It’s rich, it’s festive, and it’s perfect for holiday brunches. Whether you call this oven-baked French toast or bread pudding, the method is still the same: Dried-out bread is soaked in custard and then baked.
Panettone is a tall, domed shape bread that is studded with candied fruits. This soft, sweet bread hails from Northern Italy and is prized during the Christmas holidays. When I had quite a bit leftover one holiday season, I decided to use it for a spectacular oven-baked French toast. It was a hit! Drying it out and using it as the base of this bread pudding is a wonderful way to experience its deliciousness. And while this a wonderful breakfast/brunch dish, it is equally satisfying as dessert.
This French toast-pudding needs to be started a day ahead to let the bread cubes dry out. This is a wonderful Christmas morning entree, since it is all prepared the night before and just put in the oven before serving. I like to serve this with grilled sausages or crispy bacon. Include a pitcher of mixed orange and grapefruit juice with a touch of pomegranate juice to round out the celebration breakfast. A splash of sparkling wine added to the juices elevates this menu into a celebratory occasion.
Oven-Baked Panettone French Toast With Eggnog Custard
- 1 1/2-pound box panettone, cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes, about 8 cups
- 6 large eggs
- 1/2 cup baking sugar
- 4 cups eggnog
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- Powdered sugar, for garnish
Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet a day before preparing the pudding and let rest on the counter overnight or until the bread cubes are dried out.
Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange the bread in the dish.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs on medium speed until they are frothy. Add the sugar and beat the mixture until thick and a light lemon color, about 3 minutes. Add the eggnog, reducing the speed to low, and mix to combine. Add the vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and nutmeg, and mix to combine.
Ladle the custard over the bread. (You may need to use your fingers to evenly distribute the ingredients.) Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
The next morning, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Remove the pudding from the refrigerator, remove the foil, and push the bread down with a wooden spoon to make sure the custard is evenly distributed.
Place the pudding in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
Open the oven, and using heavy oven mitts and with a large spoon, push the bread down. The remaining liquid custard will rise. Spoon the custard evenly over the bread slices. Bake for about 15 to 20 more minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out barely clean.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.
Advance preparation: This dish may be prepared up to one day ahead up until just before the baking step, covered, and refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.