Oh my, where have the days gone? December already? Christmas just around the corner? And another month gone by with no new blog post? Life has been busy though for Z-man, Supergirl and I, we have not been sitting around on our duffs for a month (more to come on that soon!).
With December comes the annual Santa Claus Parade of Lights in our hometown and friends of ours are gracious to host a big pre-parade dinner and after-parade get together for all their friends (thanks Tracey, Renee and Devon!) and every year I try my best to bring something to the potluck to say thanks and Merry Christmas. Last year was one of my first attempts at a decorated Christmas cake and this year I decided to go more traditional.
According to Joy of Baking:
Panforte (pronounced pan-FOHR-tay), is a Christmas fruit cake which comes from Siena Italy. It also goes by the name Siena Cake. Traditionally Panforte is baked in a round pan that has been lined with communion wafers (to make it easier to remove) which seems to indicate a religious connection. History does tell us that Panforte dates from the 12th century and, although stories differ, most agree that Nuns (hence the use of communion wafers) were the first to make this delicious bread.
Here is what you need:
3 oz (90 grams) semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup (125 grams) coarsely chopped and toasted hazelnuts
1 cup (125 grams) coarsely chopped and toasted blanched almonds
1 cup (170 grams) candied citrus (citron, lemon and/or orange peel)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper (optional)
1/2 cup (65 grams) all purpose flour
1 tablepspoon unsweetened cocoa
2/3 cup (130 grams) white sugar
2/3 cup honey
Butter the 8-inch tart pan and set aside. It is recommended to get a tart pan with a removable bottom. At first glance you wonder how this will not ooze the mix out the bottom but it works!
The easiest thing to do is to buy (if you can) blanched almonds and hazelnuts that have already been peeled but if you cannot then there is a really easy way to get those nuts out of their skin. Bring some water to a boil in a pot and add two tablespoons baking soda to the water and then boil the nuts for three minutes
Drain the water and the skin will slip right off the nuts. Be warned though that doing this causes the nuts to lose some of their crunchiness (which actually worked out well for this recipe). Once all of the nuts are peeled spread them out on a pan and put them in the oven to toast them
See that black mess on the counter next to the nuts? That is a pile of skins from the hazelnuts and almonds. Another note about peeling the nuts in this fashion (found out by me AFTERWARDS!) is that they bleed a nice purple juice that stains just like cherry juice so don’t wear white and have some cleaning products handy for the counter!!! Eep! Thank goodness my love was still asleep when I did this and I was able to clean it up before she came into the kitchen!!!
ANYWAYS….. here are the nuts toasty and warm just out of the oven
Chop these up into coarse chunks.
The next few steps I did not get any pictures of because it (A) went so fast, and (B) I had to work too fast to take a picture. Next time I will have someone else standing by with a camera and will do an update with these pics! Also, some of the steps are just so boring that no pictures are needed!
In a double boiler melt the chocolate.
In a large bowl mix together the flour and spices (see, who needs a picture of this?!), candied fruit, cocoa and chopped nuts.
In a small saucepan combine the white sugar and honey. On high heat stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, and then stop stirring. Using a candy thermometer boil the sugar and honey until it is 240 degrees F.
Remove the sugar from heat and pour it into the large bowl with the other ingredients and stir. Work quickly here as the sugar will set very fast. Pour (or scrape as may be!) the mixture into the buttered tart pan and place the pan on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (to catch any bubbled over goodness – and to prevent my love from asking how I plan to clean the boiled and baked sugar off the bottom of the oven! Daddy didn’t raise no fool!), Bake at 300 degrees F for about 30 – 35 minutes, or until you noticed a slight glazed crust forming over the top. Remove from the oven and let cool until the pan is warm to the touch.
When the cake has cooled but is still warm to the touch remove the cake from the pan by pushing up from the bottom (you may need an extra set of hands for this unless you are practiced at it).
Place it on a nice display plate and dust the top with powdered sugar(for the nice holiday feeling of course!)
Slice and serve. This is surprisingly chewy and very rich, so serve in smaller slices (unless you have a large sweet tooth!)
Enjoy! If you give this a try make sure to let me know how it went for you and what people thought of it (and if you were at the Santa Parade party and tried this one leave me your thoughts on how you liked it!).