Growing up in a half-Italian household but inheriting a full arsenal of Italian holiday traditions, most Christmases were spent consuming some amount of panettone. The feathery, butter-enriched, yeasty sweet bread felt like much more of a rare treat at the time, in ye olde years before niche pastries and artisanal anything were really a thing. I loved the bread part but realized, as a 10 year old who hated raisins anyway, I could kinda live without the dried, sometimes-candied fruit inside.
Turns out my siblings shared my feelings; inevitably there’d be leftover and swiftly-staling panettone in the days after Christmas and instead of tossing the whole thing, my mom (as she always did and still does) got clever and capitalized on the stale bread. New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day breakfast, then, meant panettone French toast or a custardy panettone strata.
Now it’s a lot easier to find different varieties, and though I’m a purist with a lot of things relating to my kid-hood, I’m personally pretty damn pumped that chocolate chip panettone is almost just as widely available as the traditional dried-fruit format. If nothing else it’s a more approachable way to give Jack a taste of the traditions I grew up with. The only difference now? The panettone rarely has time to get stale before we eat it all! Luckily, you can use fresh panettone for this, too.
Somewhere near you, there is a panettone aging gracefully. Maybe on your countertop. Maybe on a rack at the grocery store. Maybe at a neighbor’s house — one thing Nonnas can’t resist is gifting panettone, so it’s easy to get stuck with more than you need. Perhaps your neighbors will thank you for taking one off their hands. No matter how you get it, don’t worry about the condition it’s in. It’s ready and waiting for all manner of secondary uses: getting toasted and dunked in (spiked) coffee, cubed and layered into a last-minute riff on a trifle, or, if you’re looking for a New Year’s Day breakfast that feels special but is really, secretly just a dressed-up version of sturdy, reliable French toast, look no further.
Traditionally, tall, circular loaves of panettone are cut into hefty wedges. For the French toast, you’ll want to peel off the wax paper liner (and keep a keen eye out for possible a double layer on the bottom) and lay this beauty on its side to slice into rounds. Aim for a good, thick slice — this way, the already-eggy, buttery bread can stand up to a quick dip in milk and eggs without falling apart.
The vanilla in the crème fraîche is totally optional, depending on how much time you have, how hard you feel like trying, and how much you feel like going (or sending someone) to the grocery store. It won’t sweeten the crème fraîche, it’ll simply enhance the scent and lend a rounder, softer flavor to the whole plate. Those tiny vanilla seeds also lend a small but impressive detail if you’re out to impress anyone. (Wink.)
Depending the sweet teeth at your table, you may opt for only crème fraîche and no maple syrup, or no crème fraîche and only syrup. Butter is a nice alternative, too, if you’re not into the tang of crème fraîche.
Chocolate Chip Panettone French Toast with Vanilla Crème Fraîche
1 loaf chocolate chip panettone (you can also use traditional panettone with dried fruit, or other varieties)
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, plus more if needed
6 ounces crème fraîche
Half of one vanilla bean, seeds scraped out and reserved
Maple syrup, for serving
Lay the panettone on its side and trim off the rounded top. (This will make sure that end slice absorbs the egg mixture from both sides. You will eat this after you trim it off. Cook’s treat.) Cut the panettone into thick, 1-inch slices and set aside.
In a shallow pie plate or bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt. Make sure the eggs are thoroughly beaten for an even consistency.
Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the butter. Dip both sides of each slice of panettone in the egg mixture and fry for a few minutes per side until golden. Add more butter if the skillet seems too dry. Set the French toast on a platter and cover with a clean kitchen towel to keep warm. Cut the slices in half before serving, if you like.
In a small bowl, combine the crème fraîche with the vanilla seeds, stirring until thoroughly combined.
Serve the French toast with dollops of the vanilla crème fraîche and a drizzle of maple syrup.
- baked goods
- beans + legumes
- dinner party
- gluten free
- make ahead
- pregnant food
- roasted stuff
- special occasions
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