In my family, the Christmas season hasn’t officially arrived until you’ve taken a drive down Erie Street and seen the panettone perfectly displayed in the window at La Stella’s and Italia Bakery.

What is panettone? It’s a sweet bread that I’ve always referred to as the Italian version of fruitcake.  But unlike fruitcake, people actually eat the panettone…and like it!  As the holidays approach and the relatives start making “the visits”, you can always be assured that someone (if not all of them) will bring panettone with them.  Yes, they come bearing panettone. 

At my house, even though there was always a panettone on the counter during the holidays, the only one that ever really ate the panettone was my dad.  It real purpose was just to tell visitors yes, we have panettone.

Traditional pannetone is made with candied fruits. It’s origins are said to go back as far as the Roman Empire, when those crafty Romans sweentened their bread with honey.

Today, there are so many different flavour combinations, the list is endless.  My uncle has a cafe in Mount Clemens and he’s got one made with chocolate and pepperoncini.  No one actually bought it.  I think  he just loved the idea that there’s a panettone out there made with those ingredients.

So that now that we’ve passed the Christmas holiday, what do you do with all that leftover panettone?  Well, you can make panettone bread pudding of course!  My sister Rose, found this Darina Allen recipe for bread and butter pudding.

Pannetone Bread and Butter Pudding
Serves 6-8

12 slices pannetone or good-quality white bread, crusts removed
2 ozs (55g) butter, preferably unsalted
½ teasp freshly-grated nutmeg or cinnamon
7 ozs (200g) Lexia raisins or plump sultanas
16 fl ozs (475ml) cream
8 fl ozs (225ml) milk
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 teasp. pure vanilla extract or a dash of Eau de Vie or brandy
6 ozs (170g) sugar
1 tablesp sugar for sprinkling on top of the pudding Garnish Softly-whipped cream
1 x 8 inches (20.5cm) square pottery or china dish

Butter the pannetone or bread and arrange 4 slices, buttered side down, in one layer in a dish. Sprinkle with half the nutmeg or cinnamon and half the raisins, arrange another layer of bread, buttered side down, over the raisins, and sprinkle the remaining spice and fruit on top. Cover the raisins with the remaining pannetone or bread, buttered side down.

In a bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla extract, eau de vie or brandy if using and sugar. Pour the mixture through a sieve over the pudding. Sprinkle the sugar over the top and let the mixture stand, covered loosely, at room temperature for at least 1 hour or chill overnight.

Bake in a bain-marie – the water should be half way up the sides of the baking dish. Bake in the middle of a preheated oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 1 hour approx. or until the top is crisp and golden. Serve the pudding warm with some softly-whipped cream.