Friday, January 2, 2015

Panforte Nero...Finalmente!

Panforte Nero has been on my to-do list for years. As in almost two decades on my to-do list. Ever since I lived in Italy and fell in love with it. There's Panforte Margherita, but I prefer the dark one!

Call me a culinary-masochist, but during the busiest time of the year I embrace culinary adventure and attempt a treat that has daunted me or made me swoon in delight. That's not totally accurate since I am adventuring and challenging my kitchen skills all year long, but the holidays seem to bring out my strong need to make sweets. Thankfully - for me, my family, and my friends -  I am blessed with the ability to satiate my craving to bake just by baking; I don't actually have to eat my creations. So, I bake, I breathe in a whiff, and my friends get to eat it all. Thank goodness...or I would weigh 300 pounds!

I toyed with the idea of making Laurie Colwin's Black Cake from Home Cooking. Read her description: "Its closest relatives are plum pudding and black bun, but it leaves both in the dust. Black cake, like truffles and vintage Burgundy, is deep, complicated, and intense. It has taste and aftertaste. It demands to be eaten in a slow, meditative way...."

Intriguing, right? But burnt sugar essence is elusive and I am hesitant to burn that much sugar. A little on top of my brulee is fine, but I'm intimidated by scorching 2 pounds of brown sugar!

So, I decided: my Christmas cooking adventure of 2014 is going to be panforte, literally 'strong bread.' It's dense, sweet, and rich. Halfway between a cake and candy. I remember nibbling on small slivers during a soggy trip to Tuscany when I lived in Rome...and washing it down with an Italian caffè. While my Love and my kids prefer pan d'oro, I think it's like eating air. Air with calories. Maybe I'll make pan d'oro next year.

But this year, panforte is my choice. I read a bunch of recipes - some in English, some in Italian - and I set out to create my own. And I have two days to get it done in 2014. Just under the wire...

  • 4 t unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder plus additional for dusting
  • 2/3 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 t ground ginger
  • 1/4 t ground cardamom
  • 2 t instant espresso
  • 2 T  raw cacao nibs
  • 1 C whole almonds, raw
  • 1 C whole hazelnuts, raw
  • 1 C raisins
  • 2 C dried figs, destemmed and quartered
  • 3/4 C organic light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2/3 C honey

Also needed...

  • 9-inch springform pan
  • parchment paper
  • candy thermometer

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line springform pan with parchment paper - along the bottom and the sides. Butter the paper well.

Whisk together flour, spices, salt, and 4 teaspoons cocoa in a large bowl, then stir in nuts and fruit.

Bring sugar and honey to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then boil without stirring until thermometer registers 238 to 240°F, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.

Immediately pour honey over fruit mixture and stir until combined; the mixture will be very thick and sticky. Spoon mixture into springform pan, spreading evenly with back of spoon. Dampen your hands and press mixture firmly and evenly into pan to compact it as much as you can.

Bake until edges start to rise slightly and become dry, approximately 50 to 55 minutes.

Cool panforte completely in pan, then remove the sides of pan. To serve, slice with a serrated knife into thin pieces.

1 comment:

  1. One of my favorites dear Camilla!!
    Happy New Year. xo Catherine


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