Pistachio and Sour Cherry Panforte

Making panforte is one of my favourite Christmas activities. Sharing and gifting it.. is also another one of my favourite Christmas activities, and then of course.. there’s the eating part of the process which is simply delightful.

Panforte will keep for several weeks.. and actually tastes better when you allow the flavours to develop for a week or so. It is perfect served thinly sliced with coffee or on it’s own as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

I like to give it to friends and family (instead of the usual panettone). I must admit, each year… I have to increase the quantity to keep up with demand. I often sense anticipation from my ‘regular clients’ as I pass them a little Christmas gift bag, followed by a look of reassurance when they realise that they have a little square of deliciousness to enjoy during this special time of year.

At this point… I have to say… the ingredients used for this recipe may seem a little pricey (once you add it all up), but it does make a large quantity. Considering that it keeps for a long period, resist the temptation to half the quantity. Trust me, you will enjoy it… and so will all the friends who drop around to visit at this time of year.

I suggest you avoid purchasing pistachios and almonds from places which sell them in teeny weeny 100g packets. Rather, visit your local market where they are sold in bulk. My local nut shop sells pistachio kernels at approximately half the cost of those in the supermarket. ( Preston Market Healthfoods Shop: C236/C237) But more importantly, they are soooo fresh and delicious.

This quantity will make approximately 10 gift-sized portions of panforte.

** NOTE: Freshly ground nutmeg is a MUST!! Nutmeg quickly loses it’s flavour once ground.

You will need:

400g blanched almonds

400g pistachio kernels

200g seeded raisins

200g currants

200g dried sour cherries

120g dried figs

300g mixed peel

200g plain flour

2 tablespoons Dutch cocoa

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg **

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds

300g dark chocolate, chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons water

300g honey

200g caster sugar

a few drops of almond oil

a large tray approx 22cm x 25cm, which is at least 4cm deep

food-safe gloves

 

Preheat oven to 160°C. Place almonds on a tray and toast for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, combine the dried fruit, pistachios, spices, cocoa, flour and chocolate in a large bowl.

Place the water, honey and sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil.

Once the almonds are toasted, add them to the bowl, then pour the hot honey mixture into the bowl. Using a spoon, begin stirring the contents. Take care, as initially, the mixture will be very hot.

As you stir the ingredients, the heat from the honey will slowly melt the chocolate, and amalgamate all the ingredients in the bowl.  Once the heat from the honey has dispersed through the mixture, you can begin mixing it by hand, until all the flour is incorporated.

Lightly oil your hands and transfer the mixture to the tin, pressing it in firmly. You can use a glass jar to help you . Take care to press the mixture firmly into the corners of the tin. I like to use a mini rolling pin (or glass jar) to level the top of the panforte. Avoid leaving nutty bumps on the surface (this makes for easier cutting later).

Bake for approximately 35 minutes, or until little blisters form on the surface of the panforte.

Allow to cool completely before removing it from the tin. Trim off  about 1mm around the edges of the panforte (use the off-cuts as a taste test he hee), and cut the slab into smaller portions.

Wrap each portion tightly in cling wrap and store in a cool dry place.

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