Welcome to “Home with The Lost Italian” on AreaVoices! We are so happy that you have found us here. Tony and I are enjoying our new roles as food columnists for The Forum, and love having this opportunity to share our passion for food, wine and life with you.
Our column appears in the SheSays section of The Forum every Wednesday, and we’ll also feature it here on the blog every Thursday. On some occasions, due to space limitations, our weekly column gets edited in order to accommodate the accompanying photos and recipes. So, every Thursday, you can find the full, unedited version right here on AreaVoices. Throughout the week, we’ll also post about what we’re cooking at home, at Sarello’s, and hopefully even about what some of you are cooking at home, too!
This week’s column is all about holiday baking, and what makes this time of year special for us. We hope you enjoy the recipes and would love to hear from you. Please send us any questions or suggestions you may have about food, wine, Italy, or whatever else is on your mind. You can post right here on the blog in the comments section, or send us an email to: email@example.com. We’ll answer your questions every Monday right here on the blog.
PEPPERMINT BARK & PANETTONE BREAD PUDDING
(excerpts of this post appeared in the Nov. 28 edition of The Forum)
Thanksgiving has come and gone, and the holiday season is now fully upon us. We love this time of year, and everything that comes with the holidays: the music, parties, decorations, bell ringers, and just the general good cheer in the air. But, what we look forward to the most is baking holiday goodies with our eight-year-old son, Giovanni.
In our home we begin our baking tradition on the day after Thanksgiving, and each year we always start with the same special treat, Peppermint Bark. My mother made Peppermint Bark for us every year when I was growing up, and it has now become Giovanni’s favorite. The peppermint flavor shines in this mixture of creamy and crunchy textures, and it’s always good to have on hand near the mistletoe. All year long we look forward to the Friday after Thanksgiving, and hail the return of Peppermint Bark to our home.
This pretty holiday candy is delicious to eat and easy to make. All you need is one pack of white almond bark, twelve large candy canes, peppermint extract and wax paper. When I started making Peppermint Bark with Giovanni six years ago, I used a food processor to chop the candy canes instead of smashing them to bits in a plastic bag. I did this mostly for convenience, but this technique ended up creating a more refined texture to the candy, which turned out to be a hit among our family and friends.
Peppermint Bark’s soft pink color provides a nice contrast when placed on a holiday cookie platter, adding a lovely burst of color among a sea of brown-toned goodies. It also makes a great hostess or teacher gift when packaged in holiday trimmings.
Tony’s recipe this week 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. Tony took it one step further and drizzled a bit of Sarello’s Chocolate Zabaglione over the top – a touch that was a big hit with our food photographer, Dave. But you can also enjoy it with our homemade Caramel Sauce, a recipe we featured over the Thanksgiving holiday.
With only twenty-six shopping days left before Christmas, keep your baking schedule easy and fun with these simple, yet crowd-pleasing, recipes. To get the recipes, just click on the links provided below.