It’s not often I have leftover Pandoro. Everyone in my family loves it so it doesn’t last long. I still have a clear image in my mind of my son at age 1, toddling around in a blue and white striped one-piece thingie with a sailboat on it, clutching a giant piece of Pandoro in his fist. Fifteen years later, his sartorial taste has changed but his devotion to this sweet, airy cake remains strong.
I buy at least one, usually two Pandoro cakes for the holidays and between the four of us and extended family we polish them off for breakfast within a few days. Pandoro has gotten to be expensive in recent years otherwise I’d buy more. In fact, I’ve found that the best time to buy it is after the holidays, when demand for it drops and it suddenly becomes almost affordable.
In past years I’ve used extra Pandoro to make a fancy New Year’s trifle. This year I went casual and made baked French toast for a brunch with friends. It was, quite possibly, the best French toast I’ve ever made. The cake’s light and tender crumb turned out to be just right for absorbing the custard. But it was the Pandoro’s distinct flavor ~ sweet, buttery and yeasty with a hint of citrus ~ that really made the difference. The generous splash of Punch Abruzzo didn’t hurt either.
You should still be able to find Pandoro in well-stocked supermarkets, Italian delis and gourmet food shops through January. Pick one up while they’re still available (and affordable) and treat yourself to brunch.
(Clockwise from top left: custard-soaked Pandoro slices before baking; detail of baked French toast; the corner of the pan. Top right and bottom photos taken by Michelle Andonian)
Baked Pandoro French Toast
(copyright 2013 Domenica Marchetti)
Pandoro’s light and airy texture makes it perfect for baked French toast. Plus it’s squishy so you can easily arrange the slices in the pan, filling odd spaces and corners. Assemble the French toast on the night before you plan to serve it; cover and refrigerate. Let it sit out for a bit the next morning to take the chill off before baking.
Butter for coating a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish
3 cups whole milk or 2 cups low-fat milk and 1 cup half-and-half
9 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Splash of Punch Abruzzo, Grand Marnier or dark rum
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of freshly grated nutmeg
1 Pandoro cake, halved lengthwise and then cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices (you will need to further cut or break apart the slices to fit into the pan and there will be some leftover cake)
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Generously coat the interior of an oven-proof 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish or lasagne pan (I use a ceramic baking dish).
In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and liqueur. Sprinkle in the cinnamon and nutmeg and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Arrange the slices of Pandoro in the baking dish in two layers. You can tear or cut the slices to make them fit snugly in the pan (see top left image in photo collage above). Slowly pour the egg mixture over the Pandoro slices, taking care to moisten them all. Gently press down on the top layer (not too hard; you don’t want to deflate it) to make sure the slices are coated with the mixture. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning heat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the baking dish from the refrigerator and allow it to sit out while the oven preheats. Remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle a little granulated sugar over the top of the French toast. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is puffed and browned and the custard is set. (Note: If you find the top is browned before the baking time is up, loosely cover with foil and finish baking.)
Remove from the oven and let sit 5 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve.