Just the mere thought of panettone, the slightly sweet, Milanese Christmas bread, conjures up the aromas of citrus, vanilla and candied fruit.
This holiday bread is traditionally made using a “mother dough” (similar to sourdough). The centuries-old process allows the dough to rise naturally over the course of several days, giving this rich-tasting treat its distinctive light texture. The recognizable loaf is in the shape of the cupola (dome) at the top of a church with a tall base and fluffy top.
Because panettone is time-consuming to prepare, most Italians don’t make their own, rather they purchase it from their favorite pasticceria. It is typically enjoyed (sometimes toasted) with a cappuccino for breakfast. Although, I have been known to have a bite or two with an afternoon espresso.
More than a simple act of kindness, the customary gift of panettone when invited to lunch or dinner during the holidays, is a gesture rich in history and tradition; which is why it’s not uncommon to end up with several loaves. Panettone bread pudding is a delicious answer to the abundance of loaves. It is my dish of choice when asked to bring something sweet to a potluck and I have recently added it to my holiday brunch menu.
Panettone is my favorite Italian Christmas bread and year after year, it retains a special aura, bringing a feeling of love and joy whenever it is offered.
- 8 cups Panettone, cut into cubes
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia
- 2 T butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 cups whole milk
- Confectioner’s sugar, sprinkling on top.
- From the top down, cut the panettone into thick slices (about 1 1/2-inches) and then cut into cubes. These cubes are cut larger then those used for my traditional bread pudding because of the panettone’s softer texture. Smaller cubes would absorb too much liquid and become soggy.
- Using a parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet, add the cubes in a single layer and toast in a 325* oven until golden-brown (this should take approximately 20 minutes).
- Turn off the oven but, leave in while you prepare the egg and milk mixture.
- In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the eggs until frothy. Add the sugar, vanilla, Fiori di Sicilia, butter and milk to the beaten eggs and then beat until thoroughly blended.
- Transfer the toasted cubes to another large bowl and pour the milk mixture over the cubes. Gently toss until cubes are coated. Let rest on the counter for 55-60 minutes, gently stirring every now and then to allow the panettone to absorb the liquid.
- Spoon into a greased 8×8-inch baking dish (but, do not pat down) and bake at 350* for 55-60 minutes. The Panettone bread pudding should be brown and crusty on top.
- Serve warm with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.