Panettone is not only a great dessert, but also a versatile ingredient. Image by Daniel Reche from Pixabay

There is plenty to ponder about the New Year. Some of it is pretty philosophical, like how to live a fulfilled life and how to treat your fellow man with kindness and respect. But there is a practical side too, such as what to do with all that citrus-studded panettone you received from friends and visitors over the Christmas holiday.

As good as it is right out of that pretty box, or toasted with a bit of butter at breakfast time, at my house there are always entire loaves that remain unopened once Christmas is over.
Panettone is delightful as a component of desserts and brunch fare, but on the savory side, the candied orange peel and raisin flavors of this classic make a wonderfully satisfying panino when paired with juicy ham and a tasty cheese. The truth is that panettone will not keep until next Christmas, so here are a few ways to enjoy Italy’s stellar yeasted bread.
Coppette alla Crema di Ricotta
serves 4
It’s hard to know which is the star of this dessert – the panettone or the Biscotti Famosi liqueur.  The liqueur, a sweet elixir from northern Italy, combines the flavors of citrus, hazelnuts, and fennel for an exquisitely delightful taste, the perfect complement to the classic panettone flavor palette. Serve a glass of Biscotti Famosi with the coppette.
• 14 ounces fresh ricotta
• 3-4 tablespoons of granulated sugar
• 1 vanilla bean
• ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon diced candied orange peel
• ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon chocolate mini morsels
• ¼ cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed, divided
• ¼ cup Faretti Biscotti Famosi liqueur
• 1 ¾ cups panettone, cut into • 1-inch dice
 Panettoni,  an Italian holiday tradition

Place the ricotta in a sieve set over a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours to drain. Place the sugar in the workbowl of a food processor fitted with the metal knife. Split the vanilla bean, and scrape the seeds into the processor bowl. Discard the bean. Process the sugar and vanilla seeds for 30 seconds, until powder fine. Add the drained ricotta to the workbowl. Process until smooth.
In a medium bowl combine the ricotta mixture and ¼ cup each of the candied orange peel and chocolate mini morsels along with 2 tablespoons of the chopped nuts. Place the panettone cubes in the bottom of each of 4 compote glasses. Drizzle the Biscotti Famosi liqueur over the panettone cubes to moisten. Distribute the crema di ricotta over the moistened panettone. Top with the remaining candied orange peel, chocolate mini morsels, and toasted nuts and serve.
Panini di Panettone
serves 2
Break out your panini maker! Grilled panettone, with its classic flavor of candied citrus peel, makes a delightful envelope for juicy ham and meltingly delightful Italian fontina cheese. Fontina, with its pale yellow interior and rich nutty flavor is a cow’s milk cheese from the Val d’Aosta. If you can not find Italian fontina, mozzarella makes a nice substitute, although it does not melt quite as lusciously as fontina. Let your own taste and hunger be your guide for how much ham and cheese to add to the sandwich. With a nice green salad and a glass of Nebbiolo wine, this sandwich will wow your luncheon guests and have you seeing panettone in an entirely new light.
• 4 slices of panettone, edges trimmed, each about ¾ inch thick
• 2 thick slices of ham
• Sliced Italian fontina
• Unsalted butter, softened
• Dijon mustard
Lightly butter both sides of the panettone slices. Spread a bit of the mustard on 1 side of all slices.  Stack the cheese and ham on each slice atop the mustard-coated side. Top with the remaining slices of panettone, with the mustard-coated side against the meat or cheese. Heat a panini maker to medium, and grill until the cheese is melted and the ham is warmed through. These panini may be grilled, one side at a time, on a grill pan or in a skillet. Cut in half and serve at once.
Panettone French Toast
serves 4
• 1 pound of Panettone
• 6 large eggs
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1 cup milk
• ¼ cup granulated sugar
• 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
• 1 tablespoon of brandy
• Grated zest of 1 orange
• Pinch of fine sea salt
• ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
• Unsalted butter, softened
• Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
• Pomegranate seeds for garnish
Remove and discard the paper, and cut the top from the panettone. Cut the panettone into 1-inch thick slices, cutting the very large inner slices in half.
Place the eggs, heavy cream, milk, sugar, vanilla extract, brandy, orange zest, sea salt, and nutmeg in a low baking dish, and whisk until blended. Place the panettone slices in the mixture, 2 or 3 at a time. Soak, turning once, about 10 to 15 seconds per side.
Heat a griddle over medium heat and brush lightly with unsalted butter. Cook the moistened panettone until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Cooked slices may be kept warm in a 200 degree F. oven. Serve topped with a knob of softened butter, a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds for color.
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