One of my now favorite holiday traditions started a few years ago when I was living in Italy and realized that during the month of December, at any given moment, I was surrounded by a billion panettones. You know panettone, we have them on this side of the pond too: those large, sort of muffin-shaped cakes, speckled with candied fruit and usually covered in some sort of decorative wrapping paper or in a festive, beribboned box. They’re the Italian version of holiday fruit cake, but actually good.
They were everywhere, and while I liked them, I was getting sick of eating just plain ol’ slices of panettone. One day, during a transatlantic phone call with my aunt who lives in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida, I mentioned that I was basically drowning in an italian sea of panettone.
“Oh, well you should just make panettone french toast!” she explained matter-of-factly.
I immediately Googled recipes, of which I have to warn you, there are precisely one for every panettone in Italy, and went with one that seemed simple enough to pull off. I don’t remember where it was from, but for your viewing, reading, and eating pleasure, here it is below:
First of all, gather your ingredients:
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup milk
mascarpone or maple syrup (or both if you’re feeling gluttonous)
For this year’s edition, I bought a chestnut panettone from Francois Payard, but really any ol’ panettone would do. (Mine, for the record, though, was the single most delicious panettone I’ve ever eaten.) Once you have yours, unwrap it, peel off the paper that usually comes wrapped around the bottom. If there’s a harder crust on the bottom, trim it off. Starting from the bottom, cut crosswise to make slices about 3/4″ thick.
Once you’ve sliced the stump of your panettone, you’ll be left with the rounded top of the panettone, the muffin top if you will. This part, as Elaine from Seinfeld will tell you, is probably the best part. I dare you to go on cooking without ripping off soft chunks of the top as you go. It’s impossible.
Next, whisk your eggs in a bowl, adding in cream and milk once the eggs are smoothed out. (The original recipe said to add sugar to this mix too, but we’ve found that it makes it almost too sweet, so we left it out this year). Whisk everything until well mixed. This becomes your dip for the slices.
Melt some butter on medium in a large pan or griddle. While that’s going, pour your egg-milk-cream mix on to a plate and then carefully dip each slice in it. Make sure the panettone slices really absorb it all.
Once each slice is heavy with mix, plop it gently on the heated pan and let each side cook until it’s a nice golden brown. Four minutes per side usually does the trick.
Once your slice has browned enough, lift it out and place it on your plate and garnish as you wish. When we did this in Italy, we added a dollop of mascarpone and a sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar. This adds a nice creaminess and extra powdery sweetness too. This year, we didn’t have any mascarpone on hand, so we went with one of our tried and true favorites, our homegirl Aunt Jemima.
I can’t think of a more perfect holiday brunch than this, especially when it’s gusty and cold outside. Add some coffee or hot apple cider and I’m good to go. Did the presents you bought the fam kind of suck this year? Make this on Christmas morning and all will be forgiven.