How to Make Italian Christmas Panettone Pain Perdu by Cleo Coyle

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A popular breakfast in New Orleans, pain perdu literally means lost or wasted bread. Traditionally it's made with thick slices from a crusty French loaf that's gone stale, but our readers may remember this special version of the dish from our Coffeehouse Mystery Holiday Buzz.
Holiday Buzz:
A Coffeehouse Mystery
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Our amateur sleuth Clare Cosi cooks it up on Christmas morning for her longtime love interest, NYPD Detective Mike Quinn. Because of her Italian heritage, my husband and I knew Clare would use panettone to make her pain perdu

If you've never tried panettone, a slightly sweet Italian yeast bread enjoyed during the Christmas season, look for it in boxes like the one in my photo above. Boxed panettone can keep for months, but once it's out of its wrappings, this delicious bread goes stale fairly quickly. When that happens, simply follow my directions for a festive French toast--either for breakfast or dessert. See both serving ideas in my recipe directions. And...

May you eat with comfort and joy!
~ Cleo Coyle, author of 

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This is a very versatile recipe. You can mix the egg custard without alcohol (simply double the vanilla) or you can add amaretto or another favorite liqueur such as Grand Marnier. A bit of nutmeg and cinnamon to taste are also optional additions, along with some orange zest. I prefer mine with just the amaretto and vanilla, but to each her own! 

You can also turn this into a lovely dessert by scooping ice cream over a warm piece with a drizzle of amaretto, a sprinkling of chopped almonds, and a puff of whipped cream. Enjoy! 


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Panettone Pain Perdu
from Holiday Buzz

Makes 2 servings for breakfast or 4 for dessert...


2 large eggs
¼ cup whole milk, light cream, or half-and-half
(optional) 1-2 tablespoons amaretto 
½ teaspoon vanilla (if not using liqueur flavoring, double this amount)
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt
1 one-inch thick round of panettone, quartered 
For frying: 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil +
For frying: 1 tablespoon butter
To finish: dusting of confectioners' sugar

Note to avoid disaster: Panettone like any soft bread will be quite fragile and tear on you easily. To avoid that, note my underlined comments in the recipe.


Step 1—Prep bread: Unwrap panettone bread and slice a 1-inch thick round layer from the bottom (see my photo below). The thickness is important to avoid tearing. 

Allow the bread to sit out and become dry for a few hours or overnight. When ready to cook, preheat your oven to 250 degrees F. Slice the thick round into 4 quarters and set aside.

Step 2—Mix egg custard: In a bowl, combine the eggs, milk, liqueur (if using), vanilla, sugar, and salt. Place the egg mixture into a pie or cake pan and soak the slices of bread for about 3 minutes on one side, then carefully turn the fragile pieces. After turning, soak them for another 3 on the other. At this point most of the liquid should be absorbed. 

Step 3—Fry and bake: Into a skillet or sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 of butter. When the butter is melted and butter/oil mixture is hotuse a clean hand to carefully transfer the fragile slices into the pan. Pour any remaining custard over the top of the slices. 

Turn the heat down to medium and fry for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown (do not overcook). If cooking more batches, be sure to wipe the pan clean with a paper towel and add fresh oil and butter for each new batch. 

Use a spatula to carefully transfer the fried quarters to a parchment-lined baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes. After that time, either serve the pain perdu or turn off the oven to "hold" the pieces for 20 to 30 minutes.

Step 4—Serve : Eat the pain perdu warm with a dusting of powdered sugar. Or serve with butter and pure maple syrup and/or fruit toppings (strawberries, blueberries, etc). 

To serve as dessert, add a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream, drizzle on amaretto, and sprinkle on chopped nuts. As for me and my husband, Marc, this is what we'll be eating Christmas morning...




May your holidays be bright! 

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

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