Saturday, January 3, 2009

Carmelized Panettone Bread Pudding

This is seriously good bread pudding. The original recipe comes from a book called Classic Home Desserts (my favorite). However, I have changed it a bit because the carmel part just wasn't working out for me. Panettone is a traditional Italian Christmas bread - it includes raisins and candied orange peel. I used challah (pronounced halla) bread because I don't like raisins in my dessert. I served this at a Christmas dinner and everyone loved it. I think it's going to be a new tradition for Christmas Eve dinnner.

3-4 cups cubed (1 inch), day old pannettone, challah, brioche or other egg bread, crusts left on.s
2 1/4 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 1 Tlbs pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks

for the caramel:
1 cup heavy cream, divided
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Butter six to eight ramekins, custard cups, or disposable foil baking cups. Place the ramekins in a large roasting pan.

Fit a heavy bottomed pan w/ a candy thermometer ( I don't have one, but you probably need one if you're not familiar with making candy, or you can just guess and hope it's right.) Over high heat cook 3/4 cup of the cream, corn syrup, butter, and sugar to 280 degrees (firm ball); at this point the syrup will be golden. Remove from the heat and carefully swirl in the remaining 1/4 cup cream and the vanilla.

Carefully pour about 1/4 inch hot caramel into each ramekin. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes with 1 cup of the milk. Set aside, stirring occasionally, until needed. Meanwhile, in a heavy saucepan, *scald the remaining 1 1/4 cups milk with the cream or milk and vanilla bean ( if using vanilla extract, do not add it now). Cover and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees, with a rack in the center. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, the remaining 3 Tlbs sugar and the scalded cream mixture until smooth. Scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod into the custard (or add the vanilla extract now). Strain this mixture ove the soaked bread mixture and stir gently to combine.

Ladle the pudding mixture into the ramekins, filling them nearly full. Place the roasting pan in the oven. Pour in enough hot tap water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Lay a sheet of buttered foil, buttered side down, directly over the puddings.

The original recipe says to bake for 30 minutes, but mine took almost an hour to be done. The guy that wrote this recipe probably has a super efficient and super expensive oven. Anyway, when the custards are just set and a toothpick comes out clean, then they are done.

Carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath to a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes then transfer to the fridge and chill for at least two hours ( this is nice because you can bake them a day ahead).

Right before serving, place on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven until the caramel bubbles around the edge (10-15 minutes).

* to scald means basically to burn the milk or bring it almost to a boil. They used to do this before milk was pasteurized,so we really don't do it anymore except when you are using it in bread pudding - something about the proteins binding to the bread and such.