Those who live in my neighbourhood will know about a certain store. Every year around this time, the already cramped aisles of said store become nearly impossible to navigate due to what I like to call the Great Panettone Invasion. Hundreds of the boxes appear from one day to the next. No one sees them going in. All of a sudden they are there. Until I had moved to this neighbourhood, I didn't even know what a panettone was. But then suddenly there I was trying to fight my way through a mountain of them just to get a carton of milk.
I asked an Italian friend of mine about them. "Very dry", she said.
"Actually we Italians joke about them. It's the traditional gift you bring to someone when you go to their house at Christmas, so the rumour has it that there is really only one panettone that just makes the rounds between the families".
Aha. That it explains why there are so many panettone in the store.
I tried one a few years ago, and I was inclined to agree with my friend's assessment. But since then I have come to conclusion that it has much to do with the quality of the item. I have since found others to be moist and delicious and I think I might love them. Like the one I bought last week and almost ate up as I was making this.
Whether you like them or not, one thing I believe to be indisputable is the panettone's suitability for bread pudding. I made this and it was perfect.
Chocolate Panettone Pudding
1 750 gram panettone
100 to 125 grams good quality chocolate (in chunks or chips as you prefer)
950 ml milk
175 grams sugar
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
Slice the panettone and arrange it in a shallow 9 x 9 baking dish. If the panettone is very fresh, you may want to leave it to dry overnight or let it dry in low oven. Sprinkle with chocolate chips or nestle pieces of your favourite chocolate bar evenly throughout. (I use a Green and Blacks 70% Dark.) To make the custard, beat the eggs and milk together with a whisk or a fork.
Pour the custard over the mixture, allowing it to soak into the bread for about 15 minutes. If you find it too dry, add an additional 1 egg and 3/4 cup milk and repeat until you are happy.
Sprinkle with granulated sugar.
Bake in a water bath a 325 oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour for a moist, gooey pudding. Serve warm with cream or as is. Eat the leftovers out of the fridge directly from the pan the next day.