125g whole almonds
125g blanched whole hazelnuts
130g medjool dates, stoned (100g net weight) - I just used "ordinary" dates
125g crystallised ginger
150g dried cherries
50g candied citrus peel, diced into ½cm pieces
200g plain flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp ground cardamom
1 large pinch sea salt
150g 70% dark chocolate (suitable for vegans if you like)
175g light muscovado sugar
175ml brown rice syrup - I could not find so used half volume black treacle, diluted with water
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4 and line a 22cm cake tin with baking paper. I used a springform tin, so just lined the base.
Put all the nuts on an oven tray in a single layer and roast for 12-15 minutes, until fragrant and deep golden. Once cool, roughly chop the nuts, dates and ginger, and put in a large, heatproof bowl with the cherries, citrus peel, flour, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Mix very well.
Break the chocolate into a small heatproof bowl and set this over a simmering pan of water – the base of the bowl shouldn’t touch the water. Leave until the chocolate has melted – this will take just a few minutes – then take off the heat.
Put the sugar and brown rice syrup in a small pan on a medium heat, and stir to incorporate. If you have a sugar thermometer, the sugar should reach 115C. If you don’t, be aware it should take about four minutes to reach this point, and the sugar will be frothy and bubbling fiercely.
Working quickly now, pour the hot syrup into the dry ingredients, then scrape in the melted chocolate. Mix thoroughly: it will seem quite dry and stiff, but keep stirring, then quickly scrape into the prepared tin, pressing down with your hands to compact the panforte.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until slightly risen and just firm, then leave to cool in the tin. Once cool, use a palette knife to loosen the edges of the panforte, then transfer it to a serving plate and dust lightly with icing sugar; if you like, use cookie cutters to do so decoratively.
Happy New Year. As we start 2020, I am trying after the post-christmas binge, to cut back meat for a while. Although after having watched The Game Changers on Netflix, the 2 Eldest offspring are thinking about Veganism. The Eldest has been mainly veggie for 3 months now, which is laudable, although pigs in blankets are too tempting for anyone with a mortal soul....
I can countenance vegetarianism, and have been veggie on odd occasions through my life. But veganism seem a step too far (or is that too hard). The removal of eggs, butter and milk seems to cut out a lot of mouth feel and taste that gives eating its pleasure. And without pleasure, it is just fuel, and cooking becomes a mechanical act rather than one of love and creativity. Or so it seems to me at first glance. I have posted the occasional vegan recipe on here - but that is because the recipe itself seems interesting and worthwhile rather than because of its implicit vegan sanctity. But I shall investigate more in 2020 and report back. But it seems in trying to copy all the flavours and textures they are avoiding, Vegans cut out the branch on which they are standing. Rather find ways to celebrate those ingredients you have and build something unique around them that cant be copied with meat and dairy. We shall see.
But that provides a good segue into this recipe. As it was christmas, I was looking for an alternative to a traditional christmas cake. I am not a fan of heavy fruit cake with layers of marzipan and royal icing. Traditional or not, it often goes uneaten and discarded as the icing browns and hardens. Well it does in my house, as the offspring also don't eat it. So I happened across this recipe in the Guardian and given the description of it being "The result is an impossibly addictive, deeply chewy and crunchy centrepiece somewhere between a fruitcake and the crisp edges of a brownie." it sounded like exactly what I was after.
It is easy enough to make although for cake makers it will seem a little odd in its process. Actually it didi deliver on its promise for both flavour and texture. it is very dense so only a small slice is needed, works as an after dinner or as a tea-time treat. More interestingly the flavour profile changes over time as it matures. Initially it was all about the cardamom but now after a few weeks (I still have a little left)it is more about gingr and nuts. In all its phases it has tasted like the essence of christmas, spicy, warm and comforting. I think it will become a christmas staple in my house.