donderdag 22 december 2011

Panforte, an Italian (Christmas) treat

This is an Italian cake that looks so appetising I was sold the minute I set my eyes on it!
It kind of looks like nougat, come biscotti, come candybar, come fruitcate. Certainly more confection than cake or bread (translates literally as strong bread) It is almost a luxury nutty flapjack without the oats! It looks deliciously tempting.
I did however have one slight problem:it was not available in the shops, I had never before tasted Panforte, could I make one? I knew I had to try.
Panforte is according to wikipedia, a traditional Italian dessert containing fruits and nuts, and resembling fruitcake or Lebkuchen....
It contains no butter or eggs, very little flour. This could also easily be substituted for ground almonds, so ideal for those with dietery requirements, eg gluten free. However if you have a nut allergy- forget it!
Apparently, it keeps very well- the chance would be a fine thing in this household!
It is also very easy to make and ideal for those that don't have the time to make a traditional Christmas cake (like me last Christmas). It can be served after dinner (with a glass of sweet dessert wine), or as an accompaniment to cup of frothy cappuccino. Dipped in coffee it is soft and scrumptious. What’s more it is quite acceptable to eat it with your hands!
Originally a Christmas can be enjoyed all year round. I have since discovered it is available at Sligro.
I wanted to make it as part of my Christmas dessert and on standby as necessary. It is very rich so I knew a little bit would go a long way. It is dense and chewy and oh so satisfying. I love it- have you noticed?
Being a chocoholic, I decided chocolate had to be of the party, and cranberries, because they are so festive, as well as having tartness to counteract the sweetness. I liked the idea of using figs, for their well... obvious properties, a bit of ginger (which I adore) and some grated orange- I think I was well on the way to coming up with seventeen ingredients that attribute to making aa authentic Panforte. Of course honey must be present, sugar, nuts. I wanted the full spice mix even a bit of the traditional pepper! I added a bit of Cointreau on a whim- couldn't resist it being the festive season and all that.
I initially searched the internet for a recipe but unable to find one that ticked all my boxes, concocted my own (what's new?) It was bit ominous since I had never tasted/made one before- but what the heck...
Here is what I came up with, feel free to adjust and use different fruits/ and nuts- I know I will. It is very adaptable to what you have available. You don't exactly taste the chocolate/cocoa but it does give it such a lovely dark rich colour. This particular type is referred to as Panforte nero.
You must work very quickly with the mix because it solidifies immediately it starts to cool. A spare pair of hands is a must! I lined my flan case first with a circle of greaseproof paper, oiled. and then with edible rice paper (see photo), and I'm glad I did- I think it otherwise would have been firmly stuck!
I apologise for the bad photos, I had a slight problem with my camera.

265gr toasted nuts ( I used 35gr sunflower seeds, 93gr hazelnuts,27gr brazil nuts,110gr almonds)
225gr dried fruit ( I used 25gr candied ginger peel, 50gr dried cranberries, 150gr dried figs)
75gr dark chocolate
2 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp all spice, ground
1/4 tsp ginger
5 ground cloves
pinch pepper
grated zest & juice of 1 orange
150gr honey
150gr sugar
75gr plain flour
2 tbsp Cointreau
20cm flan case
Icing sugar for dusting
oops-I exceeded the 17 ingredients! But it is well worth it.
Prepare your 20cm tin see above.
Prepare your nuts.

I prepared my nuts a day or so in advance. I removed the skins from the hazelnuts and almonds. To remove the skins from the hazelnuts I dry roast them in a pan for a few minutes. When they cool slightly rub them. Blanch the almonds- that is, pour boiling water over them and leave them briefly to soak for about 1-2 minutes and 'pop' the skins off. When they are completely dry I dry roast them in a pan
I then dry roasted all the nuts except the brazils. I also roasted the sunflower seeds briefly.
Preheat oven 160°C
Put all the nuts in a bowl. You could roughly chop but I like my nuts whole. I bashed just a few.
Roughly, cut the figs, and finely chop the ginger and add to the nuts with the cranberries. Melt the chocolate (I used a low microwave setting)
Grind the cloves (I used a pestle and mortar)
Remove the orange zest and juice.
Add the spices to the nut/fruit mix. Add the orange zest, flour, cocoa and stir.
Bring the honey and sugar gently to the boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Boil for a few minutes.

Add the melted chocolate and then the sugary mixture to the bowl of fruit/nuts and stir well with a wooden spoon, working quickly to combine all the ingredients..
Stir in the cointreau.
Turn mixture out in the prepared tin and push firmly, flatten with the wooden spoon (or wet hands).
Bake for 40-45 minutes. It should start to bubble but not brown. Allow the cake to cool in the tin because it will be too soft to remove. As it cools slightly you can ease it around the edges and turn out. Dust with icing sugar. It will harden as it cools.
Apparently this cake will store well in an airtight tin. (It just didn't get the chance!)
This really makes make a perfect alternative to Christmas cake or Christmas pudding- I just know it will a regular on my (Christmas) menu.
Update: This is a blog I started writing last year but I never got around to sharing it. This Christmas I have made another Panforte, I used the same basic recipe above. Here and there a few changes in fruit and nuts, a few toasted pine nuts and cocktail cherries. I substituted the alcohol for liquid from the maraschino cherries.

It was a little more sticky this year and less chewy. If anything I would say it was even better! I can't wait to see what I come up with next year!

2 opmerkingen:

  1. Leave out the figs and this is my idea of heaven!

    Love the step by step photos.

    Hope all your Christmas preperations are going well.

  2. Which is the great thing about Panforte- you only use the things YOU like! I am hooked!