After two visits to Italy I am loving all things Italian, especially the food, so I decided to try this Tuscan Christmas dessert. It is a dense confection of nuts, dried fruits, chocolate and spices and can last a long time. A challenging recipe, but we can learn from my mistakes too. I borrowed elements of this recipe from Epicurious.
I used a combination of 3 nuts, hazelnuts, almonds and pistachios and roasted all 3 in a pan for 7 minutes at 400 F.
I lowered the temp to the cooking temp of 300F so the oven would be ready for the finished cake.
I didn’t have the right size springform pan, 9 inch, which the recipe calls for so I lined a 9 inch square pan with baking parchment and sprayed with oil, very important, otherwise it will stick like glue!!
Mix together dry ingredients, flour spices and cocoa powder.
Mix all dry ingredients and then mix with dried fruit so fruit is covered completely.
Bring honey and sugar to a boil checking with a candy thermometer to reach 238F. Be VERY careful handling the boiling sugary mixture as you pour over fruit and flour mixture.
•4 teaspoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder plus additional for dusting
•2/3 cup all-purpose flour
•1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
•1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
•1/4 teaspoon sea salt
•1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
•3 cups of mixed nuts, I used a combination of hazelnuts and almonds and pistachios
•1 cup soft pitted prunes (dried plums; 8 oz), quartered
•1 cup soft dried figs (preferably Mission; 8 oz), each cut into 6 pieces
•1/2 cup soft raisins 4 oz.
•1/2 cup dried apricots 4 oz.
•3/4 cup sugar
•2/3 cup honey
Special equipment: a 9-inch springform pan; parchment paper; a candy thermometer
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Line springform pan with parchment, using a round for bottom and a strip for side. Butter or PAM spray paper well and dust with cocoa powder, knocking out excess.
Whisk together flour, spices, salt, and 4 teaspoons cocoa in a large bowl, then stir in nuts and fruit.
Bring sugar and honey to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then boil without stirring until thermometer registers 238 to 240°F, about 2 minutes.
Immediately pour honey over fruit mixture and quickly stir until combined (mixture will be very thick and sticky). Quickly spoon mixture into springform pan, spreading evenly with back of spoon. Dampen your hands and press mixture firmly and evenly into pan to compact as much as possible. Bake in middle of oven until edges start to rise slightly and become matte, 50 to 55 minutes.
BE CAREFUL to watch, overcooking will result in DRY tough fruit!!
Cool panforte completely in pan on a rack, then remove side of pan and invert, peeling off paper. If making ahead, wrap panforte. To serve, dust with powdered sugar, cocoa powder, or like those from Sienna, lots of fresh ground pepper added to the dusting; cut with a serrated knife into small pieces.
Panforte can be made 1 month ahead and chilled, wrapped in parchment and then kept in a sealed plastic bag.