Janine Gilbertson's Granite Kitchen -- Panettone: A versatile Christmas gift from Italy

By JANINE GILBERTSON November 29. 2017 12:43AM

Panettone is an Italian cake that's typically available here only during the holiday season. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Traditional Italian Christmas cakes called panettone are abundant in stores this time of year. I used to walk right past them — right past the displays of bright red square boxes with pictures of fruit cakes on them and Italian words.

What would I want a fruit cake from Italy for?

But panettone is not your average fruitcake. When I think of fruitcake, I think of a dense, heavy, super-moist rectangular cake with unnaturally colored candied fruits. If someone were to give me a holiday cake, fruitcake would not be my top choice. However, a boxed panettone is always welcome.

One of my favorite things to do with panettone is to make French toast: Slice it up and dip it in an egg batter, then brown it in a skillet with melted butter. You can also put the egg-battered slices to a baking sheet and make baked French toast. Either way, panettone is a delicious way to upgrade your breakfast.

Another great way to use a panettone is to break it up into pieces and use it as a base for a bread pudding. I recently found a chocolate-chip panettone at the grocery store. When I got it home, I tore it into bits, then made an eggnog batter and poured it over the pieces and baked it. Drizzled with some chocolate ganache, it made a decadent dessert.

If you have an occasion that calls for something special for a group, panettone can come in handy there as well. Cut the panettone into cubes, melt some chocolate for a fondue, then serve.

Chocolate fondues can be easily customized by adding in a couple of tablespoons of liqueur (Godiva makes a good chocolate liqueur) or other flavorings such as cinnamon or chili powder. If you have any melted chocolate left over, whisk in some warmed milk to make a hot chocolate.

You can also slice a panettone and add layers to make a special dessert. Try spreading some mascarpone cheese and lemon curd between a couple of slices, then drizzling some citrus glaze over the top. 

You can set up a tray of panettone slices with a variety of jams and butters for a festive holiday brunch dish. Since panettone is generally only sold during the holidays, now is the time to experiment with different ways to serve and enjoy it.
Panettone bread pudding with raspberries and chocolate ganache. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Chocolate Panettone Bread Pudding

26 oz chocolate chip panettone

2 cups eggnog

1 cup milk

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup chocolate ganache, if desired, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350.

Spray an 8 x 11 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Break the Panettone into pieces about 1 or 2 inches wide and add the pieces to the baking dish, pressing as needed to fit all the pieces into the dish. 

In a large bowl, whisk to combine the eggnog, milk, eggs and vanilla. Pour the mixture over the bread.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top starts to brown. Remove from oven. 

Drizzle chocolate ganache over each piece before serving, if desired.

Chocolate Ganache

12 oz semi sweet chocolate, broken into small pieces

1 cup heavy cream

Set the cream in a heavy saucepan over medium high heat and cook just until it starts to boil. 

Add the chocolate, then remove from heat. 

Let the chocolate melt for about 7 minutes, then whisk until smooth. 

Drizzle over bread pudding.
Panettone is a good dipping vehicle for chocolate fondue. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Chocolate Panettone Fondue

26 oz Panettone, cut into cubes

12 oz semi sweet chocolate

1 cup heavy cream

1 tbsp butter

3 tbsp chocolate liqueur, such as Godiva, if desired

Add the cream to a saucepan and set over medium high heat. Bring the cream just to a boil, then remove from heat and add chocolate and butter. 

Let stand for about 10 minutes, until the chocolate has melted. Add the liqueur and whisk until smooth and well combined, then transfer to a fondue pot. 

Serve with cubed bread to dip into the melted chocolate.
For a decadent breakfast, sandwich mascarpone cheese and lemon curd between two slices of panettone French toast. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Stuffed Panettone French Toast

26 oz panettone

4 eggs

3/4 cup half and half

1 tsp vanilla

4 tbsp butter

1/2 cup mascarpone cheese

1/2 cup lemon curd

powdered sugar for garnish

Cut the panettone into slices about 1/2 inch thick and set aside. 

In a large, shallow bowl whisk together the eggs, half and half and vanilla. 

Add 1/2 tbsp of the butter to a skillet and set over medium heat. When butter has melted, dip a slice of the panettone into the egg batter to coat both sides, then add to skillet. Cook each side for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown. 

Set on a plate and cut in half. Cover one half with 2 to 3 tsp of mascarpone and the other half with 2 to 3 tsp lemon curd, then sandwich together. 

Garnish with powdered sugar before serving, if desired. 

Repeat with remaining slices.


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