Panettone is the perfect Christmas gift. I gifted myself two. One panettone, two panettoni. This Italian yeast-leavened sweet bread/cake makes its appearance during the Festive season. Stanislao Porzio, food commentator and panettone expert explains: “Panettone, as we know it today, is the result of the evolution of the breads enriched with valuable ingredients; such breads were prepared for religious feasts, a tradition present in all the cultures stemming from Christianity. In fact in Milan, this is documented by a manuscript conserved in this city’s Ambrosian Library. These great loaves contained nothing other than wheat; in those times wheat was a highly valued ingredient; usually a mixture of far less noble cereals was used for bread, to the extent that the majority of the bakers had permission to bake bread with wheat alone only at Christmas time. Which Panettone is really the authentic one? The first industrial panettone was produced in the establishment of Motta in viale Corsica.  The great Angelo, since the laboratories that it had between piazza Missori, via Unione and via Falcone were already bursting, in 1930 already had its sights a large building, then in the outskirts of Milan. In 1935 the magazine L’illustrazione italiana already reported the existence in the company of an oven with a conveyer belt, thirty metres long, made specifically for panettone.
In reality, Angelo Motta was born a pasticceria artisan. Basically, in the establishment of viale Corsica, he had done nothing other than transfer the same standardized and mechanized artisan procedures to a much larger scale. The yeast mother remained the same, and the same yeast mother remains in the company’s industrial production today!”

Italian bakers produce some 117 million panettone and pandoro cakes every Christmas. In Italy panettone must be composed of no less than 20 percent candied fruit, 16 percent butter, and eggs that are at least 4 percent yolk. By law they must be made according to strict rules, including using only butter and beer yeast. Panettone is one of the most counterfeited Italian desserts around the world, make sure to buy an authentic one! Panettone has become the latest product that the Italian government and manufacturers want to protect from foreign imitations.

I love the Panettone Motta. The most traditional way to serve it, is as is, nothing added. My second panettone will be in pudding form- a yummy Bread and Butter pudding served with Crème anglaise, because – Christmas and pudding.

My favourite recipe is by David Leibovitz -Caramelised Panettone bread pudding. I use my 23cm cast iron pan, but you can use any sturdy 23cm cake pan.

Here is my adapted recipe :

500g panettone, cut in cubes, 150g light brown sugar, 5 eggs [room temperature], 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 3+1/2 cups milk, 45g butter.

Pre-heat your oven to 180 deg C.

Place the cubed panettone in a rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 20 minutes in the oven, turning once or twice, till lightly browned. Warm the butter in an ovenproof pan or cake tin on the stove over low heat while the panettone toasts. Once the butter has melted sprinkle the brown sugar over, covering the whole surface of the pan or tin, make sure the sugar is moistened and set the pan aside. You can use a spatula to even it out if you need to. This will create your caramel top.

Arrange the panettone snug and evenly in the pan over the melted butter and sugar. Whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, salt and granulated sugar in a bowl [big enough to hold the 3+1/2 cups milk]. Gradually add the milk and mix till well combined. Pour the mixture over the panettone. Gently press the panettone into the egg mixture to cover all the cubes.

Put the cake pan in a larger pan, such as a roasting pan, and fill the larger pan with hot water so it reaches halfway up the outsides of the cake pan. Bake the bread pudding until it feels barely set in the center, but don’t overcook it, about 45-50 minutes. Remove from the oven, and wearing oven gloves, carefully lift the bread pudding out of the water bath and set it on a cooling rack. I leave the water to cool in the oven before removing it.

If serving it warm, the best way I think, let the bread pudding cool for at least 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges to loosen the bread pudding from the pan and set a large serving platter upside down over the bread pudding. Invert by holding and turning the pan and dish so the caramel side is on top. Remove the cake pan, and serve.

You can refrigerate the baked bread pudding for up to three days.

Happy Christmas !