Friday, December 02, 2005

The Panforte Trials

Originally uploaded by michelle1975.

When our friend Kazi went to Florence a few years ago, she brought back three different panfortes for us to try (along with all kinds of other goodies). All three panfortes were amazing, and all three came in those beautiful wrappers that are synonymous with real Italian panforte, but I remember an especially dark and spicy one which was particularly sumptuous. It was all you needed to warm you up on a cold winter night. Okay, that and an espresso or a nightcap--or both. And having three kinds meant you could pick the one that best suited your mood. One was fruitier, the other nuttier, and one was extra spicy. Last year, we bought one from La Forchetta, a local Italian caterer. It was delicious. Its ingredients included confited pineapple, alongside the requisite nuts and candied citrus peel. We ate it all holiday season long and shared it with guests. I missed having a selection, though, and vowed that the next year I would make at least two different ones to provide us with panforte options.

It's amazing how different panfortes can be from one another. I haven't even looked into making a "white" panforte because I prefer the bitterness the cocoa brings to this otherwise very sweet confection. Panforte is related to nougat, in that a candy base is made and mixed with fruit and nuts, but that's where the similarities end. Nougat is light and airy, thanks to the meringue, and is closer to a candy. Panforte, with its spices and dense texture, is reminiscent of Christmas pudding and fruitcake, and is best served in small portions--a little goes a long way--and is particularly good with a dessert wine like a Vin Santo.

Today's first test comes from David Lebovitz's book Room For Dessert. By just reading the ingredients, I knew it would be delicious. It has both cocoa and melted chocolate, hazelnuts and almonds, and candied citrus peel. Simple but divine. A classic.

Panforte #1

5 Tbsp. cocoa, plus more for dusting
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 c. hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 c. almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. candied citrus peel, citron is ideal, but oranges and lemons work, chopped
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. black pepper
pinch nutmeg
pinch chili pepper
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. honey
icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Butter a 9" springform pan and dust it with cocoa. Tap out excess.

Mix nuts, flour, cocoa, spices, and candied peel. Stir in melted chocolate.

Boil honey and sugar to 240 degrees F and pour over nut mixture. Stir well to combine and place in pan.

Bake 50 min., and let cool 30 min. before unmolding. Dust with icing sugar and store up to one year, well wrapped (although you may find this difficult--we've already eaten a quarter of ours in 2 days). You can see how well this one turned out--it's the one featured in the photo above.

Next up a recipe from a magazine, but I forget which one! I copied it at work one day. It's from a recent issue of one of the food magazines. I was a bit skeptical when I saw the pecans--I don't know, something about their being native to North America... but I was intrigued by the figs and sour cherries. I love figs and sour cherries! Also, there were more spices and fruits in this one, so I tried it.

Panforte #2

1 c. hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 c. pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
3/4 c. dates
1/2 c. candied orange peel
1/2 c. dried sour cherries
1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. dried figs, chopped
2 Tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. finely grated orange peel
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cardamom
pinch white pepper
3/4 c. honey
3/4 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Butter a 9" springform pan and dust with cocoa.
Mix fruit, nuts, flour, spices and cocoa.

Boil honey, sugar and butter to 242 degrees F. Pour over nuts and mix. Place in pan and bake 50 min. Let cool and unmold. Dust with icing sugar and store well-wrapped for up to a year.

Using butter instead of melted chocolate gives the panforte a caramel-like texture, rather than a dense, chocolatey one. This panforte is a fruitier one than the one above, and less spicy. It is good, but, I have to say, I prefer the first one. Other people, though, might prefer this one for its greater variety of fruit and its subtle hints of spice.

Panforte makes a great sweet after dinner, or a perfect gift for a host. Make one, two, or three, and enjoy.



Matt Kay said...

That second recipe's from the December 2005 issue of Bon Appétit. Both recipes sound quite yummy.

As for having an espresso or a nightcap or both, I guess a caffe coretto would be the perfect compromise!

kelli ann said...

looks heavenly.

saw patrice demers' book in the store in Cowansville yesterday, BTW, and thought of you. looks sweet, sweet, sweet. hope you're not too crazy busy!

take care

Katie said...

fond your recipies whist searching for good one with figs in it, as our farm orchard produces figs, almonds, apricots and citrus and panforte seems the ideal way to use all of it in one go. Thanks for the help.

Anonymous said...

i bought your delicious panforte at the souk and i have been dreaming about it since. i want to try your recipe but don't know where to buy the candied citrus rind. Any suggestions? Thank you!

michelle said...

I make my own, which is easy (and details are on our blog), but Gourmet Laurier sells candied peel, plain and super fancy (as in whole candied kumquats and tangerines.) If you don't have tons of money burning a hole in your pocket, I would suggest the pure candied peel at Provigo/Loblaws. Check the ingredients. The less the better, and no rutabaga, please. I made some more this year and can't wait to try it. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

thanks for responding so quickly! ok, i actually went to Gourmet Laurier on instinct and got the peel. My next question is what would the baking time be if I did 2 smaller ones (like the size at the souk) or if I baked them in the really small springforms? many thanks!

michelle said...

I would bake them until they are no longer shiny... About 45 min. to 1 hour. Let them cool in the pan and then unmold. God luck!