Thursday, December 18, 2008

Panforte di Siena

Why don't more people like fruitcake? Maybe they would if more people made them from scratch. Maybe they would if more fruitcakes had chocolate in them.

This is yet another recipe I collected during the heyday of Gail's Recipe Swap. It was originally posted by Julie R - WA. I made one today because I'm still trying to use up leftover ingredients, but it's usually on my to-do list of goodies anyway. (I was trying to not go overboard this year, and now I'm a bit worried that I won't have enough. More baking!).

As usual, I've taken a relatively simple recipe and added copious instructions - all to help ensure success in your kitchens. Can't have users posting comments that the recipe didn't work, now can we :-) Please don't be put off by my lengthy notes; this fruitcake has a wonderful, chewy texture rich with chocolate and apricot flavors. A little goes a long way so in my opinion it's worth the effort.

I also do a few things that are probably not traditional, but I'm OK with it. You have some latitude with this recipe, too - last year I forgot to add the almonds, so I just pressed them on top after the batter was spread in the pan. If you don't have dried apricots or candied pineapple, you could substitute dried peaches, pears, or cranberries. I used dried pineapple today.

I like to add wedges of this to my cookie plates - the light color of the nuts contrasts prettily with the dark chocolate of the batter. If you have a set of those individual cheesecake pans - the 4"-diameter springform pans - you can make 5 mini-panfortes to give as gifts (the baking time is about the same).

4 ounces almonds
4 ounces hazelnuts
2 ounces dried apricots
2 ounces candied pineapple
2 ounces of candied orange and lemon peel
2/3 cup flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon good ground cinnamon
2 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, broken into pieces or coarsely chopped [chocolate chips are fine; I usually use whatever semi- or bittersweet chocolate that I have on hand]
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
powdered sugar (for sprinkling)

[I start by toasting the almonds and hazelnuts for 10 minutes at 350 F. They can go onto the same baking pan but keep them in separate piles; when the nuts have cooled, rub the skins off of the hazelnuts. You can rub them individually or wrap them in towel and rub the whole bunch at once].

Prepare an 8-inch cake pan by greasing well. [I like to use a springform pan. I butter the pan, lay a round of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan, and then butter the parchment].

Preheat the oven to 300 F.

Chop the almonds, hazelnuts, apricots, pineapple, and candied peels.
Put the sugar and honey into a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, then reduce the heat and simmer 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the chopped fruit and nuts in a large, heavy glass or ceramic bowl (this will make it easier to mix the dough). Add the flour, cinnamon and cocoa and mix well.

Turn off the heat under the pan, add the chocolate and stir until it melts. Pour the chocolate mixture over the fruit-nut mixture (drizzle it all over to make it easier to incorporate) and stir with a really heavy wooden spoon. You can use a rubber spatula to scrape the chocolate out of the pan, but it will not be strong enough to stir this dough.

The batter is VERY heavy, like clay...after a few turns with the wooden spoon I usually give up and "knead" it with my hands. The batter is also sticky (to itself, not so much your hands). There is basically just enough dough to hold all the fruit and nuts together.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and press it into place. Use the back of your fist to push it out into an even layer, or as even as you can get it.

Bake for 35 minutes. The batter will still look "wet" over most of the surface of the cake - it's important to not overbake it or the edges will be dry. If you see little holes appear over the surface of the cake (from releasing steam), it's done.

Let the cake cool in the pan. Remove the cake, wrap it in foil, and it stand overnight. The cake will keep for weeks if it is wrapped in foil (you do not need to refrigerate it). To serve, sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar and cut into wedges. I use a big 10" chef's knife and cut it in half, then into quarters, then each quarter into 6 wedges.


There's Something About Mary said...

Enough! Enough! You've been making me crave different things every day. I am one of those few people who love fruitcakes. I guess it all depends on how it's prepared.

There's Something About Mary said...

I've moved to another subdomain that's easier to remember... My food blog can now be found on!