Amaretto and Panettone Bread Pudding

I hated bread pudding (or at least I thought I did) when I was younger mainly because I had it confused with such disgusting things as rice pudding, tapioca pudding and banana pudding with Nilla wafers (YUCK!). What a stupid thing to miss out on! Bread puddings are only as good as the bread that is used though and this recipe calls for the wonderful, eggy Italian bread called panettone (which I also used to think I hated since I thought it was just like fruitcake… YUCK!). Using panettone puts you ahead of the game since it is already dotted with raisins, candied fruits and spices, making this recipe a good choice for holiday gatherings.

Warning: this is NOT low-fat and will taste awful if low-fat ingredients are used for substitutions. If you are concerned over calories or fat content, consider this a once-a-year treat.

Amaretto and Panettone Bread Pudding

Sauce:
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup amaretto liqueur
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Bread Pudding:
1 (1-pound) loaf panettone bread, crusts trimmed, 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

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 cornstarch 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.)
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.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

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.

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