Panforte di LunaCafe
After days of research, testing, and tasting, here’s what to my palate is the quintessential Northwest panforte nero. This personal rendition of this Italian Christmas confection contains Northwest fruits and nuts, and both cocoa and black pepper. The honey-caramel is enriched with butter and the usual flour amount is reduced to only what is necessary to coat and separate the chopped fruit.
The result is divine, and although the directions say to serve a very small sliver, no one EVER eats only one or even two slivers. You will end up hiding this, even from yourself, just as I have. Oh the joys of Christmas!
NOTE If you have plump, tender, homemade candied lemon and/or orange peel that you want to use here, chop it and substitute for the raisins.
2 cups (8 ounces) toasted, skinned whole hazelnuts, halved by hitting lightly with a mallet
2 cups (8 ounces) toasted whole almonds, sliced in half lengthwise
1 cup (4½ ounces) dried, moist cranberries
1 cup (6 ounces) moist, coarsely chopped dried apricots
1 cup (4½ ounces) moist, dried Montmorency (tart) cherries
½ cup (2 ounces) moist, chopped candied ginger
½ cup (2½ ounces) moist golden raisins
finely grated zest of 2 large lemons
finely grated zest of 2 medium oranges
2 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa (I used Askinosie)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon anise seed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (use ½ teaspoon if you prefer)
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ cup King Arthur unbleached, all-purpose flour, sifted
1½ cups wildflower honey
1½ cups sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon orange oil (or ½ teaspoon orange extract)
¼ teaspoon lemon oil (or ½ teaspoon lemon extract)
powdered sugar in a shaker
- Generously butter one 9-inch by 2½-inch springform pan or removable bottom cake pan or two 6-inch by 3-inch (2-inch high will work but may bubble over just a bit) removable bottom cake pans. Line the bottom and sides of your chosen pan or pans with parchment paper cut to fit and butter the paper generously. If using removeable bottom cake pans, wrap the outside of the pans tightly in foil to ensure that no caramel leeks out. Reserve.
- Position an oven rack in the upper middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine and mix together the prepared hazelnuts, almonds, cranberries, apricots, cherries, candied ginger, raisins, lemon zest, and orange zest. Reserve.
- In a small bowl, combine the cocoa, cinnamon, anise seed, pepper, allspice, ginger, cloves, and cardamom.
- Add the spice mixture, along with the flour, to the fruit and nut mixture and toss gently to coat and separate the fruit.
- Measure the vanilla, orange oil, and lemon oil into a small cup. Set next to the stove.
- In a large saucepan, combine the honey, sugar, and butter. Slowly bring to a simmer to allow the sugar to dissolve, then to a full boil. Count slowly to 15 and immediately remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the vanilla/orange oil/lemon oil mixture.
- Pour the hot syrup over the fruit/nut/spice/flour mixture and quickly incorporate with a silicon spatula. Make sure that all ingredients are coated with caramel syrup.
- Quickly scoop the mixture into your prepared pan or pans. Wetting your hand repeatedly with cold water, quickly and gingerly (so as not to burn yourself) pat down and smooth the surface of the panforte.
- Bake at 325° for 25-30 minutes, until the edges of the panforte begin to rise slightly and are bubbling.
- Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
- When completely cool, use a thin, sharp knife to loosen the edges of the confection and either remove the springform edge by unclipping it or push up from the bottom of the cake pans to remove the sides. Slip the knife between the parchment paper and bottom of the pan and remove the bottom. Remove all of the parchment paper.
- Coat the bottom and sides of the panforte generously with sifted powdered sugar and wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then in foil.
- Store in a cold, dry location. Keeps for weeks.
- To serve, unwrap and position the panforte on a serving platter. Dust with additional powdered sugar if desired. Use a serrated knife to cut into thin slivers. This confection is meant to be eaten with the hands, not a fork. Be prepared to cut additional slivers as guests clamor for more.
Copyright 2009-2021 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.