Since the candied bacon wasn’t, y’know, sweet enough, for this weekend’s brunch I also made two trays of baked French toast that used panettone, that deliciously rich, eggy, candied fruit-studded Italian Christmas bread (my in-laws are Italian-American; have I mentioned that?). It’s sorta like an Italian challah, only a bit drier—which makes it perfect for French toast. I’m ambitious but not ridiculous, so instead of making my own I bought a pair of loaves from our local fancy Italian bakery, Settepani.
I was the teeniest bit afraid of how much cooking I’d be doing on Sunday morning, so I designed this recipe to be prepared the night before. It sat in the fridge overnight, the sliced bread soaking up a mixture of milk, eggs, orange peel, and orange juice. Come Sunday morning all I had to do was pop the trays into the oven, which freed me up for frittatas and bacon-making. Of course I should’ve realized that others would bring even more food than I expected, so two trays weren’t really necessary. But they sure were tasty.
Overnight Baked Panettone French Toast
1 large loaf panettone, halved vertically and sliced about ¾” thin
4 egg whites
4 whole eggs
2 cups milk [I used 2%, but whole or 1% would’ve worked equally well]
peel and juice of ½ a large orange
splash of vanilla extract
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Coat a large baking dish with cooking spray. Layer the panettone slices into it, overlapping into a pretty pattern—I was able to fit a double-layer of bread in mine. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Pour over the panettone. Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray and cover the tray, oil-side down (the casserole puffs as it cooks—this should help avoid sticking problems). Refrigerate overnight.
About 90 minutes before you plan to eat, turn on the oven to 350. Remove tray from the fridge while the oven warms up. When it’s reached 350, put in the French toast (still covered with aluminum) and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10-15 minutes, until top is golden brown. Serve with powdered sugar or maple syrup.