Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Gifts from the Kitchen

Panforte di Siena (pahn-FOHR-teh)

Don't hate us for thinking about the holidays already! If you like to give and receive homemade gifts of food, allow us to introduce you to a wonderful Italian cake/confection that you can make right now and give as a gift for the holidays. It's a good time to purchase the ingredients for this treat - Jungle Jim's International Market is stocking the shelves with all the dried fruits and nuts you will need for this recipe. 


What exactly is Panforte? The word means "strong bread." It's a firm, sweet cake/confection full of nuts, spices, pepper and candied fruit. This is NOT a fruitcake! A specialty of Siena, Italy, Panforte is traditionally served in the winter, especially at Christmastime. Served in very thin slices, it's delicious as dessert or an afternoon snack with tea. We think it would be a fabulous addition to a cheese course. A light dusting of powdered sugar makes for a pretty presentation. 

To give as a gift, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and then parchment/butcher paper and tie with a decorative string or ribbon. Panforte should sit for at least a week before serving and will last for up to a year. Store it in plastic wrap - no need to refrigerate.

We are giving you  instructions with a few more photos so you can confidently make this in your own kitchen this holiday season. 


After you have toasted all the nuts, chop them in large pieces. Leigh chopped the hazelnuts in half, so you can use that as a size guide for the rest of the fruit and nuts.


Mix the bowl of dry ingredients into the chopped fruit and nuts. Combine well until the nuts and fruit are coated.


The sugar, honey and butter should be mixed thoroughly and brought to 238 - 240 degrees. Our mixture is almost ready to be removed from the heat and added to the nuts and fruit.


Be careful as you add the hot mixture to the nuts and fruit! Stir well until all the dry mixture is covered with the honey mixture. The batter is too thick to use a spatula - a sturdy wooden spoon works well.



Scrape the mixture into your prepared cake pan.


Once the mixture is in the pan, lightly dampen your fingers and press the batter evenly into the pan.  


It should reach almost to the top of the pan.


Occasionally the batter may run over, so put a pan on the next rack down to catch the overflow.
The batter will bubble about 2 inches in from the edge of the pan. Don't worry if the center doesn't bubble. Once done, follow the directions for cooling and removing from the pan. 



This is a beautiful, unusual gift that your friends will enjoy. If you don't have a 7x2 inch round cake pan, visit our Gourmet Galeria at either location. 

The Cooking School at Jungle Jim's has a popular holiday class tradition offered every November  - "Gifts from the Kitchen." If you enjoy giving homemade gifts, consider joining Leigh for some fresh ideas that you can make this holiday season. We offer 4 classes to fit busy schedules. Check out the 2013 menu.

Panforte di Siena

1½ cups whole blanched almonds, lightly toasted
1 cup whole hazelnuts, skinned, lightly toasted
1 cup diced candied orange peel
3 ounces dried apricots, diced
3 ounces dried figs, diced
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
½ teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting, optional


Preheat oven to 325° with rack set in the center of the oven. Generously spray a 7x2-inch nonstick round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom of pan with a parchment paper circle, spray parchment paper circle with cooking spray. Coat bottom and sides of pan with flour, tapping out excess.

Roughly chop almonds and hazelnuts and place in a large, wide bowl, along with orange peel, apricots, and figs; toss to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, cocoa powder, salt, nutmeg, cloves, and pepper. Add to bowl of nuts and fruit and toss until well combined.

Place sugar, honey, and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook mixture until it reaches 238-240° on an instant-read or candy thermometer. Remove pan from heat and quickly pour sugar mixture into nut mixture. Stir until well combined, using a wooden spoon. Transfer mixture to prepared cake pan, pressing lightly (damp hands) and smoothing surface with a spatula.

Transfer cake pan to oven and bake until about 2-inches of the outer edge is bubbling, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer cake to wire rack and let cool about 1 hour; run a warm, damp knife around edge to loosen. Cool for an additional 15-30 minutes, run a damp knife around edge of pan again and invert over rack (smack pan bottom) to remove from pan; turn cake over again (bumpy top up) and cool completely (pull parchment off bottom while still barely warm). Wrap well with plastic wrap, parchment paper, and then again with plastic wrap. Store in a cool, dry place at least one week before serving; panforte keeps well at least 3 months.


To serve, dust the panforte with confectioners' sugar, if using, and cut into thin wedges with a sharp knife. Makes 24 or more servings.

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