This is Christmas morning in a casserole! Honestly, this must be the most decadent breakfast casserole I’ve ever had. I love panettone bread because it’s so light and fluffy. The orange, almond, cinnamon and amaretto flavor combination complements each other instead of overpowering the casserole. The streusel topping adds a sweet and crunchy bite with bright orange zest flakes. I love to eat this with a drizzle of pure maple syrup, but it can also be enjoyed on its own. Casseroles are so versatile – I can prepare it and bake it in an hour or leave it overnight and bake it the next day. This makes Christmas morning extra special.
I found this amazing panettone in HomeGoods and instantly I knew I wanted to make a french toast casserole. The texture of panettone is perfect for this breakfast casserole, but if you can’t find it, you can substitute with brioche bread from your local bakery store.
WHAT IS PANETTONE?
They say the beginnings of this bread dates back to Roman times when Romans sweetened a leavened cake with honey. The panettone we know today is a type of sweet bread originally from Milan, Italy and typically enjoyed over Christmas. It’s a round cylinder with a dome-like top and typically include some candied citrus with raisins or other dried fruit. It isn’t dense like a fruitcake, on the contrary, it’s light and fluffy with little gems throughout. Since 1919, two Milanese bakers began baking this delicious bread in large quantities for the rest of Italy. As with any other food, Italian immigrants took their bread with them across the globe and it has become an international Christmas treat.
HERE’S HOW I MADE IT
Make sure the ingredients are at room temperature – they will blend better. Butter a baking dish and set aside. Slice the panettone in half, down the middle, and then across in 1-inch slices. Yields 12 pieces. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together 6 extra large eggs, 1 cup of whole milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon powder and 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla paste or bean. Pour the egg mixture through a sieve into another bowl to capture all the egg particles that didn’t mix well.
Tip: Pouring the egg mixture through a sieve is optional, but I highly recommend doing so to achieve the custard-like velvety mixture. I do this step with any and every egg based recipe because I don’t like the texture of the egg particles. If the egg particles don’t bother you, you can omit this step.
Whisk in 2 heaping Tablespoons of orange marmalade and 2 Tablespoons of amaretto liqueur and whisk until the marmalade has dissolved. Dip each piece into the egg mixture and place it in the prepared baking dish. Pour any remaining liquid over the bread. Set aside while you make the streusel topping.
Note: If you don’t have amaretto, you can use an orange liqueur or white rum.
Look at those orange peel pieces from the marmalade. Don’t leave any in the mixing bowl – there’s magic in them!
To make the streusel topping, combine 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 1/2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour, 2 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter and a small pinch of kosher salt in a bowl. Cut the butter into the sugar and flour with a fork. Once crumbly, add 1/2 cup sliced almonds.
Note: I like to add the sliced almonds after as not to crush the almond slices.
If making overnight, cover the dish with plastic wrap and the streusel topping in a plastic zip bag, separately. Place both in the refrigerator.
When you’re ready to bake, set the casserole at room temperature for half an hour before baking. Removing the chill will ensure even baking. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Distribute the streusel topping over the bread and top with a few extra almond slices and the zest of half a navel orange.
Bake for 45 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving. You could dust with powdered sugar, but honestly, the dish doesn’t need it. It’s spectacular on its own. A little maple syrup is all you need to enjoy this French toast.
Note: If the casserole browns too quickly, you can loosely cover with foil during the last 15 minutes.
Yields 6-8 servings, depending how hungry your family is and if you’re serving other breakfast items.
This casserole is amazing and your holiday table will never be the same. If you make this, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you. Merry Christmas!
Orange, Almond & Amaretto Panettone French Toast Casserole
The most amazing French toast casserole you'll ever eat. Delicious soft panettone bread baked in a light egg custard with orange marmalade and amaretto liqueur then topped with an almond streusel. It's Christmas morning in a casserole.
PANETTONE FRENCH TOAST
- 1 2-lb panettone
- 6 extra large eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- 2 heaping Tablespoons orange marmalade prefer Braswell brand
- 2 Tablespoons amaretto liqueur substitute with orange liqueur or white rum
- ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 2 ½ Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 ½ Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature prefer Plugra or Kerrygold
- very small pinch of kosher salt prefer Diamond brand
- ½ cup sliced almonds plus a little extra to scatter on top
- zest of ½ a navel orange
- Optional: powdered sugar to dust after baking
PREPARING THE FRENCH TOAST
Butter a 9X13 oven proof baking dish and set aside.
Slice the panettone into 12 even 1-inch slices. I sliced the large round in half and then into 1-inch thick slices.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, heavy whipping cream, granulated sugar, ground cinnamon and vanilla paste/extract. Pour the egg mixture through a sieve into another mixing bowl to remove egg particles.
Add the orange marmalade and amaretto liqueur and whisk to combine until the marmalade has incorporated completely.
Dip each panettone slice into the egg mixture and place in the prepared baking dish. Pour any remaining egg mixture over the panettone and set aside while you make the streusel topping.
In a small bowl, combine the light brown sugar, all-purpose flour, unsalted butter and a very small pinch of kosher salt. Using a fork, cut the butter into the light brown sugar and all-purpose flour.
IF BAKING IMMEDIATELY
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F and place oven rack in the center position.
Crumble streusel topping evenly over the casserole, scatter a few extra sliced almonds and zest half a navel orange over the casserole.
Bake for 45 minutes or until golden. If browning too quickly, loosely cover with foil during the last 15 minutes of baking.
Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Optional: light dusting of powdered sugar.
Prepare both the casserole and streusel topping. Store separately in the refrigerator. Cover the casserole with plastic wrap and the topping in a plastic zip bag.
When ready to bake, remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before and follow the baking instructions above.