Monday, October 29, 2012
During college I worked in a gourmet pasta shop in Portland. I learned all about fresh pasta and sauces and ate well for a college student. It was at this shop that I had my first experience with panforte.
Panforte is Italian for 'strong bread', yet it's not a bread at all. The best description is that it is an Italian fruit cake, although it is really closer to a candy than a baked good. It's so rich that you only eat a sliver at a time. Like all those jokes about fruit cakes lasting for years, panforte will last a long time. It was because of this that it was often carried by travelers in the Middle Ages. You can store it in a cupboard, no need to refrigerate, for weeks.
Recipes for panforte vary as much as each region of Italy. Every family can have their own closely guarded recipe. The beauty of it is that you can put all sorts of stuff into it depending on what you have or what you like. There will always be nuts, usually almonds and hazelnuts. The nuts are kept whole and not chopped up. The varying ingredients could be: raisins, dried figs and/or apricots, and candied citrus peel. There is also a lot of spice, so this is another area where you can doctor to your tastes. Some even it get to be spicier by adding pepper.
The addition of chocolate didn't apparently start until the 1800s. In Italy you will find versions with and without chocolate. Myself, I've only ever had the chocolate version.
Because the flour in a traditional panforte recipe is only used to help bind the ingredients, panforte is perfect for gluten-free adjustment. If you choose to make this with regular flour, just put 3/4 cup flour instead of the tapioca and coconut flours.
Finally, panforte is usually done in a springform or round pan. I was testing this panforte for another project and so I did it in a shallow cookie pan.
1 cup roasted hazelnuts, skins removed
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup chopped dried figs
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped candied citrus
1/2 cup tapioca powder
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 ounces of semisweet chocolate
2/3 cup honey
1 cup sugar
powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Generously grease a springform pan. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the nuts and fruit together. In a small bowl, combine together the tapioca and coconut flours with the cocoa powder and spices. Add the dry ingredients to the fruit and nuts and mix together to coat the nuts and fruit.
Put the semisweet chocolate pieces in a small, microwave proof bowl. Microwave for a minute at a time, stirring each minute, until the chocolate is melted.
Put the sugar and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Keep heating until the mixture reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Add the chocolate and mix together.
Take the hot chocolate/honey mixture and add to the fruit/nut mixture. Mix quickly until incorporated. Quickly pour into the springform pan.
Bake at 300 degrees for about 35-45 minutes or until the top starts to blister and bubble. Remove and cool on a rack. When it is cooled but still warm, remove the sides of the springform pan. Dust the top with powdered sugar. Let cool completely before serving.