Panettone – An Italian Tradition Gets a Makeover
Brightly colored, festive, oversized boxes of bread are being displayed throughout our stores. If you have never received one as a gift before (the brightly colored package symbolizes luck and prosperity through the New Year), or stopped to check out what the box contains, it’s Panettone, a traditional Italian bread. Meaning “big bread” in Italian, Panettone falls in between a bread and a pound cake and is usually made with flour, eggs, butter, yeast, dried raisins, candied oranges, citron and lemon zest, and is enjoyed in Italy during Christmas and New Year’s.
Panettone originated in Milan, Italy and is traditionally served after the giant Christmas Day feast, on Santo Stefano (December 26th, an Italian national holiday), as well as on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. There is only one problem with this: after such a huge feast hardly anyone has room to eat dessert. Factor that in with the chance that you’ve received one as a gift, and you’ve got more Panettone than you know what to do with. Therefore, you will usually see people eating Panettone for breakfast with cappuccino or caffe latte, or as a snack with an afternoon espresso.
If you find yourself with more Panettone than you know what to do with this holiday season, we’ve one sweet way and one savory way to use this iconic bread in a new and exciting way.
Panettone Bread Pudding
* 1 Italian panettone, about 1.2 pounds
* Unsalted butter, for greasing the dish
* 3 extra-large whole eggs
* 8 extra-large egg yolks
* 5 cups half-and-half
* 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
* 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1/3 cup sliced almonds
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Trim the dark brown outer crust from the panettone (optional). Cut the rest of the loaf in 1-inch cubes and place on a sheet pan in a single layer. Toast the panettone for 10 minutes, until lightly browned.
Grease a 9 by 12 by 2-inch baking dish with the butter. Place the panettone cubes in the baking dish.
In a large bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, half-and-half, vanilla and almond extracts and sugar. Pour this custard mixture over the panettone. Set aside for 10 minutes so the bread soaks up the custard. Scatter the sliced almonds over the top of the pudding.
Place the baking dish into a larger pan and add very hot tap water to the larger pan until it’s halfway up the side of the baking dish. Cover the larger pan with aluminum foil, tenting the foil so it doesn’t touch the pudding. Cut a few holes in the foil to allow steam to escape. Bake the pudding for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 40 to 45 more minutes, until the custard is set and the top of the pudding is light golden brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Panettone and Italian Sausage Stuffing
* 2 onions, peeled
* 3 stalks celery
* ¼ cup olive oil
* 2 lbs Italian sausages
* 4 eggs
* 2 cups chicken broth
* 1 lb panettone, cut into 1-inch cubes
* Salt to taste
* Large handful of chopped parsley, plus more to serve
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Lay out the panettone cubes on a large baking sheet, and toast them in the oven for 10 minutes, until they are crisp and golden at the edges. Allow to cool.
Chop the onions and celery finely.
Put 2 tablespoons of the oil into a pan and, when warm, add the celery and onion and cook gently, stirring every now and again, for 10-15 minutes until softened.
Add the remaining oil to the pan, then squeeze the sausages out of their casings into the pan and squish and turn with a wooden spoon to break the pieces up as much as possible and mix with the celery and onion. Cook the sausage meat for about 10 minutes, or until the pinkness has left it, stirring regularly with your wooden spoon.
Preheat the oven to 400°F (if it isn’t on already) and grease and ovenproof pan (approx. 3 x 8 inches), put in the toasted panettone cubes and add the sausage celery and onion:
In the bowl that had the sausages, celery and onion whisk the eggs with the broth (adding salt if it isn’t already salty, so taste the broth first) and pour this over the stuffing, leaving it to soak in for 5 minutes or so before baking, uncovered, in the oven for 45 minutes.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley and use a large spoon to serve.