January 2011

Late-night Food Craving, Round Two

Things I want to devour right now:

a big fat juicy steak, grilled (medium rare)*
strawberry cupcake with cream cheese frosting
fresh strawberries
grilled cheddar cheese sandwich
chopped romaine with black olives and balsamic vinaigrette*
Dungeness crab legs
fried okra
tomatoes fried in olive oil
poached eggs on toast
cheese enchiladas with a pile of chopped iceberg lettuce
buttered baguette and salami sandwich

*really want

Somehow, it helps to make this list. Actually, not really. Mind you…I demolished a Big Mac, Chicken McNuggets and fries for a quick dinner tonight. What is going on? I’m still hungry!

Panettone Bread Pudding

I never thought I was a bread pudding fan…until now.

You might notice these posts are somewhat…Christmasy? That’s because I baked these delights during the holidays and only now — yes forgive me — am I posting about them. I was looking through my pictures and couldn’t resist posting these latest baking adventures, even as February is just around the corner. But who says you can’t have bread pudding all-year-round? Right. So let’s get cookin.

I’ve always wanted to make bread pudding out of panettone, an Italian dessert bread served during Christmas and other celebrations. It is just the right bread for it: eggy like a brioche…fragrant with orange…and it already contains delectable dried fruit pieces.

First, obtain your loaf. They’re abundant during Christmas but I bet you can find it at your local World Market any time of the year. If you can’t find panettone, brioche or even Hawaiian Bread works too. Bread pudding works best when the bread is stale and on the dry side. First, cut it up in 1 1/2 pieces.

The recipe I used asked to toast it as well, so I did. ¬†You can see some pieces got a little burned but it didn’t matter. In fact, I think it added a nuttier touch.

Next, mix your custard. Bread pudding is essentially bread soaked in a nice, rich custard that is baked into a dessert. It actually tastes similar to and has the same texture as French toast.

Beat eggs with whole milk or even half-and-half, as I’ve seen in some recipes. Add some flavoring. I added vanilla and almond extracts, though I probably didn’t have to, since panettone is already very aromatic, especially of orange. But that didn’t stop me from adding more orange peel!

A note about the Microplane:
The black-handled tool you see here, is by far one of my favorite kitchen tools of all time. I use the zest of a citrus fruit almost every time I bake and with a microplane, you get a beautiful heap of very fine lemon or orange zest within seconds. Easy breezy. Getting that zest isn’t a simple task if you don’t have this handy tool. It is a must-have item if you cook. It’s also a great tool for grating cheese for your sauces and salads. Get your Microplane now!

Add the zest to the custard and beat until well combined. Pour over the toasted bread and let it soak for and hour, ideally overnight if you have time. Bake in a 400-degree oven for about an hour. The custard-soaked bread puffs up so nicely!

Once cooled, cut into large squares and serve warm. Enjoy.

Use What You Have: Blueberry Brownies

Months ago around the holidays, I was inspired to try this recipe after reading about it online. Plus, I just happened to have a bag of frozen blueberries in the freezer. How serendipitous! Recipe can be found here. Enjoy with a tall glass of milk.

By the by, I used ground cloves instead of cinnamon. Not sure if adding spices enhances the brownies, as I found it a bit strange. But adding any sort of spice seems to instantly holiday-ify a dessert. It was fitting back in December when I made these but since the holidays are over, I’m sure you could skip out on the cinnamon if you don’t have any.