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Panettone, You Say?

On Sunday I asked YUM readers to help me track down good fruitcake that is made somewhere in our region. Somehow that turned into a conversation about panettone, a popular Italian cake-like bread that is traditionally served around the holidays. You know it’s panettone season when you encounter towering displays of the large colorful boxes around every corner at your local supermarket.
Here’s a quick overview of the conversation that is still taking place:

“Why can’t people ditch this profoundly ponderous slab of holiday ballast [fruitcake] and revel in the youthful thrills…of Panettone?” -RisingDamp666

“mmmm…panettone, the only downside is it goes thoughtlessly from table to tummy…” -dougk

“I just don’t get it. It’s dry and not particularly dense. It’s not as flavorful as a crusty bread, not as tasty as a poundcake…but I suppose it would be good as a conveyance for something. Like, “Here’s the ricotta, honey and confectioners sugar I stirred some vanilla into for the cannoli, wanna put some on this flavorless bread of poor consistency I have here in this blue box covered with dust because no one wants to eat it?” -ECB

“It’s a silly kind of inoffensive, banality, and yep, you’d better sauce it with something, preferably a raisiny, lemony rum sauce, or the like.” -RisingDamp666

This conversation particularly interested me because a couple of weeks ago I had an ongoing email conversation with reader MikeLibra about bread pudding. I was lamenting the absence of readily available brioche in the area (for shame, for shame, Buffalo) and he suggested that he likes to make bread pudding with panettone. I asked him for the recipe and determined that I would make it so that I could run an article on it closer to Christmas. Now however, I can see that a panettone resolution (or perhaps inspiration) is needed immediately!
The recipe MikeLibra uses for turning dry and somewhat flavorless store-bought panettone into a fantastic bread pudding comes from Giada De Laurentiis, a popular Food Network cook.

Panettone Bread Pudding with Amaretto Sauce

1/2 cup whipping cream ∙ 1/2 cup whole milk ∙ 3 tbsp sugar ∙ 1/4 cup amaretto liqueur ∙ 2 tsp cornstarch
To make the sauce: Bring the cream, milk, and sugar to a boil in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. In a small bowl, mix the amaretto and cornstarchpud.jpg to blend and then whisk into the cream mixture. Simmer over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Set aside and keep warm. (The amaretto sauce can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm before serving.)

Bread Pudding
1 (1 lb.) loaf panettone bread, crusts removed, bread cut into 1-inch cubes ∙ 8 large eggs ∙ 1 1/2 cups whipping cream ∙ 2 1/2 cups whole milk ∙ 1 1/4 cups sugar
Preheat the oven to 350º
To make the bread pudding: Lightly butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. Arrange the bread cubes in the prepared dish. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, milk, and sugar to blend. Pour the custard over the bread cubes, and press the bread cubes gently to submerge. Let stand for 30 minutes, occasionally pressing the bread cubes into the custard mixture. (Recipe can be prepared up to this point 2 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Bake until the pudding puffs and is set in the center, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly. Spoon the bread pudding into bowls, drizzle with the warm amaretto sauce, and serve.

Now that we have that out of the way, can anyone tell me where I can get a good fruitcake?

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