Fruitcake: A holiday tradition most people pass up for a better looking (and tasting) pie or cake. This year, reinvent your recipe to make everyone wanting seconds.
Chef Richard Starkey of Le Cordon Blue Scottsdale ditches the dried red and green cherries and gives fruitcake (and other holiday favorites) a modern twist.
Fruit & Cheese Cake
Prepare the pan by lining the bottom with a half-inch layer of fruitcake.
Put the cream cheese in the mixing bowl and, with the paddle attachment, mix at low speed until smooth. Add the sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla. Blend in until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and cream, blending them in thoroughly.
Fill the prepared pan.
Bake in a water bath, set the filled pan inside another, larger pan. Fill the outer pan with water and bake at 350°F until set. Cool the cake completely before removing from pan.
Cook the onion and celery in butter over medium heat, stirring, until softened. Stir in the fruitcake. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and let the stuffing cool.
Bake the stuffing, covered, in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 minutes.
Sift the flour into bowl and make a well in the center.
Warm the milk to 100°F and mix with the yeast. Pour this mixture into the well in the flour. Sprinkle a little flour from the sides of the bowl on top of the yeast liquid. Cover bowl and allow standing at room temperature until the flour starts to appear cracked on top and the mixture bubbles, approximately 45 minutes.
Add the egg yolks, salt, and sugar to the flour mixture. Mix lightly to form soft dough. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes, until smooth.
Place the dough in a lightly floured bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let ferment at room temperature until doubled in size. Add the fruit and the butter, softened, into the dough until smooth and well incorporated. Put back into the bowl and let ferment a second time at room temperature until doubled in size.
Punch down the dough and round into a smooth ball. Place the dough in the buttered cake pan and press down lightly with the knuckles. Cover and proof at room temperature until doubled in volume.
Cut a cross in the top of the dough and brush with melted butter.
Bake in a preheated oven at 375°F until lightly colored. Place 1 tablespoon of butter in the center of cross and continue to bake for 1 hour. Cover top of panettone with foil when golden in order to prevent excessive browning.
Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Continue baking until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 1 ¾ to 2 hours in all.
Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter. Once cold, dust top with powdered sugar.
Panettone Bread Pudding
Arrange the panettone cubes in a buttered 8" × 8" inch baking pan.
Mix together the eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Add the milk. Pour the egg mixture over the bread in the pan.
Set the pan in a larger pan containing about 1 inch hot water. Place in the oven preheated to 350°F. Bake about 1 hour until set. Serve warm or cold with powdered sugar.
Brandy or Whiskey Bread Pudding
Add 1 oz. brandy or whiskey to the mixture.
Panettone Stuffed French Toast
Mix cream cheese and sugar until blended; spread onto bread. Place 4 panettone slices, cream cheese-sides up, in 8" x 8" baking dish buttered. Cover with remaining bread slices, cream cheese-sides down.
Whisk eggs and milk until blended; pour over panettone. Cover; refrigerate several hours. Bake in a 350ºF oven, uncovered, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve with maple syrup or fruit.