When my family manages to get together for Christmas, we start the day with a special breakfast: a slice of panettone, the Italian Christmas cake, with a big puddle of caramel and rum flavoured sauce – and a glass of bubbly. My mother is the type of cook who is always experimenting, but we make her repeat that sauce every year.
I made a dressed up version of this recipe for lovely friends who invite us often to Christmas lunch, and now I have to make it for them even if I’m not here on the day. Luckily they are bayfm subscribers, because this year I will not be able to do it. So if you’d like something really over the top, but much easier to make than traditional fruit cake, try this.
1 large panettone, a light yeast cake usually with raisins and citrus peel – they turn up in December, in cardboard boxes. Try to get one where butter is listed as an ingredient, not a lot of numbers. A few people have tried to make panettone at home, but almost nobody does it twice.
For the creme patissiere:
500mL milk, 5 egg yolks, 50g. flour, 250g. sugar, about 30-40 g. liquid caramel, 500mL cream, dark rum (this makes plenty to have extra on the side or for another panettone)
Optional decoration: good dark chocolate, nuts, cocoa, cream, fruit
You have to start at least 24 hours ahead, 2 days is ok, and you will need room in the fridge.
First make the crème patissiere. Beat eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Put the mix in a heavy bottom saucepan or double boiler and add flour and warm (not boiling) milk. Cook on low heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until it thickens and coats the spoon. Allow to cool. If it has misbehaved and gone lumpy, you can pass it through a sieve and nobody needs to know. Meantime make some quite dark liquid caramel. You can do this days or weeks ahead and keep in a sealed jar at room temperature. Then whip the cream lightly and fold into the cold custard. Add caramel and rum gradually – you have to taste (a hard job I know). The flavours will develop and get a bit more intense. Refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours.
It’s time to carve your panettone. Peel off the paper from the bottom. Use a long knife to slice off the domed top, set aside. Slice off the bottom, about 3-4 cm thick. You will be left with a cylinder. Run the knife around the inside of the crust of this cylinder, slide out the centre. Cut this centre section horizontally into 2-4 cm slices.
Now you need to reassemble the cake. Put the bottom on a large serving plate, coat with caramel cream. Put the hollow barrel of crust on top, then alternate layers of cake and cream inside, finish with more cream and then the top. Be generous with the cream, but you will not use it all. Refrigerate overnight to set, don’t worry if a bit of cream comes out. The cream fuses the cake back together and the whole inside melts into creamy deliciousness.
Now the fun part. A few hours before serving, you need to decorate because your cake will taste great but may look a bit shabby. The simplest way is to sprinkle it all over with a fine veil of cocoa or icing sugar. I usually melt plenty of really dark chocolate in a double boiler with enough cream to make it spreadable, coat the whole cake in chocolate and then dust with cocoa. And arrange some nuts or fruit on top. Macadamias work for that local touch. I think the panettone is nicer if you make the sauce not too sweet and coat with bitter cocoa, otherwise it’s just too rich.
It has to stay refrigerated until close to serving time, and will keep for about 3 days in the fridge. Keep the extra sauce refrigerated too, it will need a quick whip to re-blend properly just before it goes to the table. Happy holidays and remember, everything in moderation, especially moderation.
Sister T (and mamma Franca)
ps – I ended up making this for New Year’s Eve (too many sad faces at missing out for Christmas) and I had to really emphasise the mix the sauce before you pour bit. Various guests/family members thought it was better to just skim the lovely thick stuff at the top but the flavour is at the bottom…and the alcohol…made it a bit strong but it was still lovely for breakfast.