To an Italian girl, there is nothing that brings back the feelingof the holidays more than Panettone. It reminds me of late nights by the Christmas tree as a kid. My brother and sister and I, all in our flannel pajamas, watching some Christmas special on T.V., and eating Panettone by the fireplace. It also reminds me of weekend winter mornings when we would stumble into the kitchen, just after waking up (at the crack of dawn) to look for something to eat. We would see that colorful box on the counter and know exactly what we wanted. We would each tear off a large piece of Panettone and warm it in our small countertop toaster oven. By the time we had finished making some hot chocolate, our bread would be perfectly warm, and golden brown. We would take it out on a paper towel, and dip it, just a tiny bit and so gently, into our hot chocolate, being careful not to let it crumble and melt away into the hot drink.
This Fall, Bauducco and Tastemaker's sent me two Panettone to try. Having eaten it all my life, I can be a tough critic. Many Americans refer to Panettone as a sort of Italian fruitcake, (which it SO is NOT) so these from Bauducco are a bit Americanized in that they are marketing their Panettone with well- known American branded ingredients that Americans can relate to, like Sunmaid Raisins and Hershey's Chocolate. This could, of course, make the Panettone made here, a slightly different product from the Italian original, but, overall, this is a plus for America as American companies are used in production, and Americans become more familiar with, and appreciate, Panettone. (Which makes me happy because now it is so easy to find!)
As I opened the box, and the printed cellophane wrapper of the fruit and raisin Panettone,
the fresh smell of vanilla, butter, and sweet dried fruit wafted out into my apartment....it was heavenly. I immediately cut a slice and put it in my mouth. The bread was so soft and so moist. The vanilla and sweet raisins were incredibly fresh. It was hard to have just one piece.
FYI, the box gives instructions for those of you that may be too overwhelmed by the smell, to figure out how to start eating it....
Brian is not a fan of the traditional fruit Panettone, which, I understand, but I must say, slightly hurts my Italian heart, just a little. Although, he is a fan of the Panettone with chocolate, so I'll take that. Instead of just placing some freshly cut slices on a plate for breakfast (as I love to eat it), I decided that I would make his a little more special, deciding to whip up the increasingly popular Panettone French Toast.
First, I cut two large slices of the Panettone with chocolate. In a bowl, I whipped up 2 eggs, a tad of vanilla, 2 tablespoons of milk, and a pinch of cinnamon. There is so much flavor in the bread, that there is no need to add much to the batter, although sometimes I like a little cardamom. I soaked the bread in the batter and placed it gently in the pan to cook on medium heat, in little butter (to help it brown, and keep it from sticking to the pan).
Remember to flip it about 5 minutes after... and a few minutes later...Voila! You will have a beautifully fluffy dish of french toast. Since we had just bought some very sweet fresh raspberries,
I decided to make a quick reduction, with just a little sugar and water. On top of this somewhat rich toast, the raspberries are a brighter addition, than thick, sweet, maple syrup (which, don't get me wrong, I also love).
The toast was amazingly light, fluffy and perfectly crispy on the outside. The sweet vanilla (and tiny wisps of melted chocolate) were well-managed by the raspberries and reduction (gotta get your fruit servings in for the day).
After a few luscious forkfuls, Brian mentioned that he might even like this made with the fruit Panettone.