds) cut in to cubes (I used one without citron, but feel free to use whatever you like!)
1 3/4 cups (435 grams) whipping cream
3 cups (about 750 grams) whole milk + 2 tablespoons
1 1/2 cups (310 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Freshly whipped cream and powdered sugar, for serving
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until beaten well, then whisk in the cream, milk, vanilla, and sugar to blend. Make sure it is in a large enough bowl to whisk everything together thoroughly (as you can see I had to change bowls half way through!)
Pour the custard over the panettone, pressing them down gently to make sure they are fully submerged in the custard mixture. I reserved a ladle or two of the custard mixture (see notes above). Wait until the panettone is fully submerged in the custard mixture but not swimming in it. Let the whole thing sit for about 30 minutes and up to 2.5 hours (if more than 30 minutes refrigerate the mixture, covered) still pressing the panettone down occasionally to cover it with the custard. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake the bread pudding for about 45-60 minutes or until it puffs up a little and is set in the center. Cool slightly. Spoon the bread pudding into bowls, serve with freshly whipped cream or powdered sugar, if desired.