Sunday morning with the papers and buttery croissants. Friday evening roast chicken washed down with a glass of chardonnay (or two, or three) to celebrate the start of the weekend. In a world of never-ending (and frankly alarming) change, these constants involving food make me feel all warm and fuzzy. I just love tradition, but never more so than at Christmas.
Which is why I start nagging my local supermarket (sorry chaps) for Panettone from about mid November. I just can’t imagine my festive season breakfasts without this cakey, bready, doughy wonder packed with raisins and candied citrus. The Italians know a thing or two about living well, and eating even better.
If the wind’s not howling (granted, in Cape Town that’s not often) I hit Blouberg beach at 7am, armed with a flask of seriously strong coffee and a slice of Panettone so thick, it’s downright rude. Staring across Table Bay at the mountain and Cape Town waking up, I sip and nibble, thinking life is pretty darn good.
But Christmas morning calls for something extra special. That’s when I dip my Panettone in a dreamy blend of eggs and cream, with just a touch of real vanilla. I gently fry it – in butter of course – until it’s golden and serve it while it’s piping hot with summer berries and raspberry-ripple mascarpone. I could call it French toast, but its French name – pain perdu – sounds much more impressive.
All you need is…
1 large Panettone (I got mine at Checkers, for probably the lowest price of all the big supermarkets I checked out. Use raisin bread or brioche if you can’t find any.)
4 large eggs
half a cup of milk
half a cup of fresh cream
1 tbs castor sugar
butter, for frying
200g summer berries (I used raspberries and blueberries, but strawberries and cherries are good too)
half a jar (about 150g) of raspberry jam (I just adore Bonne Maman)
cinnamon, for dusting
icing sugar, for dusting
zest of one lime (optional)
Melt the raspberry jam in a saucepan with three tablespoons of water. Remove from the heat as soon as it starts boiling and immediately add the fruit to the jam. Stir through so all the berries are coated with jam and set aside.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, castor sugar and a few drops of vanilla extract. Cut four generous slices of the Panettone and soak it in the egg mixture. You don’t just want a coating of egg on the outside, you want it to soak up the mixture.
Melt some butter in a non-stick frying pan. Fry the slices of Panettone until golden brown on both sides. (The secret to perfect French toast is a lowish heat as it will give you golden toastiness on the outside and a puffed-up soufflé effect inside. If the heat’s too high, the outside will brown too quickly while the inside will still be raw.)
Once done, top with the fruit, a sprinkling of lime zest and a dusting of icing sugar with a pinch of cinnamon. Stir some of the leftover melted jam through the mascarpone to create a raspberry-ripple effect and serve it on the side. Merry Christmas!
Cook’s note 1: Mascarpone can be beastly thick, so I often loosen it up a bit with a tablespoon or two of milk before I stir the jam through.
Cook’s note 2: For my readers in the northern hemisphere who do not have access to fresh summer berries at this time of year, frozen berries work just as well. Just pop them straight into the hot jam.