Christmas Panettone

°°Panettoneimage courtesy of the Guardian UK

Christmas day at last. And it is a winter wonderland white Christmas indeed. Everyone awakened this morning to a blustery but brilliantly sunny day. Our store is shuttered and quiet today and we have a long awaited day off to do just about nothing. Except declutter our desks, and send woefully tardy emails to friends and colleagues. And eat a little bit. It is back to work tomorrow, so we will wait until the weekend to get back into the kitchen and cook a Christmas feast.

In our store, one of our most sought-after Christmas treats is Italian Panettone – the soft, eggy, fruit-studded sweet bread that is wonderful cut into thick slabs and accompanied by a hot fragrant cup of tea, coffee, or a glass of Vin Santo. Customers run in and out of our store all during the month of December and grab panettones on the fly for hostess gifts, teachers gifts, etc. Each bread is beautifully wrapped in festive paper and ribbons, befitting of the delicious treat nestled inside.

Interestingly, this year I have encountered recipes using panettone as the base for french toast and bread pudding – inspired ! Here are some of those recipes, just in case you have an extra panettone on hand.

Panettone French Toast

3 slices from a 1 lb panettone, cut 1-inch thick
1 large egg
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch cinnamon
butter for sautéing

Mix all ingredients ( except bread ) in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a saute pan or skillet and keep the heat on low. Throughly soak each piece of bread in the in egg mixture and add to the saute pan. Cook until golden brown and serve warm with fresh fruit or maple syrup.

Panettone Bread Pudding – from January ’09 Gourmet magazine
serves 8

1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup brandy, heated
1/2 sticl unsalted butter, softened
1 lb panettone, sliced 1-inch thick
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 & 1/2 cups half-and-half
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

1. Soak raisins in hot brandy for 15 minutes, the drain.
2. Butter panettone on both sides and cook in batches on a large heavy skillet over medium heat until golden brown on both sides.
3. Whisk together the remaining ingredients.
4. Tear panettone into bite-sized pieces and spread evenly in a buttered 13×9-inch baking dish. Scatter raisins over top, then pour in egg mixture. Let stand 30 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle position.
6. Bake until pudding is golden and just set, about 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Panettone Upside Down Cake
serves 4-6

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
8 cups cubed pieces panettone ( about 8 slices )
5 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ginger

1. Line a 8x8x2 pan with aluminum foil, allowing excess foil to hang over the sides of the pan. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Melt the butter in a small skillet and pour it into the prepared pan. Tilt pan to cover the entire botton. Sprinkle brown sugar over the melted butter, and distribute the pecans over the top of the brown sugar. Place the panettone cubes evenly over the pecans.
3. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, milk, vanilla and ginger, whisking well. Pour the mixture over the bread cubes, pressing down to ensure cubes are well coated. Bring the ends of the aluminum wrap up to cover, and cover all with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours.
4. Remove from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Remove plastic wrap.
5. Preheat the over to 350°F. Cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the cake is set.
6. Peel back the aluminum foil and carefully invert the cake onto a serving platter. Remove the foil, cut into squares and serve immediately.

We wish everyone a lovely and joyous holiday season, filled with love, friendship and good food. As Tiny Tim said so prophetically many years ago:
” God Bless us every one. “


Cold Weather is the time for Hot Drinks


Are you out of ideas for that certain someone on your holiday list ?

Consider the following – a copy of our  Hot Drinks book ( 50 original recipes concocted by Bob and me that feature coffee, tea, cider, cocoa, liqueurs, etc. in  a mouth-watering and delicious array of intriguing flavors and aromas ) along with some key ingredients for stocking a hot-drinks pantry:

  • soft Ceylon cinnamon sticks
  • whole cardamom pods
  • star anise
  • peppermint twizzle sticks
  • rich hot chocolate or hot cocoa mix
  • spices for mulled-cider
  • Chai tea
  • Holiday Blend coffee

We are really proud of this little book and we love the recipes that we created. Our goal was to put a delicious new spin on some classic favorite drinks as well as to come up some wonderful combinations using comtemporary ingredients. We love it when customers tell us how much they love our book, and that are working their way through all of the recipes. Everyone seems to have a different favorite !

Here is a sneak-peek of one of our recipes that is  just perfect for the holiday season ( and you can see two others in my December 16, 2007 and January 1, 208 posts )  –

Hot Speculatius
In Germany and Holland, the Christmas holidays wouldn’t be complete without a selection of traditional spiced cookies. This hot drink was created in honor of lebkuchen, the popular German gingerbread cookie, and speculatius, Hollands thin, crisp windmill-shaped alomnd cookie. This wonderfully rich and creamy drink is  the perfect messenger of holiday cheer.

Serves 2

2 cups whole milk
3 & 1/2 ounces marzipan, chopped
1 tablespoon ( 1/2 ounce) amaretto
4 tablespoons ( 2 ounces) Bailey’s Irish Cream
2 tablespoons ( 1 ounce) ginger brandy
large pinch of ground cinnamon
large pinch of ground cloves
pinch of ground cardamom

Combine the milk, marzipan, amaretto, Bailey’s and ginger brandy in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally to incorporate the marzipan. Lower the heat and simmer gently until just heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cimmanon, cloves, and cardamom, and simmer for another 2 minutes to release the aromatic oils from the spices.

Strain into two large mugs and enjoy – with or without a namesake cookie.

Northampton Windows for Peace


This holiday season, Christmas and Hanukkah shoppers will discover that downtown Northampton is even more beautiful than ever. The trees are festooned with an abundance of white lights, and shop windows glitter with lovely gift giving ideas.

Additionally, nearly 40 shopkeepers, in conjuction with the Northampton Chamber of Commerce,  are participating in a downtown-wide holiday window display effort for peace .

Think of it this way – Give Peace a Glance ! Each participating shop has taken the theme of peace  and expressed it in a seasonal motif. A walking map of the windows is available from shops on Main Street, the Chamber of Commerce and of course, our store, Cooks Shop Here.  ( Just a hint…we have based our window theme on the riff in a familiar Cat Stevens song: Ride on the Peace Train.)  Make your holidays a little brighter and do the holiday stroll while shopping in downtown Northampton. For more information, visit

 This year is the 50th anniversary of the familiar peace symbol


which was originally used by the British nuclear disarmament movement and designed for the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC). The symbol was adopted by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmamant (CND) in Britain, and was eventually adopted by students and war protesters worldwide during the Vietnam era. The symbol was designed and completed February 21, 1958 by Gerald Holtom.