Recipe by Sarah Phillips and Kelly Hong © 2012 Sarah Phillips CraftyBaking.com
This Italian Christmas cake is a specialty of Siena, Italy, also known as Siena cake. This is my favorite recipe and I have adapted from Tartine by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson. It is a dense, flat cake rich with honey, hazelnuts, almonds, candied citron, citrus peel, cocoa and spices, with only a tiny amount of flour (and cocoa) just enough to hold everything together. After baking, panforte becomes hard and chewy.
CAKE RECIPE HELP
You can use any type of chopped, dried or candied fruit, in any combination, as a substitute for the fruits in the recipe as long as the total amount is about 4 1/2 cups. Similarly, you can use any kind of nuts you like – I prefer a mix of pistachios, hazelnuts and almonds - as long as you use 5 cups.
1 recipe candied quince, strained and coarsely chopped (8 ounces); recipe below
1 recipe candied orange zest, strained and coarsely chopped (3 ounces); recipe below
2 cups dates, pitted and coarsely chopped (10 ounces)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons currants (4 ounces), preferably Zante
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 cup unsalted pistachios, lightly toasted and very coarsely chopped
2 cups blanched hazelnuts, toasted and very coarsely chopped
2 cups blanched almonds, toasted and very coarsely chopped
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour; spoon into dry measuring cup and level to rim
1/2 cup Natural or Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Freshly grated nutmeg from 1 1/2 nutmegs
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup honey
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
CANDIED ORANGE ZEST
3 large, unblemished oranges
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1. Remove the zest from the oranges: Run a zester from the top to bottom of the orange, cutting the zest into thin strips (avoid the pith). Repeat with the remaining fruit. Reserve fruit for another use.
2. In a medium, heavy saucepan, cook the water and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Add the zest, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook at a gentle simmer until the zest strips become tender and semi-translucent, about 30 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat and pour into a heat-proof container. Cool completely, then store the zest in the cooking syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. You should have about one-half cup (3 ounces) of candied zest.
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large quince
1. Peel the quince, slice it in half, remove the core and cut the fruit crosswise into one-fourth-inch slices.
2. In a medium, heavy saucepan, combine the water and sugar over medium heat, stirring with a spoon, until the sugar dissolves. Add the fruit, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook at a gentle simmer until the fruit is semi-translucent, about 45 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and pour into a heat-proof container. Cool, then store the fruit in the cooking syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You'll have about 1 cup (8 ounces) of fruit.
1. Position an oven shelf to the middle of the oven. Heat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Spray a 10-inch springform pan with 2- or 3-inch sides, with nonstick spray. Line with parchment paper, and spray again, making sure to grease the sides of the pan well.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the candied quince and orange zest, dates, currants, orange and lemon zest, and all of the nuts. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, pepper and cloves over the fruits and nuts. Mix well. Set aside.
3. In a deep, heavy saucepan, combine the honey and granulated sugar over medium-high heat. Stir gently with a wooden spoon from time to time to make sure that no sugar is sticking to the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and cook until the mixture registers 250 degrees F on a Candy Thermometer, about 3 minutes. The mixture will be frothy and boiling rapidly.
4. Remove from the heat and immediately pour over the fruit-and-flour mixture in the bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon to incorporate the syrup thoroughly with the other ingredients. The mixture may seem dry at first, but it will come together once it is well mixed. Work quickly at this point; the longer the mixture sits, the firmer it becomes.
SARAH SAYS: Start by using a wooden spoon and once the mixture is cool enough to touch, I use dampened hands to mix it together.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared springform pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula dipped in water.
SARAH SAYS: Or smooth the top with a dampened hand.
5. Bake until the top is slightly puffed and looks like a brownie, about 1 hour.
SARAH SAYS: The center will feel soft, like just-baked custard, and if you touch it, your finger will come away clean when it's done.
6. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 - 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen and remove the springform carefully and cool completely.
Once cool, remove the bottom of the springform pan and peel away the parchment paper.
7. With a fine-mesh sieve, sift the powdered sugar over the top, bottom and sides of the panforte. Rub it in with your hands.
Panforte is best served cut into thin wedges. To serve, slice into quarter- to half-inch slices.
Panforte can be kept for several months, well wrapped, at room temperature.