Watch My Winning Chopped Episode: Panetone Bread Pudding

This little bite of blended holiday heaven was the happy result of intrigue, sabotage and an adrenaline-addled brain the day I competed on Food Network’s Chopped. 

I made it through the appetizer round through a combination of my own stubborn perseverance and the mistakes of the other chefs. I’d more than survived the entree round. No one was more surprised than me to hear Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian say about my stone crab broth “I would serve this in my restaurant, it’s that good.” But on Chopped, you are only as good as your next round. It was round three, the dessert “battle” of the Holiday episode of Food Network’s Chopped that I was in the midst of waging against my fellow competitors. I began to believe that I had a better chance of winning now, than when I’d arrived that morning at 6 am, praying I wouldn’t embarrass myself, my family and particularly my son, the chef,  by getting eliminated for a stupid reason in round one. By the time round three started, it was nearly 8 pm and the only thing keeping me standing was that the adrenaline was still pumping strong.

A burly chef, hailing from the DC area, whose shoulder chip began to waver by this third and decisive round, decided that winning fair and square was too much of a risk. As we waited in the chef’s holding area to be called back on set for the final cook-off, Chef Will asked me “what are you going to do for dessert? Do you think you’ll make an ice cream?” I replied that I had practiced ice creams and if the yet unknown mystery basket ingredients lent itself to that, I might go for it. “What are you going to do?” I asked in return. “Well, whatever I do, I know it won’t be ice cream. I have a pastry chef at my restaurant. I don’t do ice cream.  I haven’t made an ice cream since culinary school, so I know I’m not doing that.”  It was a friendly conversation. We wished each other well and headed out to complete the game.

“Chefs, open your baskets,” Ted Allen instructed us. I saw Eggnog, Panettone Bread, Pomegranate Molasses and Hanukah Gelt.

That jug of eggnog said “ice cream” to me, but first I wanted to get some butter and sugar creaming in a stand mixer because I was determined to serve my eggnog ice cream with a big festive chocolate chip (or Hanukah Gelt) cookie as an homage to Santa’s traditional Christmas Eve repast. With that done I ran over to the fridge to get a dozen eggs—two I’d need for the cookie, and another five to make the ice cream base. When I got there—NO EGGS—where there would normally be two dozen.

I saw Will with a dozen carton open on his station and asked him if he could spare some. “No, I need ‘em all.” Really? A dozen eggs for ice cream? (Maybe for an army, but enough for 4 plates? Five or six would have been enough.) OK, I could see how this was unfolding. There are two routes chefs can take on competition shows: the Team Player: confident in his/her skills, plays well with others, is humble and generous knowing that the best chef would win regardless; the other is: The There-Are-Two-I’s-And-No-U’s-In-Winning Player who will do anything from bare-faced lying to egg-hoarding to make sure he/she wins. Seems like Will took that second road that day.

Then something mysterious happened that had nothing to do with those mystery baskets. “Check the fridge again,” Will told me, “I think there are more eggs in there.” Did Will replace a dozen of the hoarded eggs when I wasn’t looking, when a pang of conscience got the best of him, or did they appear out of nowhere, like a Chopped version of the Chanukah miracle…with eggs multiplying instead of the supply of holy oil? I’ll never know. I just grabbed them and ran back to my station to finish my cookie, get it in the oven and start my ice cream. As I was making the “anglaise” custard needed, Ted Allen came over and informed me that Chef Will already had an ice cream churning in the one an only ice cream machine on set. “Oh really?” I said. I turned to face Will to my left, his look somewhat sheepish, yet defiant. “You told me you weren’t going to make an ice cream,” I said, and added another sentence that contained an expletive I don’t need to repeat here, but that made the show, bleep included. “It’s a competition,” he threw back and shrugged.

What happened next was another miracle. Instead of being flustered by this act of slimy sabotage, I turned to my station, saw the gorgeous Panettone bread and pomegranate molasses and knew in an instant what I would do. I worked fast and confidently to cube the giant, fragrant bread, divided it up among four ramekins, and soaked them with the eggnog-laced custard that would have been my ice cream had Will not bogarted the machine. I popped those in the oven and prayed they’d rise up and be gorgeous in the remaining minutes on the clock. The pomegranate molasses, when added to red wine, bay leaves, cinnamon and vanilla I knew would reduce down to a beautiful holiday-inspired syrup that would tartly compliment the sweet heaviness of the pudding. When the puddings came out of the oven, I spontaneously decided to unwrap more of the Chanukah gelt and submerge one coin in each of the hot, steaming puddings for another sweet holiday surprise, and a nod to the blended Judeo/Christian family I am a part of.

How did my competitor’s ice cream stand up to my bread pudding? Well, call it Karma, lousy luck or poor judgment, but that ice cream, topped with the hot donut he made, left him with more of a soup than a frozen confection. Though his ice cream was warm, in the end his behavior left the majority of the judges cold.

Watch the results for yourself when the Holiday episode of Chopped repeats on 12/4 at 10 PM on Food Network. Leave your comments about the episode on Food Network’s Facebook page…and here too! I want to know what you think!

Here’s an easier (no sabotage or change of direction needed) version of this delicious holiday-worthy recipe. Enjoy!

This account was originally published on ABCNEWS.COM/BLOGS, on November, 28, 2012

Image credit for Chopped photos: David Lang


For the bread pudding:
5 cups Panetone bread, crusts removed, cut into 1-inch cubes (approx. half of one large Panettone bread)
½ cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups eggnog
5 eggs, beaten
¾ teaspoon freshly nutmeg, grated
Large Chocolate Coins (Chanukah Gelt) or large chocolate discs or chips

For the syrup:
½ cup pomegranate molasses
2 cups fruity red wine (pinot noir)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or half a fresh vanilla bean, split down the middle, lengthwise
1 large cinnamon stick.

Equipment: Lightly buttered 9×13 deep baking dish, or 8-12 individual ramekins or stand-alone cupcake cups.


  • Place the pomegranate molasses, red wine, cinnamon, bay leaf, vanilla and sugar in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat and stir to combine well and dissolve the sugar. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat so that the mixture continues to simmer briskly and reduce, but not boil hard. Keep and eye on this to make sure it doesn’t over-reduce and burn. Total cooking time approximately 12 minutes, and the overall volume will be ¾ of the original volume. When done, the bubbles should look small and tight and the consistency of the liquid is somewhat syrupy. It will be a thin syrup while hot, but will thicken as it cools.

  • While the syrup is reducing, place the eggnog, grated nutmeg, bread cubes, eggs, vanilla, sugar and butter in a large bowl. Gently toss so that bread is fully coated. Allow to sit for 30 minutes or until bread cubes seem sufficiently soaked with the egg mixture.

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Divide the bread mixture evenly into the individual ramekins, or muffin tin or cupcake holders or pour it all into one appropriately sized baking dish.

  • If using individual bowls, place them on a parchment or foil lined baking pan, and bake for 20 minutes or until the pudding gets puffy and the center is firmly set. (You can also use individual cupcake forms or a muffin pan.) If using a baking dish, bake for 30-40 minutes or until it gets puffy and the center is firmly set. Begin checking for doneness early as oven temperatures vary and since the egg mixture is already “cooked” this won’t take as long as a bread pudding that starts with raw eggs.

  • Unwrap one chocolate coin for each ramekin (or 8-12 for large dish).When the puddings are done, remove from oven. Take the chocolate coins and push one coin per individual bowl, down into the center of the hot pudding. (Or use large chocolate discs or chocolate chips here too.) If using a baking dish, place a coin down into the pudding at even intervals so that each serving has a hidden melted coin in it.

    Serve warm, drizzled with the pomegranate/red wine syrup.

18 responses to “Watch My Winning Chopped Episode: Panetone Bread Pudding”

  1. Sharon Willen says:

    You are so generous to share these fabulous, creative recipes. Happy holidays to all.

  2. Richard warnock says:

    Rachel…bravo,I rooted for you all the way.
    Ive been a NYC chef for over20yrs.
    You put that egomaniac in his place.
    He said he was trying to knock the “chip” off his shoulder,but I think he was building it bigger.
    Bad karma put him dwn as well,lying to you during break..
    I cant say enough…I screamed at the top of my lungs when he was chopped….BASICLLY,HE WAS FULL OF **it…
    Again,great job reversing ideas.

    • Richard, thanks for taking the time to let me know what you thought about the show. I appreciate the feedback, especially from other chefs. Yes, Karma is a b*#%h, isn’t it! I’m glad it was my Karma that day to win, and believe me, I thanked the heavens I did! Thanks again for reaching out!

  3. what a nasty , dishonest piece of garbage Chef Will Artley is. I’m so happy you beat this reprehensible human being who calls himself a chef.

  4. Adam says:

    Rachael, your smile was fabulous in the opening scenes. I was enthralled throughout and so glad to see you pull it out! Congratulations! Honored to be a fan. Top Chef next? Thanks for the recipes, Adam

  5. Anna says:

    Congratulations! You certainly deserved to win… It was so much fun to watch, but we need to see more of you. Why don’t you have your own show? You’d be great!

  6. I just finished watching this – you were awesome! I can’t imagine the pressure of pulling all that together. You should be very proud. Great job.

  7. Vivian says:

    Rachel, I watched it twice and was so proud to know you and be rooting for you. As one middle aged jewish woman to another- you did us proud. You turned the chip on his shoulder to a pile of rubble. You won with grace and dignity- he lost for being a pompous ass. Keep up the good work. We hope to keep seeing you winning!

  8. It was so fun and exciting to watch you! We enjoyed it so much! You totally made the show. Great job! To think we’ve had a bonafide celebrity chef cooking with us in our little kitchen!

  9. Dru Dempsey says:

    Wow! You were terrific.
    Pomegranate Molasses – you were “familiar with.” !!!!
    I thought all your courses good. Didn’t think your first one “weak.” – but they have to say something, don’t they.
    To come up with bread pudding after you thought you were going to be able to make ice cream was sheer brilliance, Rachel. With just 15 minutes left on the clock, I didn’t
    think you’d have time to finish cooking the eggnog bread pudding or bake the cookies.
    But you did, you wizard.
    Brad out of town today, so I recorded the show for him.
    Kudos to you.
    Keep those recipes coming.

  10. Debby says:


    You were great! Entertaining, good sense of humor, and wonderful/creative cooking. I am looking forward to you coming to my house next weekend for a cooking class from a celebrity chef!

  11. Jack L. says:

    Enjoyed your blog and the added details. Loved seeing you and seeing you win. It is so much fun to watch when the person who plays mean doesn’t profit from their actions.
    I must say I issued some of my own “expletive not deleted” comments when I saw the comment from your competition (of course to a much smaller audience.)
    Looking forward to trying out the recipies.

  12. Lola says:


    It’s exciting to watch an expert do what they do best! You have a sixth sense for food that makes my mouth water. I’m a big fan of Chopped and was enthralled watching you compete, keeping your composure on your run to victory! You rock the kitchen and look forward to seeing your career soar! Congrats!

  13. Of the many, many (too many?) episodes of “Chopped” that my wife and I have watched, none was more satisfying and inspiring than your win, which we saw for the first time last evening. I had been rooting for you from the start, and was thrilled that you’d survived all opponents.

    Thanks for a story of reinvention I’ll long remember — especially if (or, more likely, when) I find the need for a new start of my own.

  14. Tania Enders says:

    Can’t wait to make this festive dessert for my family this weekend! Thanks for the awesome recipe….

  15. Shira Grosser says:

    Dear Rachel,
    My husband and I watched you on Chopped last night and
    boy were we IMPRESSED! I was not at all surprised you won. You were way
    better than the other chefs in so many ways. Your presentation,
    especially for the entre and dessert was amazing. You should be very
    very proud of how well you did! I can’t believe how fast you have have
    to think, plan and put together a meal. If you can do that you can do

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *