Guest blog by Stephanie Russell.
For me, panettone elicits fond memories of family and joy. Come holiday time, we would gather around the table after dinner to enjoy a slice (or two) of buttered panettone along with a cup of either hot tea or hot chocolate. It was a standing tradition I shared with my parents, grandparents, and sister and one I was eager to continue with my own family.
Last year when balsam wreaths, mulled wine, and perfectly-studded boxes of panettone signaled the arrival of Christmas season I started toying with the idea of baking the iconic Italian sweetbread from scratch. The journey to making homemade panettone was not easy; I’ll be honest. It took three batches — each batch producing three decent-sized panettone loaves — until I was satisfied with how they turned out. When the (flour) dust settled, I had sitting before me nine loaves of panettone and not a one clue of what to do with them all.
After the nostalgia of eating a slice with my evening tea wore off — and it did, after the sixth day — I began to ponder an alternate way to use the panettone. Drawing back from my family, I remembered a recipe for bread pudding my grandpa would make whenever we had leftover slices of regular white sandwich bread. By tweaking a few things and adding some surprise ingredients to the bread pudding I was able to use up the last remaining loaves of panettone and make a delicious variation on the sticky sweet dessert.
This recipe for panettone bread pudding is fairly simple and straight-forward but requires some planning ahead of time. Most bread puddings benefit from sitting in the fridge overnight to give the bread a chance to soak in all that yummy spiced custard (the same is true for french toast) and this recipe calls for just that. Prepared this way, it was super easy to pull out and bake first thing in the morning for a warm breakfast treat. Also, this bread pudding is no soloist — he works in concerto with a menagerie of performers — notably, the dulce de leche* sauce and homemade whipped cream, both of which can be made the day before with no consequence.
*Dulce de lecheis sweetened condensed milk that has been gently cooked down to create a rich, golden caramel, often used in South American desserts. You can find prepared canned dulce de leche in most international food aisles at major supermarkets or at your local Latin American market. Alternatively, you can make dulce de leche from scratch.
For the bread pudding:
- 8 cups – 1-inch cubed homemade or good quality store-bought panettone (Plan on using about half of a regular-sized panettone)
- 8 ounces mascarpone cheese; at room temperature
- 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/4 cup toasted, slivered almonds
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 6 large eggs
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Unsalted butter, for greasing pan
For the dulce de leche sauce:
- 1 – 13.4 ounce can dulce de leche*
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
*Dulce de leche is sweetened condensed milk that has been gently cooked down to create a rich, golden caramel, often used in South American desserts. You can find prepared canned dulce de leche in most international food aisles at major supermarkets or at your local Latin American market. Alternatively, you can make dulce de leche from scratch.
For the whipped cream:
- 2 cups cold heavy cream
- 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Tumble half of your cubed panettone into a large, rectangular greased baking dish and sprinkle the top with half the almonds and raisins.
- In a medium bowl, mix the mascarpone cheese, brown and white sugars, orange juice, and vanilla extract until well combined.
- Pour this sinfully delicious slurry of happiness over the bottom layer of cubed panettone.
- Then, top with the other half of panettone. They were feeling left out.
- In another medium bowl, beat the eggs, heavy cream, and almond extract together.
- Pour this mixture evenly over the panettone, making sure it thoroughly douses all cubes, pressing down with fingers slightly to help accelerate soaking stage. Sprinkle with the remaining almonds and raisins. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge overnight.
- The next day, take the bread pudding out of the fridge and let it come back to room temperature for about 15-20 minutes (this step helps it cook more evenly but if you’re harried and hurried you can just stick it directly into the hot oven but bank on baking it for an extended 10-15 minutes). If you haven’t already, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Bake, uncovered for about 45-50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. If the top begins to brown too rapidly, cover with foil and continue cooking until center is done.
While the bread pudding bakes, prepare the dulce de leche sauce.
- In a small sauce pot set over medium-low heat, combine the dulce de leche, heavy cream, orange juice, and cinnamon, stirring often until the mixture has thinned and warmed through completely, about 5-7 minutes. Keep it over the lowest flame, covered.
- Make the whipped cream. Pour the chilled heavy cream, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract into an electric mixing bowl fitted with a whisk attachment. Start off slow so you don’t cover yourself in “stuff” and then increase to high speed (the more air you incorporate, the stiffer the peaks). Watch it closely though; an endeavor to make whipped cream can quickly turn into whipped butter (!). The whole process takes about 3-4 minutes but it depends on how stiff you like your whipped cream. I tend to stop at soft peaks. Gently pour this avalanche of heaven into a bowl, cover, and stash into the fridge until you’re ready to use.
- Let the bread pudding rest and set for about 10-15 minutes after baking and then slice and serve topped with the warm dulce de leche sauce, chilled whipped cream, and a sprinkling of cinnamon.