I love shopping right after Christmas as soon as the shops open. Not only are the prices most often cut in half, I can also get my favourite food of the season at an affordable price. One of these is the Italian Christmas bread called panettone (pa-ne-to-ne). It's usually tall, round, domed-top bread. Sometimes topped with chunks of sugar with an oh so light, almost fluffy brioche-like inside dotted by little pieces of candied orange, lemon, and raisins. Serving it in vertical slices is the usual way accompanied by mascarpone, or whipped cream, or ice cream or some sweet dessert wine. Me? If I'm feeling civilised, I slice it, toast a little then slather butter on it and eaten delicately with some hot Earl Grey tea. But if I'm ravenous (which is often) I just tear off a piece and promptly scoff it down with some suitably agreeable noise ... hmmm hmmm. I absolutely adore the light-as-air texture of this bread. A little bite plus a whiff of its smell never fail to lift up my spirits.
My current stash of this wonderful bread was about to expire and I was left with a choice between having indigestion in eating it all up or be less greedy and make some panettone bread and butter pudding. Bread and butter pudding, I now realised, is simply custard-soaked pieces of bread. It's a wonderful ending for my beloved panettone because the recipe I adapted from the BBC Goodfood magazine was easy to do and utterly divine. The original recipe is here if you're interested.
250g panettone (about 5 medium slices)
1/2 cup double cream
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp caster sugar (superfine)
icing sugar (for sprinkling - optional)
softly whipped cream, to serve
- Grease a 850ml/1½ pint (about 3 1/2 cups - a 9inch x 9inch deep pan will do) baking dish with a little butter.
- Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3.
- Cut the panettone into wedges then in half, leaving the crusts on. Arrange the bread in the baking pan.
- In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, milk, vanilla extract and sugar and pour evenly over the panettone. Let it soak for a few minutes.
- Put the dish in a deep roasting pan and pour hot water around it to a depth of about 2.5 cm/1 inch
- Bake for 35 minutes until the pudding is just set.
- (Optional) Dust top with icing sugar and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.