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…aaaand I didn’t give a reindeer’s fluffy behind, honestly. I have zero holiday spirit this year. Literally zilch, zip, nada, rien, nichts. There are no lights or ornaments up, no stockings have been hung with care, and I’m planning on spending the majority of my Christmas Day getting acquainted with TSA measures and enjoying all the other delights of trans-continental air travel these days. The Grinch ain’t got nothing on me.

But since I can’t let the year ring itself out without one more blog post no matter how Scroogey my outlook, I would like to share a recipe that just might make your heart grow two sizes, should you need a no-fuss showstopper of a brunch or dessert item between now and Twelfth Night. I whipped it up during my November novel writing-related insanity, so if I say you can do this one with only half a functional brain, you can take my word for it.

As is my wont this time of year, I had bought a panettone before Thanksgiving, but since it’s just me and His Lordship, I quickly sated my eggy, fruity cravings and still had a little over a quarter of the loaf left, forlornly sitting in its box. I thought about making French toast, which is a perfectly lovely application for leftover panettone, but decided bread pudding would be even better. I adapted an America’s Test Kitchen recipe and made four individual puddings in the high-sided ramekins I picked up at IKEA some time back, and have found a bazillion uses for since.

And then, because I’m me, I also decided that a salted caramel sauce would make it even more inspirational to my writerly efforts, and modified Nigella Lawson’s quick butterscotch sauce to fit the bill.

The puddings, I’m not ashamed to say, are stupendous. The custard is neither too eggy nor too sweet, and the bread absorbs just enough of it to stay airy and light without going mushy. The bits that stick out the very top get lovely and crispy, while the dried fruit in the panettone stays moist and chewy. You could leave off the sauce if you like, and as His Lordship did, but I think it adds both elegance and a nice intensity to contrast with the soothing softness of the pudding.

So there you have it, my little Cindy Lou Whos. I may have a raging case of the bah humbugs, but you can’t say I didn’t deliver any holiday cheer. Ho, ho, ho!

Panettone Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce
(Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s The Best Recipe and Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat)
Serves 4

For the puddings:

4 cups panettone, sliced into 2-inch cubes (approximately 1/4 of a standard panettone)
2 eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 tablespoon vanilla
Pinch of salt

For the sauce:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large pinches Maldon salt

Move the oven rack to the lower-third position and preheat oven to 325 F. Generously butter 4 large, high-sided ramekins.

Spread the panettone cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake 5-7 minutes to dry them out a bit, removing immediately if they start showing signs of browning. Divide the panettone evenly between the ramekins and set back on the sheet.

In a large measuring cup, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well combined, then blend in the milk, cream, bourbon, vanilla and salt. Pour a quarter of the custard mixture into each of the bread-filled cups.

Bake the puddings 30-35 minutes, until golden brown on top and rising up in the cups, and just barely jiggly when shaken. Set aside to cool to just warm while making the sauce, or cool completely and refrigerate for later.

To make the sauce, combine the butter, sugars and golden syrup in a small, heavy pan and melt together over medium heat. Allow to simmer enthusiastically for 5 minutes, then remove from heat and stir in cream, vanilla, and salt. Stir well to melt the salt, then decant into a pitcher.

Notes:

This recipe can be scaled up easily to accommodate however much leftover panettone you have. Should you not have any leftover panettone (though why wouldn’t you, since they’re everywhere now and will be everywhere and on sale after the holidays?), you could use raisin challah or brioche instead.

If you can’t find Lyle’s Golden Syrup, you could substitute light corn syrup or honey. Likewise, if you don’t have Maldon salt, another good-quality coarse sea salt will do.


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