I never make fruitcake – I have never had to and why should I when my mother makes a great one and I am always sure to get a loaf to bring home come Christmas. Panforte is another story, and it has become a tradition in my family. I was introduced to it when I first moved to Boston in the early 80’s and worked at Rebecca’s on Charles Street. I was familiar with nougat but this variation with its intense citrus chocolate flavor won me over. Getting to be on the team for the Boston Globe Magazine food page on Sundays 8 years ago not only brought a new friend (Adam Ried) into my life, but also a ton of his fool-proof recipes – panforte being one of them.
PANFORTE (makes an 8 or 9 inch panforte)
- unsalted butter for the pan
- 2 teaspoons plus 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup all -purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- salt and pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 1/3 cups chopped candied orange peel (8 onces)
- 2.5 cups hazelnuts, lightly toasted, skinned (wrap toasted nuts in a kitchen towel and rub to remove skins), and roughly chopped (about 12 ounces )
- 3/4 cup honey
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 ounces bittersweet dark chocolate, melted
- confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
Set the rack in the middle position of the oven and heat to 300 degrees. Generously butter an 8 or 9 inch springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the paper. In a small bowl, mix 2 teaspoons of the cocoa powder and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, dust the pan with the mixture and set pan aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining cocoa powder, remaining cinnamon, flour, ginger, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, cloves and nutmeg. Add the orange peel and work it into a mixture with your fingers, separating and coating the pieces. Add the hazelnuts and toss to combine.
In a small saucepan, over medium heat and stirring occasionally, bring the honey and granulated sugar to a strong simmer; continue to simmer without stirring until the mixture registers 240 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 51/2 minutes. Add the honey-sugar mixture and the melted chocolate to the orange-nut mixture and rapidly stir to combine well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and with wet hands or the back of a large spoon, press the batter into an even layer.
Bake until the panforte is firm and the surface is glossy, about 35 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes, remove the sides of the pan and cool the panforte completely before removing the parchment paper. Dust the top, bottom and sides of the panforte generously with confectioner’s sugar and rub it in with your fingers. Serve cut in thin wedges. Wrapped well and stored in an airtight container at room temperature, the panforte keeps for about one month. You can dust it with more confectioner’s sugar before serving.
ADAM’S NOTE: work quickly once you add the honey syrup to the other ingredients, as the mixture will begin to stiffen almost immediately
MY NOTE: I sometimes use orange infused chocolate for a deeper orange flavor. Both Lindt and Taza make good flavored chocolate.
From my kitchen to yours,
CK, la fille du boucher.