Panforte, if you’re not acquainted, hails from Tuscany and is the Queen of Treats. Imagine this: golden roast almonds and hazelnuts nuzzling up to the finest dried fruits, from dried cherries to dates, citrus fruit and ginger, all tickled by cardamom and cinnamon, wrapped up in dark chocolate and bound together with syrup.
The result is an impossibly addictive, deeply chewy and crunchy centrepiece somewhere between a fruitcake and the crisp edges of a brownie. And very much deserving of a place on Christmas Day.
Have a slice with coffee in the afternoon, or with brandy or sweet wine after a meal. Larger wedges, wrapped well, also make lovely Christmas gifts. Wrapped in parchment and kept in an airtight container, panforte will keep for about a month.
Prep 15 min
Cook 40 min
125 whole almonds
125g blanched whole hazelnuts
130g medjool dates, stoned (100g net weight)
125g crystallised ginger
150g dried cherries
50g candied citrus peel, diced into ½cm pieces
200g plain flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp ground cardamom
1 large pinch sea salt
150g 70% dark chocolate (suitable for vegans)
175g light muscovado sugar
175ml brown rice syrup
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4 and line a 22cm cake tin with baking paper. Put all the nuts on an oven tray in a single layer and roast for 12-15 minutes, until fragrant and deep golden. Once cool, roughly chop the nuts, dates and ginger, and put in a large, heatproof bowl with the cherries, citrus peel, flour, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Mix very well.
Break the chocolate into a small heatproof bowl and set this over a simmering pan of water – the base of the bowl shouldn’t touch the water. Leave until the chocolate has melted – this will take just a few minutes – then take off the heat.Advertisement
Put the sugar and brown rice syrup in a small pan on a medium heat, and stir to incorporate. If you have a sugar thermometer, the sugar should reach 115C. If you don’t, be aware it should take about four minutes to reach this point, and the sugar will be frothy and bubbling fiercely.
Working quickly now, pour the hot syrup into the dry ingredients, then scrape in the melted chocolate. Mix thoroughly: it will seem quite dry and stiff, but keep stirring, then quickly scrape into the prepared tin, pressing down with your hands to compact the panforte.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until slightly risen and just firm, then leave to cool in the tin. Once cool, use a palette knife to loosen the edges of the panforte, then transfer it to a serving plate and dust lightly with icing sugar; if you like, use cookie cutters to do so decoratively.
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