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Panforte with Hazelnut & Almonds

“Panforte” means “tough bread” in Italian. It is somewhat similar to a Christmas fruit cake, American-style. Panforte and Panettone are the ultimate Christmas or holiday Italian dessert. Panforte is originally from Tuscany, and the Panforte di Siena is considered the best.

Bon Appetit published a version of this in their Dec. 2005 edition (itself a repeat of a December 1990 recipe). The variation includes the addition of two tablespoons of chocolate powder and the omission of the confectioner’s sugar at the end. Our rendition retains the traditional confectioner’s sugar, but substitutes dried fruit, since we don’t like candied fruit.

So, add an international flavor to your holidays!
Happy Holidays or ‘Buone Feste!’
Paola Malpezzi Price

Makes One 9 – inch wide, 1 inch deep cake pan
(Use parchment paper or wax paper to prevent the mixture from sticking to the pan!!)

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked and coarsely chopped
1 cup blanched almonds (lightly chop half but leave some whole)
3/4 cup pitted dates, coarsely chopped
1/2 dried tart cherries
1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup stemmed dried figs, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup coarsely chopped candied orange peel (optional)
1 teaspoon finely grated orange peel
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon
Pinch of ground white pepper
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
Confectioner’s sugar

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 300 F
Butter 9 inch diameter spring-form pan. Line bottom and sides with parchment paper; butter the paper.

Mix all ingredients except honey, sugar and butter in a large bowl (be sure to separate fruit pieces). Bring honey, sugar, and butter to boil in small saucepan, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium – low. Place candy thermometer in mixture and cook until thermometer registers about 245 F, stirring occasionally – about 9 minutes.

Here in Colorado we couldn’t find our candy thermometer and are at a higher elevation so we boiled the honey, butter and sugar at medium low for about 13 minutes.

Pour syrup over the mixture and stir to blend – immediately transfer the mixture to the prepared pan; smooth the top. Bake until bubbling slightly at edges and top appears dry, about 55 minutes (we had it in for about 45 minutes). Cool completely in pan on rack. Cover; let stand overnight at room temperature.

Release pan sides, remove paper from sides and bottom of panforte. Place panforte on cardboard round and sprinkle abundantly with confectioners sugar. You can make this several weeks ahead and store airtight at room temperature.