December 8th, 2011
Panforte is usually described as the Italian fruitcake, but that would lead you to believe it sucks, which it most definitely does not. Panforte is indeed a mix of fruit and nuts, but the similarity to weird American fruitcake ends there.
Panforte isn't really a cake at all or a bread, as its name implies. It's more like candy--a lovely piece of grown up christmas candy. Sliced very thin and eaten with a glass of red wine or a strong cup of coffee, it's delicious.
The recipe is staggeringly simple and ridiculously adaptable. My mom has perfected it over many, many christmases (all failed attempts were also delicious). Take whatever dried fruit and nuts strike your fancy and mix them up with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, cocoa, black pepper and a bit of flour.
On the stove bring some sugar and a bit of honey to a boil and pour it over everything. Mixing is probably the most difficult part, but your bicepts will thank you for it. At some point I ditched the spoon and just used my hands to get everything together. Then it goes in whatever round pan you've jammed parchment paper into and into the oven.
That's it. Panforte keeps for weeks. Before you serve it, sprinkle powdered sugar mixed with some spices on top for a snowy christmas look. Small ones make lovely gifts. Or you can do like I do and cut a big one in quarters--makes it easier to keep a bit for yourself. Last year we had panforte with oranges as our pre-dessert (or maybe post-dessert dessert? I can't remember, but I know there were multiple desserts and cookies and pies were in there somewhere).
(recipe provided by my lovely mother--thanks mom!)
note: I made a double batch, so the amounts you see in the pictures will be different than yours. Also, this recipe doubles easily :)
- 1 lb mixed dried fruit (you have to have a lot of figs, but other than that most everything is fair game. I used black mission figs, calamata figs, apricots, dates, cherries, and candied orange peel.)
- 1 lb mixed nuts (about 1/2 lb should be almonds and then, again, anything goes. I used almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons cardamom (freshly ground if possible)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspooon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon cloves (freshly ground if possible)
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon cocoa
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1. Toast nuts at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes. Use a different pan for each kind of nut because they all toast at different rates. Check them often. When they are toasty throughout, they're done!
2. Mix nuts and fruit together. Do not chop! Everything is kept whole.
3. In a bowl mix together cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Take 1 Tablespoon of the mix out and reserve for sprinkling on top.
4. Add flour, cocoa, and black pepper to spice mix.
5. Add flour/spice mixture to fruit/nut mixture. Mix well.
6. In a saucepan bring sugar and honey to a boil. Boil for one minute.
7. Pour over fruit and nuts. Mix well. All the flour must be hydrated--make sure there are no little floury bits at the bottom.
8. Put parchment in a round pan (a 9 or 10 in springform pan works really well, but anything will work) and butter well.
9. Press the panforte into the pan. It should be no more than 1 to 2 inches thick.
10. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Let cool completely.
11. Mix powdered sugar with the reserved spices. Sift over the top.
12. To eat the panforte slice into 1/4 inch (or thinner even!) slices. Enjoy!