Panforte is a nougat – like cake, rich in nuts and fruit. It is a specialty of Siena in Italy. Visit this beautiful country and you’ll find hundreds of variations of this Christmas-feeling sweet treat.
My favorite after-dinner ritual is one that my family and I gathered together around the fireplace with this very special dessert, coffee, and brandy. Have a safe, warm, and very sweet weekend!
- 2 cups (250 g, 8 oz) walnuts or hazelnuts
- 2 cups (250 g, 8 oz) blanched whole almonds
- 1 cup (125 g, 4 oz) dried apricots, diced
- 1 1/2 cups (250 g, 8 oz) dried figs, diced
- 1 cup (125 g, 4 oz) glazed (candied) pears or apples, chopped
- 3/4 cup (125 g, 4 oz) raisins
- 3/4 cup (125 g, 4 oz) diced candied orange peel
- 2 cups plain, all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 3/4 cup (300 ml, 10 fl oz) honey
- 1 1/2 cups (300 ml, 10 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
- 6 Tbsp. (3 oz) butter
- rice paper
Roast the nuts in a moderate oven 350F (180C) until golden. Allow cooling, then (if you using hazelnuts) rub the skins off the hazelnuts and put into a bowl with chopped fruits, flour, and spices. Combine well.
Put the honey, butter, and sugar into a saucepan and bring to the boil until it reaches the softball stage 240F (116C). To determine the softball stage - drop a small quantity of the honey mixture into a glass of iced water. If it forms a ball that flattens but does not disintegrate between your fingers, it has reached the softball stage.
Pour the honey mixture over the fruits and nuts and stir well to combine. It will be very sticky and you may need to use your hands.
Heat the oven to 300F (150C). Line 12 x 9 1/2 x 1-inch baking tray with rice paper and press the mixture into the tray. Flatten the top. If you dip your hand in milk, this will help. Put another layer of rice paper over the top, pressing down well, and place in the oven. Cook for 45 minutes. Turn out to cool and cut into squares or large rectangles. Store in airtight containers it in a cool, dry place for up to 3 weeks.
If you can't find rice paper, use aluminum fool brushed lightly with oil.