Thursday, December 23, 2010

Panforte- Tuscan Christmas Cake

"Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas."

Holiday Traditions- We all have them . Here are a few of mine. ...
  • Flashlights-  The elves will leave  one  flashlight under the pillow of any child sleeping on Christmas Eve. When he feels the flashlight he will know Santa has come, and can now find his way to the presents under the tree. 
  •  Jack Horner Presents- These are "gag" gifts given to everyone on Christmas day. With each gift there is a custom  poem about the person and why that gift was chosen for them. Everyone takes turns reading their poem, and opening the gift. Hilarity ensues! 
  •  My childhood-My brother and I would sleep in the same bed every Christmas Eve . He would wake up first, check to see if Santa has come and then wake me up. He would always say, without fail, EVERY Christmas, " Lori, there are presents under the tree"
  • Eat leftover Christmas cookies for breakfast, the day after Christmas .

 What are yours?

  A very old traditional  Christmas cake

raditional confections often originate from particular regions of Italy. A classic example, Panforte, (strong bread) was originally a delicacy of Siena, in Tuscany, and now enjoys wide popularity throughout Italy. It too is shrouded in legend. One tells that in 1205, serfs and tenants of the Montecellesi nunnery were compelled to bring the nuns spice and honey cakes as a measure of the census. So delicious were these cakes that they soon came into laymen's hands. In those days, nunneries prepared medicinal mixtures of herbs and spices; and later, the concocting of these was assumed by the speziali (chemists), and along with it, the preparation of Panforte. Thus, some of the most famous brands of Panforte today bear the names of ancient pharmacists' families. Round in shape, Panforte's basic ingredients are fresh almonds, candied fruit (primarily citrus), spices and honey. The most widely sold Panforte today is Panforte Margherita, named in honor of Queen Margherita, wife of the Italian king Umberto I, and based on a recipe which gave the cake a more delicate taste. Today Panforte is enjoyed around the world, especially during the Christmas season. But it can also add a note of especiality to meals year round. Though Panforte may be served with a wide range of wines, in Italy it is particularly popular with Vin Santo, a sweet raisin wine with origins in Tuscan monasteries.



3/4 cup Hazelnuts ( Toasted and Chopped)
3/4 cup almonds ( Toasted and chopped)
1/3 cup dried apricots ( chopped into small pieces)
1/4 cup candied citron ** or any combination of candied fruit you desire, pineapple, angelica)
1/4 cup candied orange
1/3 cup mixed holiday candied peel ( you know the green and red glacee cherries etc?)
1 whole orange. -zested
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocao powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup honey
pinch of  salt
pinch espresso/instant coffee powder


 Pre- Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Line an 8 inch cake pan with parchment paper. Line the  bottom and the sides.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, cloves, espresso/coffee  and salt together in a bowl. Add almonds, hazelnuts, dried apricots, candied citron, candied orange, mixed holiday candied peel. Reserve for later.

Place honey and sugar in a pot on the stove and heat on low. Stirring until all sugar is dissolved. Bring to a slow boil, and cook until mixture darkens and thickens. @5 minutes.
Stir reserved bowl of nuts/spices/flours  into honey/sugar . Remove from heat while mixing.  Mix until completely combined. Mixture will be thick and heavy.

Spoon mixture into prepared cake pan. Level the surface . Suggestions: with an  offset spatula, back of a slightly wet spoon, or a crumple piece of parchment paper.  

Bake in oven for 15 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool in pan.

Remove from pan, parchment paper, and decorate with confectioner's sugar. Cut into thin wedges. decorate.  Get better after a few days.

Buon Natale!

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