An Italian fruit cake of sorts…
As much as I adore Italian food even I have to admit that when it comes to pastries and sweet treats to enjoy with coffee, they don’t really stack up when compared to some other culinary savvy cultures such as France. Sure, they make a mean biscotti to dunk into your espresso and later in the day nothing makes me happier than a gelato or perhaps a panna cotta but in terms of cakes and pastries, Italian offerings can leave me wanting. Except of course, if there is panforte on offer!
Panforte is wonderfully dense and sticky nougat like fruit ‘cake’ that originates from Tuscany. The name translates to mean ‘strong bread’ and traditionally includes a little pepper to add extra spice or ‘strength’ to the flavour of the dessert. There are many different panforte recipes that exist and the original version was made without cocoa or chocolate and is just a delicious for those of you who want to try it! I’m a chocolate fiend though and love a wedge of panforte with coffee – a marriage made even more heavenly in my opinion when there is a cocoa bent to the dried fruit sweetness of the slice.
While you can buy panforte quite easily in Australia, it is generally pretty expensive. Since it is so easy to make and lasts for ages in the pantry, there’s no reason not to get into the kitchen and make panforte from scratch. The panforte recipe below is one I have tweaked to my liking but you can play around with the proportions to find the perfect panforte recipe unique to your own tastes. Some people like more nuts, others use brown sugar or other types of dried fruit or omit the pepper.
Not only is this a wonderful recipe to have up your sleeve for entertaining but panforte makes a marvellous gift, especially at Christmas time when its Christmas cake like smell and ‘snowy mountain’ icing sugar top is so very suited to the festive season.
Chocolate Panforte Recipe
- 70g whole blanched almonds
- 70g roasted hazelnuts
- 3 tbsp. coarsely chopped dessert figs
- 2 tbsp. coarsely chopped dried apricots
- 2 tbsp. mixed peel
- 55 g plain flour
- 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp. all spice
- 40 g chopped 70% cocoa dark chocolate
- 85ml or 1/4 cup runny honey
- 3 tbsp. sugar
- A grinding of white or black pepper to taste (optional)
- Icing sugar – to dust
- Preheat oven to 170C. Line a baking
- In a mixing bowl, combine almonds, hazelnuts, figs, apricot and peel. Sift in the flour and cocoa and add the spices. Stir to combine thoroughly.
- Dissolve sugar, honey and dark chocolate in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Stir and do not leave the stove because this syrup can burn very easily! Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and allow syrup to return to a simmer for a further minute or two. You shouldn’t stir for this final two minutes but don’t leave your post by the stove!
- Pour syrup over dried fruit and nut mix and stir through to combine. It may initially seem drier than it should be but keep stirring and it should come together is a gooey, dark mass. You can always add a little more honey to help if it really isn’t forming a malleable paste consistency.
- Pour your panforte mix into your pre-lined baking dish. Using a spatula or back of a spoon to push it down into the corners and flatten the top.
- Bake for around 20 minutes until just set. It will appear softer than you think it should but will harden up more as it cools.
- Dust with icing sugar once cooled and cut into wedges if using a round tin or squares if using a square or rectangular baking tin.