tThe best thing about Christmas in Italy is the panettone. This brioche-style yeast bread, enriched with candied and dried fruits, is one of my favorite things in the world. I like to eat big, soft handfuls of it just as it is, and I love using it in baking. This wobbly buttercup-yellow pudding is an Italian take on one of my favorite English dishes, and just one of the panettone’s indulgent possibilities.
It shouldn’t be hard to find panettone in Britain. Lidl stocks them almost all year round, and they are usually Italian and very cheap. It’s always available in supermarkets right after Christmas, too.
Bain-marie may sound like faff, but it really does make for the best consistency, as I like to bread and butter like creme brulee with chunks of bread, rather than completely solid. For me, it’s as much about the custard as it is about the bread.
saffron a pinch
Marsala ice cream
Preheat the oven to a temperature of 140 degrees Celsius. 3. Cut the panettone into 1 cm thick slices. Unusually, I’m quite meticulous about this, because if the slices are too thick, they absorb all the custard, and your finished pudding is too dry.
Make sure the butter is soft enough for greasing, butter each slice of panettone well and place in a medium gratin dish (the kind you’d use with lasagna) to make an even layer of two.
Whisk the yolks with the caster sugar in a deep mixing bowl.
In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and cream to a boil with the orange peel and saffron, then remove from heat.
Set aside for 1-2 minutes to soak, and while still warm, strain the cream mixture into the yolks, whisking all the time.
Slowly pour the custard over the banneton, wait a moment for it to absorb, and then fill in any gaps. You want the solids to be completely submerged with a good “float” of custard above, like a puddle of cream on the porridge.
Sprinkle on the demerara and place the dish inside a large, deep roasting pan. Pour boiling water (from the kettle) halfway up the sides of the dish to make a water bath. cook 35-45 minutes until golden brown and set, with a slight jiggling in the middle. Serve with double cream or Marsala ice cream, if you can find it. This food, like many egg dishes, is best eaten after a short 10-minute pause to ‘settle’.
By Letitia Clarke’s Bitter Honey (Hardy Grant, £26)