Diana's Desserts - www.dianasdesserts.com


Servings: Makes 1 (8-inch) cake
Panforte is the quintessential sweet of Tuscany at Christmas. It is believed that the Montecelles Nunnery in Siena created the first Panforte about the year 1,000 AD, and today this medieval sweet remains very much un-changed. A stroll through the city of Siena reveals several Panforte bakeries that satisfy any appetite for this luscious confection all year long. Panforte is a dense, rich concentration of candied orange peel, citron, chopped almonds, spices, honey, butter and sugar, shaped into a low, round disc. Panforte can be made with or without cocoa (or melted chocolate). This recipe includes unsweetened cocoa.

Note: Panforte can also be made in a square pan lined with edible rice paper and topped with rice paper before baking.

1/2 lb. whole almonds
1/2 lb. whole hazelnuts
6 oz. dried figs or other dried fruit (such as apricots or pineapple)
5 oz. dark raisins
5 oz. golden raisins
Rind of 1 orange
Rind of 1 lemon
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon mace
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Juice of 1 orange
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180°C). Toast almonds and hazelnuts on baking sheet for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F (150°C). Line an 8-inch round cake pan with aluminum foil.

2. If using a food processor: Place figs (or other dried fruit), raisins, and orange and lemon rinds into food processor. Mix ingredients and process to puree. If processing manually: On a cutting board, finely chop figs (or other dried fruit), raisins, and orange and lemon rinds to a paste. Place mixture into a mixing bowl and stir to combine.

3. Sift together flour, cocoa, cinnamon, pepper, and mace. Add to dried fruit puree or mixture.

4. In a 1-quart saucepan heat honey, sugar, and orange juice until sugar dissolves. Carefully pour hot liquid into dried fruit and flour mixture. Add toasted nuts and stir to combine. Place fruit and nut mixture into prepared cake pan. Bake in preheated oven 50 to 55 minutes.

5. Cool in pan 10 minutes. While Panforte cools, dust a 12-inch square of foil with 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar. Turn Panforte upside down onto coated foil and peel back foil used to line pan. Dust top with remaining 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar. Cool completely.

6. Cut into 32 (1-inch/3cm) squares or cut into very thin wedges and serve immediately. To give as a gift, cut into quarters, cover in plastic wrap, and tie with ribbon.

Makes 16-32 servings (depending on the size you slice the pieces).

Date: November 21, 2004