Panforte, an Italian Christmas cake of Siena, Italy, is more confection than cake. A variety of nuts & fruit are coated in heady spiced flour then enrobed in honey-caramel. The result is a rich chewy treat, delicious when cut into thin slivers and served with coffee. In Italy, each village has their own variation of Panforte, and so I was inspired to make not one but two Gisborne variations. Here is the White Chocolate version.
Panforte with White Chocolate
100 g (3/4 cup) blanched almonds
100 g (3/4 cup) pistachios
100 g (3/4 cup) dried apple chunks
50 g (4-5 slices) dried kiwifruit
50 g (2-3 halves) dried peach
zest of 1 lemon
65 g (1/2 cup) flour
1 t cinnamon
¼ t ground cloves
¼ t freshly ground nutmeg
1 t freshly ground pink peppercorns
40 g white chocolate
125 g (1/2 cup+1 T) white sugar
85 g (1/4 cup) runny honey
75 g (1/4 cup) sweet apple syrup
Grease 1 x 18-20cm (or 3 x 10cm) loose bottomed or spring-form cake tin.
Make a collar for the sides of the pan, then fit a circle for the base inside the collar.
Grease the baking paper.
Preheat oven to 180ºC
Place nuts into a single layer in a shallow baking tin.
Toast, 5-10 minutes, until lightly golden, shaking gently once or twice to toast evenly. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
Reduce the oven temp to 170ºC
Roughly chop nuts and fruit then combine with zest.
Sift flour and spices together then stir in nuts mixture so all ingredients are coated.
Roughly chop chocolate and set aside.
Combine honey, sugar and syrup in a medium pot.
Dissolve sugar over low heat ensuring the mixture is clear of any sugar crystals before bringing to a boil.
Boil until soft ball stage (112-116ºC) is reached (about 10-15 seconds). A candy thermometer is handy to test when the caramel is ready. If the caramel is heated too much, the mixture becomes too stiff to mix.
Remove caramel from the heat and, working very quickly, stir in chocolate until it melts and the mixture is smooth. Add caramel to the nut mixture and mix until all the nuts & fruit are covered with caramel – this takes a sturdy spoon and muscle power. Scoop the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Press the mixture down using fingers dampened with cold water.
Bake 20-25 min (10-15 min in the small tins) or until the mixture is beginning to bubble at the edges. Remove from the oven and cool completely in the cake tins. Peel away baking paper then dredge panforte with sifted icing sugar.
Wrap tightly in tinfoil and store in a cool place for up to 3 months.