For most of high school I dated a sweet guy from an Italian family. Both his parents were INCREDIBLE cooks and they taught me so much about, cooking, entertaining, fashion, dining out and most of all family bonding. I learned many life lessons from the Votanos like never put cheese on seafood pasta, baggie jeans are NOT the height of style and to gift Panettone bread at the holidays. The first Christmas David and I were dating his mom sent me home one December afternoon with a huge blue box wrapped in cellophane tied with a big ribbon.
My mom and I examined the box with curiosity and finally opened the package which revealed a tall domed bread studded with dried fruit. The first taste was confusing, lightly sweet and studded with raisins and bits of candied orange peel with a distinctive smell of orange and butter. I was skeptical ( I was 14 ok). Then my mom toasted us some slices for breakfast the next morning and the mysteries of the Panettone revealed themselves to me. Toasting turned the edges crisp and flaky and the inside to a fluffy gooey texture, like that of a fresh glazed donut.
17 years later I cheer when I see the tall trapezoid boxes with rounded edges stacked in the markets after Thanksgiving. I resist buying one until mid-December when I toast a slice of Panettone for my birthday breakfast. With each bite I savor the dueling textures and my high school memories. When I go to my mom’s house for the holidays I always know a Panettone awaits for us to share in the morning over tea.
This year I decided to go beyond the simple toasting of the bread and whip up some Panettone french toast. Drew couldn’t resist a few bites (even though he has been Gluten-Free for 7 years) and proclaimed it “the best ever, even better than a bear claw.” We ate it huddled over one plate drizzled with maple syrup and marveling over the custardy texture. I can’t think of a better holiday morning breakfast. Do try it friends. Your new holiday tradition awaits. Or give one as a gift as the Votanos did and open your loved ones up to a new world of flavor.
Panettone French Toast
6 thick slices of Panettone (1 inch, half moon slices)
2 organic large eggs
1 cup organic whole milk
2 tablespoons organic unsalted butter
Maple syrup or powdered sugar for serving
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Cut your Panettone loaf in half vertically with a serrated knife and lay one half flat side down on the cutting board. Trim off the brown parts of both ends of the bread and slice the loaf into 6 half moon shaped slices. Whisk 2 eggs into 1 cup of milk in a large flat dish. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a non-stick pan over medium-low heat. Soak 3 slices of bread in the custard for 15 seconds on each side. Gently place the custard soaked slices into the melted butter and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side. Be sure to adjust the heat down if they are burning. Once nicely browned, flip the bread and fry on the other side. Cook until the bread has a firm texture and puffs up slightly. Remove to a baking sheet and keep warm in a low 200 degree oven while you repeat the process with the remaining slices. Serve immediately with maple syrup or powdered sugar.