Today’s Holiday Recipe: Panettone Bread Pudding

It’s December 1st, and for the next 24 days we’ll be featuring a different holiday recipe for you here on our blog. Today’s recipe features a traditional Italian fruitcake called Panettone, which originated in the city of Milan. Not to be confused with our American version of fruitcake, Panettone is a light, moist, flavorful cake more like a bread, with candied orange peel, lemon zest and raisins. It is wonderful served in slices after a meal, or even for breakfast. On this occasion, however, Tony uses it to spice up a traditional comfort dessert, with his recipe for Panettone Bread Pudding.

“Panettone is the King of Christmas Cakes in Italian culture,” Tony says. “In Etobicoke, the Toronto neighborhood where I grew up, the grocery stores and bakeries would be stacked with huge displays of Panettone. Big, bright boxes in every color, tied with fancy ribbons, all ready to give to your friends and loved ones. To me, Panettone signifies, hey, Christmas is here now.”

“Bread pudding is a popular dessert found in many countries, and originated as a way to use leftover bread.” Tony says. “I like using the Panettone for this recipe, because the bread is already filled with the flavors of the holiday season.”

“We use bread pudding in both savory and sweet dishes at Sarello’s,” Tony says. “But what I like about bread pudding even more than its versatility, is how easy it is to make .”

Soaking the Panettone in the wet ingredients before baking ensures that every piece of bread is moist. To further ensure the outcome, place your baking dish in a water bath to prevent the bread pudding from burning, curdling or drying out during baking.

For this occasion, we served the bread pudding with fresh berries and a dollop of vanilla gelato. But you can also enjoy it with our homemade Caramel Sauce.

With only 23 shopping days left before Christmas, keep your baking schedule easy and fun with these simple, yet crowd-pleasing, recipes. To get today’s recipes, just click on the link provided below.

CLICK HERE for PANETTONE BREAD PUDDING RECIPE 

Tony’s Panettone Bread Pudding

Ingredients:
7 large eggs

1½  cups heavy cream
1½  cups milk
1 tbsp. honey
½ cup sugar
1½ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
¾ lbs. Panettone, cut into cubes

Early Preparation: Pre-heat oven to 300° F

Instructions:
Combine the eggs, cream, milk, honey, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla in a large bowl and whisk until fully incorporated. Add the Panettone cubes and mix together. Cover with a damp towel and let the mixture soak for 30 minutes.

Pour the mixture into a 9×13 baking dish. Place the baking dish into a larger pan (like a roasting pan), and fill with hot water until it reaches half-way up the sides of the baking dish. This water bath will help to prevent burning, drying out or curdling of the mixture.

Bake at 300° F for one hour. When ready, the top should have a nice, golden crust. Place a toothpick into the center of the dish to test for doneness. Remove from oven and allow to cool for fifteen minutes before serving, if serving warm.

To Serve: Cut into squares, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with ice cream and fresh berries. Or drizzle some of Homemade Caramel Sauce over the top for some added comfort.

To Store: Wrap tightly with plastic or place in an airtight container for up to 5-7 days. Reheat in the microwave to warm it up before serving.

Doing the Happy Dance for Bruschetta

I realized today that, what with end-of-school chaos and a variety of other distractions, I’ve fallen a little behind in getting our weekly columns from The Forum posted here on the blog. So, this week I’ll be posting the last few for your enjoyment. Please let us know if you try any of our recipes, and the results you experience. We love to hear from our readers! :)

Featured in The Forum on May 13, 2014
There are few appetizers that make us happier than the ever-versatile bruschetta. Like, giddy in the heart, do a little dance, kind of happy. We love everything about this traditional Italian antipasto, whether we’re eating it or preparing it.

Bruschetta has been a mainstay in Italian cuisine since the times of ancient Rome, and its name derives from a Roman dialect verb bruscare, meaning “to roast over coals,” which refers to the grilled bread, or bruschetta. While many Americans associate the word with the common tomato relish typically served with bruschetta, the mainstay of this appetizer is the grilled bread, which can be topped with an endless variety of foods.

Recently we attended a party hosted by our friends, Jon and Nikki Anderson of Fargo. Nikki’s food theme for the evening was a “bruschetta bar,” which consisted of several different types of breads and crackers and an equally generous variety of toppings.

There was something so delightful about this idea – as guests we loved working our way around the table, sampling the different combinations and trying to choose a favorite. This was no easy task as Nikki is an artist skilled in several mediums, food included, and her bruschetta bar featured about six different toppings. But the one that edged out all the others for us was her olive tapenade, a Provencal dish consisting of finely chopped olives, olive oil, capers, and anchovies.

What made Nikki’s tapenade so memorable was her creative use of orange juice and orange zest in the mix, which brightened up the entire dish with color and a punch of flavor. We’ve added this to our own tapenade recipe, and it just made everything about it better.

Making traditional bruschetta (properly pronounced “broo-SKET-ta” but also called “bru-SHET-ta” in America) is easy. Start with a loaf of good, crusty French bread or other artisan loaf, and cut it into half-inch slices. Brush a thin coating of extra virgin olive oil over each piece and grill on each side for one to two minutes, until the grill marks are visible on each slice. Rub the grilled bread lightly with a clove of garlic and top with nearly anything you desire.

Grilling the bread is the traditional way to make bruschetta, and it definitely brings more flavor to the final dish, but you can also bake the bread in a 350 degree oven for about 5 to 8 minutes until it is a light golden brown and slightly crispy on the outside.

Inspired by Nikki, we’re sharing two delicious recipes to feature at your own bruschetta bar this summer. In addition to Tony’s olive tapenade, our second recipe is a variation of a recipe from my aunt and uncle, Jean and John Sherman, of Colorado Springs, CO, whose tomato bruschetta was a major hit at our family’s biennial Schmeckfest reunion last year.

Both recipes feature anchovies, which makes Tony very happy because they are also a staple in Sicilian cuisine. Anchovies are a terrific flavor-builder as they enhance the main ingredient with a wonderful layer of saltiness and tang, and used in small amounts you shouldn’t detect any fishy flavor.

The summer party season is about to kick off over the next few weekends with graduation parties and barbecues, and we think a bruschetta bar is a great way to engage your guests and bring them into the party. They might even reward you with their own happy dance.

Grilled Bruschetta

Ingredients:
1 loaf of French bread or baguette, cut into half-inch slices
½ cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled

Directions:
Use a bread knife to cut the bread into half-inch slices. Brush both sides of each slice with a light, even coating of extra virgin olive oil. Place on a hot grill (direct, high heat) for approximately one minute per side, until golden brown, with some char marks on the edges and center.

Remove from the grill and lightly rub the clove of garlic over one side of each slice.

OTHER FEATURED RECIPES:
Tony’s Green Olive Tapenade
Tomato Anchovy Bruschetta Topping

GooGoo’s Baked Ham & Other Easter Menu Ideas

This week we’re excited to conclude our three-part Easter menu series with a recipe for baked ham from my great-grandmother, Florence Murphy, aka GooGoo.

GooGoo died before I was born, but her ham recipe has been a holiday staple in our family since I can remember, first at my grandmother’s Easter table, and then at my mother’s.

The torch has been passed this year, and I will be making the Easter ham for our family’s celebration on Sunday. I was grateful to be able to test out GooGoo’s recipe in advance for our photo shoot, and am happy to report that the process was one-hundred percent pain-free.

Aside from tradition and the general ease of preparing this ham for baking, there are several things I like about GooGoo’s recipe. Just minutes after I placed the ham in the oven, my kitchen smelled heavenly. Tony came home about fifteen minutes after the ham went in and practically swooned with delight. Seriously, he was almost weak in the knees – reason enough to make this ham again. And again, and again.

But my favorite discovery was that this is the perfect recipe to make with kids. From studding the ham with cloves, to preparing the paste and basting it as it bakes, watching the water level in the pan, and even whisking the gravy, kids can be a part of the entire process. If you’re a parent or grandparent, I hope you’ll consider inviting the little ones in your life to help out – I guarantee they’ll never forget it, and will probably even volunteer to help next year.

When buying the ham, I was confronted with the choice between a shank half or a butt half. (Yes, I know I just said butt. You can too – it will give the kids a good laugh.) Both were close in price and looked essentially the same to me, so I asked the friendly butcher at Hornbacher’s which one would be better. He explained that there are more bones in the butt half, and that the shank half, which was the slightly more expensive option, had just one bone and better flavor. I took the shank half.

Ham comes already cooked, so you could just eat it straight from the wrapping if you like. But GooGoo had a better vision, as baking the ham intensifies its flavor. GooGoo’s recipe is delicious, straightforward, easy to follow and practically foolproof. The one key to remember is to add a little water to the pan once the ham is in, which will help prevent the sugar from burning. I had to add a tablespoon or two of water several times as it baked, so be sure to check the pan often. This will be a great job for Gio.

We’re including GooGoo’s recipe for ham gravy today, so this step is important to ensure that the drippings can be used; however, if you don’t intend to make gravy it’s not such a big deal.

GooGoo’s ham is excellent served either hot or at room temperature, which means you can prepare it in advance for an Easter brunch if desired. But, if you do plan to make the ham gravy it is best to when made and served right after the ham is removed from the oven.

We hope you enjoy GooGoo’s baked ham at your family’s Easter feast, but it will brighten up your table even on a plain old Monday. I know it did for GooGoo. Happy Easter!

CLICK HERE for GooGoo’s Baked Ham RECIPE

Other recipes you might enjoy for your Easter feast:
Easter Egg Strata (eggbake)
Apple Sausage Breakfast Ring
Raspberry Friands
Honey Gorgonzola Hearts Salad
Apple Spinach Salad
Marilyn’s Easy Potato Salad
Easy Fresh Fruit Salad
Perfect Whipped Potatoes
Green Beans Nasello
Marianna’s Roasted Red Peppers
Prosciutto e Melone
Tuscan Bean Salad
Honey Mustard Crusted Rack of Lamb
Grilled Top Sirloin Roast
Coconut Macaroons
Flourless Chocolate Torte
Tiramisu
Angel Food Cake

A Year of Food…In Review

It’s finally time to say goodbye to 2013, and although it’s been a generally good year we are nonetheless perfectly happy to see it come to an end. As former sailors (albeit on luxury cruise vessels), Tony and I could never really get comfortable with the idea of spending an entire year mired in the number “13.”

You see, every vessel we sailed on, with the exception of one, was free and clear of this number. Cabin numbers would skip from 112 to 114, crew and passenger manifests would do the same, as would dining room table numbers, muster assignments, etc. The one ship that didn’t follow this mariner’s tradition was plagued with a series of unfortunate events, and we were relieved that our contracts that season were on the shorter side.

However, many good things did happen this year, and we’d be remiss to send 2013 off without at least a little fanfare. So, here are a few of our favorite 2013 moments at Home with The Lost Italian:

1) Blogging is a fluid process, and over the past twelve months we have come to know our readers better. We know that you love chocolate desserts, as proven by the number of visits to the post “Classic (and Amazing) Flourless Chocolate Torte.” which is the #1 most-visited post on our site. This dessert is decadence at its most refined, and it’s also gluten-free which means virtually everyone can enjoy this chocolate cake. Cut it into slices for an elegant after-dinner dessert served with a lovely Tawny Port. Or, cut into small bars topped with a dollop of Real Whipped Cream and fresh berries, served with a glass of cold milk.

2) While you enjoy decadence, you’re also health-conscious, as evidenced by the #2 post on the site, “Tony’s Tuscan Bean Salad.” But don’t be fooled by the super-healthy nature of this side dish: with the right ingredients receiving an extra kick from balsamic vinegar, this salad is big on flavor and pairs well with seafood, poultry, pasta and even beef. It’s the perfect way to kick off your healthy-eating ambitions for the New Year.

3) Our #3 post for the year was for such a simple dish, but one that Tony predicted would become popular after enjoying it himself: Our “One-Pan Fried Egg Sandwich” was a post that surprised us with its following, but who can resist a recipe with good toasting bread, Canadian Bacon, aged Cheddar Cheese, sauteed Spinach, and of course, a Fried Egg? Not us, and apparently, not you either.

4) In the fall of 2013, Tony joined the team at KVLY-TV’s new lifestyle morning show, North Dakota Today, as a featured guest each Monday morning. This new experience is the perfect complement for his talents, and Tony loves bringing new recipes and food ideas to Andrea and Chris each week. What a fun new adventure this has been for our family!

5) Our #4 post in 2013 was “Thanksgiving 101: Turkey Day Tips & Guidelines” where we shared Tony’s Top Ten Turkey Tips, Thanksgiving Wine Pairings, Turkey Thawing Guidelines and a whole host of recipes perfect for this harvest holiday. We received a terrific amount of questions over this holiday, with many of them focused on our recipe for Sarello’s Perfect Whipped Potatoes, which prompted us to create another popular post called, “Whipped Potatoes Q&A…”

Congratulations to Jean Eppler and her Cranberries Gone Wild Dip!

6) We hosted our first recipe contest last fall, “In Search of the Perfect Party Dip,” and with the traffic that has been generated by Jean Eppler’s (now-famous) Cranberries Gone Wild Dip, we’d say that the public definitely chose the right winner. We bumped into Jean’s dip at nearly every holiday party we attended this season, and we even enjoyed it on Christmas Day, with lime chips and a lime margarita, just as Jean recommends. Jean’s recipe has been posted on our blog for less than three months, but in that time it has catapulted itself into the #5 most-viewed page on the blog, for the entire year. Now THAT’S a winner!

7) Our year ended with our Holiday Heritage Recipe Contest, our second big recipe event, and we were thilled to have three amazing recipes and heritage stories in the finals. Neither Tony, Gio, nor I were able to agree on one favorite among these three, and we were happy to turn the decision over to the public, who chose Astrid Axtman’s Great-Grandmother’s Swedish Spritz Cookies as the winner, making 12-year-old Astrid the happy new owner of a brand-new Kitchen Aid Mixer sponsored by Sarello’s. We are predicting that kids will emerge as a big trend on the culinary scene in 2014, and Astrid’s win definitely supports this theory.

8) Our theory on the Kids’ Culinary Invasion may be somewhat homespun, as our nine-year-old son, Giovanni, has really begun to come into his own in the kitchen this year. Last winter Gio and I decided to create our own recipe for meatballs, which we promptly named “Gio’s Meatballs.” We shared this recipe with our newspaper readers, and here on the blog, and Tony and Gio had a blast making the DEMONSTRATION VIDEO together.

9) Tony and Gio created another one of my favorite food moments from 2013 when they demonstrated how to make our family’s favorite holiday treat - Peppermint Bark - on North Dakota Today. You’d think the pressure of LIVE TV  might have gotten the best of Giovanni, but, as the saying goes, the olive doesn’t fall far from the Sicilian. Or something like that. :) It makes my heart sing to watch the two of them cooking together, and you can watch the video RIGHT HERE.

.At the start of 2013 this blog was just one month old, and our goal for the year was to double our monthly traffic numbers by the end of the year. The results are far beyond our expectations, as we have seen our web traffic increase more than ten times over from the first month to the twelfth, and we are delighted that many of you have chosen to interact with us either by entering one of our contests, leaving your comments for us, or emailing us with questions about our recipes.

We absolutely love having this opportunity to connect with our readers through our shared passions for food, fun and the good life, and we are so glad you have found us here at Home with The Lost Italian. We can’t wait to share our vision, and recipes, for 2014 with you, and wish you a very happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year! Bring on 2014!

Tony, Sarah and Giovanni, in the Badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota