Sunday, November 16, 2008


Here's another holiday tradition; this one from Italy. The panforte is a result of the spice trade and combines Italian and Arabic dried fruits and citrus with honey, sugar, a touch of flour, and spices. The technique is very simple and the product is durable and endlessly adaptable. It's essentially a Crusades-era granola bar. They'll keep at least a month in the pantry and indefinitely in the fridge... just slice it thin when you need a nibble.

This year I made a curried panforte by adding tamarind in the syrup and curry flavors to the spices, a Manhattan one (since I had leftover components from my Christmas cake), and another more traditional blend... although I didn't have dried apricots so I threw in dried peaches instead. You could do all tropical fruits... you can also bathe them in a alcohol...
It's fun times with flavors!

Recipe: Panforte {strong bread}

A single recipe will nicely fill an 8" round cake pan, but you can also divvy them into smaller oven-safe ramekins or baking pans for gift giving purposes. I made each flavor in a different shape, just to differentiate them in my fridge.

1 cup dried fruit and/or candied citrus
1 cup nuts, lightly toasted
1/2 cup flour (acts as a binder, can be a low/no gluten flour)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp clove
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar (raw is great)

Rice flour for dusting (subbing other flour is fine)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease your chosen pan(s) and dust well with flour. Lining the bottom with parchment makes removal easier, but it's not required.

Chop fruit and nuts into chunks the size of raisins and combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and spices, then toss with fruit mix.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and honey. Bring to a full boil [240F] then turn off heat and pour in fruit/flour mix. Stir with a rubber spatula [careful, it's hot!] and spoon into your pan(s). Wet your fingers and press the mix into the corners/edges and smooth the top, then dust with flour. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the mixture starts bubbling around the edges and puffs up a little.

Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely. Run a knife around the edges, then turn out, pushing it back into shape if it gets mangled a little, then dust with flour. Douse with alcohol [if using], wrap in parchment paper, and refrigerate indefinitely. To serve, slice thin and dust with powdered sugar
Traditional: figs, apricots, candied orange
, crystallized ginger, almonds. Spices as listed.

Curry: sultana, figs, dates, ginger, apricots
, crystallized ginger, pistachios. Add 1/4 tsp cardamom, cumin, garam masala to spices (or sub commercial curry powder for all) and tamarind paste to syrup.

Tropical: mango, papaya, pineapple, coconut, almonds. Sub 1/4 tsp cardamom for clove and nutmeg and douse with rum.

Manhattan: cherries, raisins, dates, figs, pecans. Reduce all spices by 1/2 and use rye flour. Add sweet vermouth to sugar/honey syrup and douse with whiskey.

Margarita: candied lime, citron, orange, almonds. Omit spices, add 1 tsp kosher salt, use 1 cup agave nectar for syrup. Douse with tequila.

Chocolate: cherries, raisins, dates, hazelnuts. Omit ginger and nutmeg and use cocoa powder in place of flour.

Any other ideas?

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