Saffron Custard & Panettone Pudding
The best thing about Christmas in Italy is Panettone. This yeasty-sweet, yellow brioche-style bread enriched with candied and dried fruit is one of my favourite things in the world. I love to eat great, soft fistfuls of it, as it is, and I love to use it in baking. The following buttercup-yellow, wobbling pudding is an Italianisation of one of my favourite English dishes, and just one of panettone’s pleasure-giving possibilities.
Panettone should not be hard to find in England. Lidl stock it almost all year round, and theirs is usually Italian and very cheap. It is always on offer just after Christmas too.
The bain-marie method may seem like a faff, but it really does make for the best consistency, as I like my B&B pudding almost like a crème brulee with pieces of bread in it, rather than totally solid. For me it is as much about the custard as it is about the bread.
500ml whole milk
250ml double cream
6 egg yolks
60g caster sugar
A pinch of saffron 1 strip orange zest (use a peeler) 80g butter 250g (half) a large Panettone 4 tbsp demerara sugar
Preheat the oven to 165.
Slice the panettone into 1.5 cm-width slices. Unusually, I’m quite precise about this, as if the slices are very thick they soak up all the custard and your finished pudding is too dry.
Making sure the butter is soft enough to spread, butter each slice of panettone well and lay in a gratin dish to make an even coating of 2 layers.
Whisk the yolks with the caster sugar in a deep mixing bowl. Bring the milk and cream to the boil with the orange peel and saffron inside. Set aside for thirty seconds or so to infuse. Whilst still warm, strain the cream mixture into the yolks, whisking all the time.
Pour the custard slowly over the panettone, waiting a moment for it to be absorbed, then topping up any gaps. You want the solids to be totally submerged with a good ‘float’ of custard above, like a puddle of cream on porridge.
Sprinkle over the demerara and place the dish inside a large, deep roasting tray. Pour boiling water (from a kettle) halfway up the sides of the dish to make a bain marie. Cook for 35 – 45 minutes until golden brown and just set, with a slight wobble in the middle. Serve with double cream or marsala ice cream. This is best eaten, like many eggy dishes, after a little 10 minute pause to ‘settle’.