Take advantage of panettone's delicious, bold taste and make one EASY holiday bread pudding. This festive bread features candied citrus and dried fruits and delivers all the flavor you need for a special Christmastime recipe.
Panettone is something I look forward to buying every Christmas season. Always buying, never making.
Reason being that real deal panettone is quite a labor of love! It takes multiple days, calls for specialty ingredients and equipment, and requires a whole lot of patience. I'm TOTALLY okay with leaving it to the professionals for this one.
Panettone is delicious toasted with a little butter (or let's be honest, in pieces ripped straight off), but it truly shines in basic recipes, like baked panettone french toast, as its bold, candied fruit flavor does all of the flavor heavy lifting.
This year I took things a step further and made panettone bread pudding. With key differences from its morning counterpart, this decidedly more dessert version features the same simplicity and is a festive way to feed a crowd.
Why This Recipe Works
- Instead of plain bread, using panettone, a Milanese Christmas cake/bread brimming with candied citrus and dried fruits, is such an easy way to bring a ton of flavor to a classic type of recipe.
- This recipe uses an optimal ratio of eggs and milk/cream for perfectly soaked bread that bakes up to hold its shape well without becoming dry or mushy.
- With just the right amount of moisture and flavor/sweetness from the panettone, you don't even need to make a sauce for serving. In fact I tested this recipe with one and we all preferred it without.
- Panettone: One pound of store-bought panettone is used here. While commonly found in one and two pound round loaves, you'll notice some packages sold here in the U.S. will be just off from those amounts, such as a 1000 gram loaf (2.2 pounds). The slight difference won't make a difference in this panettone bread pudding. In that example, just use half of the loaf.
- Milk: Two cups of milk provide the bulk of the custard liquid. Use your preferred variety (I like 2%), though the percentage isn't too important as cream is being added, too.
- Cream: One cup of cream adds just enough of that rich, luxurious dessert flavor without weighing everything down.
- Eggs: Six large eggs are used here. While this sounds like a lot, the three cups of liquid (milk and cream) balance out the eggs for a sufficient amount of moisture without too much of an eggy, breakfast-type flavor.
- Brown sugar: Using brown sugar over granulated helps provide more of that warm and cozy flavor we love here.
While store-bought panettone has a very long shelf-life (it was likely made months and months ago!), it still benefits by undergoing a quick toast to dry out the bread cubes before using it in a dish with a significant liquid portion, like this panettone bread pudding.
That said, if you've opened the package and have let it sit for several days to a week+ you will probably be fine by just cubing it and proceeding with the recipe.
Toasting the Panettone
- Preheat your oven to 300°F/149°C. Cut the panettone into roughly one-inch cubes and place them in a single layer on a large rimmed sheet pan (or two if it all doesn't fit).
- Once the oven has heated, toast the panettone for 15-20 minutes in total, shaking the tray up halfway through the toast time to help the cubes toast evenly. You don't want the panettone to get dark or anything, rather just lightly golden and slightly dehydrated to better absorb the custard without sogging up.
Assembling the Panettone Bread Pudding
- Rub the pat of butter on the bottom and sides of your baking dish. This recipe can be made in an 8" x 8" three-quart dish (with deep sides, around 4-inches tall or so) or a standard 9" x 13". Add the toasted panettone cubes to the greased dish and set aside for now.
- Whisk together the eggs in a mixing bowl until beaten.
- Add the brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg and whisk in evenly.
- Pour in the milk and cream and whisk until combined.
- Pour the custard evenly over top of the panettone in the baking dish, taking care to hit all of the edge cubes to not leave them dry. Using the back of a spatula or a wooden spoon, lightly press the panettone down so all of the pieces get a chance to submerge in the custard and moisten. Let the panettone bread pudding sit for 30 minutes, during which time heat the oven to 350°F/177°C.
- Bake for 45 minutes if using a 9" x 13" pan or 60 minutes if using a deep 8" x 8" pan (the extra height requires more time to bake). You'll know it's done when a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, and if no liquid custard rises up from between the cubes when you gently press down on the surface. The bread pudding as a whole will still jiggle a bit which is fine, but you just don't want it to be liquid-y.
- If serving this panettone bread pudding warm, let it rest for 20-30 minutes before slicing to help it hold its shape in squares. It's also delicious served at room temperature.
- While traditional bread pudding is often served with a sweet dessert sauce, such as vanilla or rum, this recipe really doesn't need one! A dusting of powdered sugar does the trick. That said, if you have a bread pudding sauce you really like to use, then that would be just fine here, too. In testing this recipe I made an orange vanilla sauce that was tasty, but didn't add enough extra pizzazz to this already-delicious bread pudding to make it worth the time to make.
Around the holidays you can find panettone in supermarkets, but also in discount chains like TJ Maxx and membership warehouses like Costco. I like to buy big 2+ pound panettone loaves at Costco so I have plenty to make a recipe and then snack on, too.
Nope! While some recipes call for it likely for aesthetic reasons (though I like how the crusts look in it?), it doesn't serve any practical purpose and just makes extra work so I never do it.
Due to all of the liquid in this recipe, toasting the panettone cubes just enough for them to turn golden and dehydrate slightly helps them better absorb the custard. If your panettone package has been open for several days or longer, toasting will still be beneficial but you can skip this step for a shortcut.
Cover the bread pudding and store it in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. To reheat, cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in a 350°F oven until warmed throughout, around 15-20 minutes, taking care not to overdo it so it doesn't become dry.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Panettone Bread Pudding
- 16 oz (454g) panettone loaf cut into 1-inch cubes (about 8-9 cups)
- 6 large eggs
- ¾ cup (147g) packed brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 cups (480ml) milk (I use 2%)
- 1 cup (240ml) heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon (5g) unsalted butter for greasing the dish
- Confectioners' sugar for serving
- Preheat oven to 300°F. Cut the panettone into cubes roughly one-inch in size (or a tiny bit larger). Place them on a large ungreased rimmed sheet pan and toast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, flipping once halfway through, until they have dried out some and are turning just lightly golden-brown. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside, turning off the oven for now.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until beaten well. Add the brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg and whisk in until the sugar has dissolved and everything is combined.
- Pour in the milk and cream and whisk well until evenly combined.
- Grease the bottom and sides of a pan with the butter, then add the lightly toasted panettone cubes to the pan in an even layer.
- Evenly pour the egg/milk custard mixture into the pan over the panettone. Press down on it lightly with a spatula or spoon to moisten all of the panettone pieces. Let sit for 25-30 minutes to soak, using this time to turn the oven back on and heat it to 350°F.
- Once the bread pudding has soaked, bake for 45 minutes (if using a 9" x13" dish) to 1 hour (if using an 8" x 8" 3-quart dish), or until no liquid bubbles up when the surface is lightly pressed and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. If the top of the bread pudding appears nice and golden-brown before it's done baking, loosely drape an aluminum foil tent over the top of the baking dish partway through bake time to prevent it from browning further.
- Let the bread pudding rest for 20-30 minutes if serving warmed before dusting the powdered sugar over top and slicing.
- Toasting the panettone cubes dehydrates them a bit and allows them to better soak up the custard. That said, I have skipped this step if the package of panettone I'm using has been open for several days and it's worked fine if you're crunched for time.
- The bake time will differ based upon the size of your baking dish. A dish with more surface area (like a 9" x 13") will result in a thinner bread pudding that is quicker to bake, while a deeper 8" x 8" three-quart dish will take about 15-20 minutes longer.
- To know when it's done baking, look for a) a thin tester inserted in the center to come out clean, and b) no liquid custard to rise up when the surface is gently pressed. The middle of the bread pudding may still jiggle a slight bit.
- If the top of this panettone bread pudding is browning too quickly, loosely drape a sheet of aluminum foil over top of the baking dish partway through the bake time to prevent it from getting darker before it's fully cooked.
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