Panettone Pudding

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Happy new year!

Rushed off my feet as I was during Christmas week, I managed to squeeze in some time to eat as much panettone as I could manage. In between feedings, my days were divided as follows:

  • Daily viewings of Frozen. After an intervention and thorough dressing down by a group of friends with young kids, it was decided I could not carry on living my life and not watch it. And so I have. Many, many times. Because it is such a wonderful film!
  • Trying out at least one recipe from the latest Ottolenghi book, courtesy of my Secret Santa sister. I urge you to try the green lentils with tahini at the earliest opportunity.
  • Snowballs. Of the alcoholic kind.
  • Snoozing.
  • Obsessively putting together a jigsaw of a satellite photo of our house – cunning ploy devised by The Vegetarian Husband to keep me quiet on Christmas week. HA! I bet you weren’t counting on my snowball fuelled renditions of Let It Go, were you?

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Back to the panettone, let me explain a festive routine we go through in this house. Every year, around the first week of December, I go Gennaro to stock up on their own brand panettone, before they run out. Gennaro is this Italian oasis of a shop in Lewisham, where you expect to bump into a 1950s Sofia Loren throwing tomatoes at you at any moment. It’s tiny, packed to the very last inch with food, permanently loud and busy. They make delicious panettone, just the right side of fluffy, fragrant and with the best crust I ever tasted. I keep a couple for us, and buy a few for presents. And around the 20th December, we run out and I run back to Gennaro begging for any cakes I can get my hands on, because what is Christmas without panettone?

For someone who gets so annoyed by picky eaters, I do have quite the nerve when it comes to panettone. I never grew out of my childish dislike of raisins and candied fruit. I know what you’re thinking: they do make fruitless panetonne, you know. Ah, but – and this is when even I get on my nerves! – I insist on a cake loaded with raisins, because… I like the taste they leave behind! Yes, God forbid someone picks the onions out of their meal. I will give them hell. But I go through a slice of panettone like a forensic investigator, removing every last bit of tiny fruit, and taking a good half hour to eat a single slice. Oh, how much it is worth it!

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With the first week of January gone, I decided to admit defeat and accept we would not finish the last panettone. There was just under half of it left. Just as I was about to throw it in the bin, I remembered an old fashioned bread pudding I used to have as a kid. It’s one of those straight forward solutions to leftover bread. Which, like French toast or bread and butter pudding, tastes so much more special when made with fancy bread.

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I put this in the oven this morning before starting work, and I’m afraid to say that half of it was wiped out for lunch. It’s just what you need to get you going on the dreary back-to-work rainy January: quick and easy, comforting caramely pudding.

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Panettone Pudding:

I went through my ritual of removing all raisins and fruit from my cake before making this. If you want to keep the fruit in, I suggest you still remove them, prepare the pudding, and then add the fruit back again. If you just blend the whole thing together, the mashed up raisins will leave a bitter taste to the pudding. As for the tin, I used a round 20 cm (8 in) one. If you have a small bundt cake tin, it would make a very pretty pudding.

Pudding:

  • 3 to 4 slices of panettone
  • 2 cups (500ml) full fat milk
  • ½ cup (120g) caster sugar
  • 4 eggs

Caramel sauce:

  • 1 cup (240g) caster sugar
  • ½ cup (125ml) hot water

Place a roasting tray half filled with water in the over. Switch it on to 180C.

Make the sauce: in a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the sugar on medium heat until you get a golden colour. Carefully add the hot water, and stand back as it will bubble furiously for a minute or so. Raise the heat to high and cook it until the sauce thickens a bit, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. This should take about 5 to 8 minutes, just so it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Mix all the ingredients for the pudding in a blender until completely smooth. This is not a bitty dessert. It should be as smooth as – but denser than – a crème caramel.

Pour the hot sauce into a baking tin and tilt it so the sides of the tin are coated. You should still end up with a thick layer of liquid caramel at the bottom of the tin.

Pour the pudding mix over the caramel, taking care not to mix them. Carefully wrap the bottom of the tin in foil, and place it inside the roasting tray with water in the over. Cook it on the bagne-marie for about an hour – it should still be a bit wobbly.

Remove it from the oven, let it cool a little, and invert the pudding onto a serving plate while still warm. Let all the caramel drip over the pudding.

Serving suggestion: have a warm slice immediately, then place the pudding in the fridge and eat the rest of it when it’s completely cold.

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