Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Panforte Cioccolato

Panforte Cioccolata 
Source: Maida Heatter's Best Dessert Book Ever (Andrews & McMeel Publishing, 1997 ed.), pg. 79.

Although listed in the "chocolate cakes" section of her book, this Italian delicacy is more like candy or bread. "Panforte" means "strong bread" and is a good name for this energizing concoction of honey, nuts, candied fruits, cocoa and spices. It keeps well for a long time and travelers packed it in their bags during the Crusades.

This is a dessert for the Christmas holidays and it tastes a lot like fruitcake. It is rich and chewy (you need good teeth for this!).

It is not overly difficult to make but does require some fast action and a candy thermometer. 

Note: For the fruit peel, I just purchased a container of the blended fruitcake mix that is readily available in grocery stores during the holidays. 

1 cup almonds (blanched or unblanched)
4 oz. diced glazed orange peel
4 oz. diced glazed lemon peel
4 oz. diced glazed citron
1/2 cup unsifted unbleached flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1 1/2 tsp. powdered instant expresso or coffee
1 cup hazelnuts (blanched or unblanched) (you can also use walnuts)
1/2 cup mild honey
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Confectioners sugar

Preheat the oven to 350. Place the almonds and hazelnuts on a shallow pan and toast them (10-15 minutes - I usually take them out of the oven when begin to smell them).

After the nuts have toasted, reduce the oven temperature to 325. 

Prepare a springform pan by buttering the bottom and sides. Cut a circular piece of parchment paper to cover the bottom and two pieces to cover the sides. Butter the papers and dust with bread crumbs (I mixed my crumbs with cocoa so that it would be dark.)

Place the glazed fruits in a large bowl. Sift over the fruit the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, allspice, pepper and expresso powder. Mix the dry ingredients well with the fruit (use your fingers). 

Add the nuts and mix thoroughly. 

In a large saucepan, bring the honey and sugar to a boil, stirring constantly. As soon as it begins to boil, place a candy thermometer and let it cook until it reaches 248 degrees (this happens fast).
Very quickly - pour the boiled mixture over the fruit and nuts and mix with a wooden spoon. 
Transfer to the prepared pan.
Spread it out with the spoon and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap. Press down firmly. Remove the plastic wrap.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until it is firm. Set aside to cool. When completely cooled, carefully remove from the pan. After removing the sides of the springform pan, use two wire racks to flip it over and remove the bottom flat pan. Peel off the paper.

Sprinkle both sides with powdered sugar. Flip it on the wire racks to do the other side. This will be messy. Be careful! 

Wrap it airtight in plastic wrap (I cut it into slices first). You can let this sit at room temperature for weeks. It can also be frozen. 


Source: Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts (Andrews & McMeel Publishing, 1999 ed.), pg. 199.

Of the hundreds of Maida Heatter cookie recipes, this may be the most famous. These are chunky but soft, extremely chocolaty,  full of nuts and chocolate chips. Sinfully delicious!

They are easy to make. The trickiest part may be the baking time. After making them numerous times, I have learned to only bake them 10 or 11 minutes at the most, then remove them and allow them to sit on the hot baking pan for about 5 minutes. They will be extremely soft to the touch but eventually they firm up nicely. 

I just use my hand mixer for these. Although the recipe states that it makes 18 large cookies, I find that the yield is slightly higher, even when making them fairly large. I use a tablespoon scoop to form the cookies.

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
3 oz. (3/4 stick) butter
1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. instant coffee or espresso
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 
6 oz. (1 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips
8 oz. (2 1/4 cups) walnuts or pecans, broken into medium pieces

Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Melt the first three ingredients (chocolates and butter) over moderate heat
 in a double boiler. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Beat the eggs, sugar, coffee and vanilla on high speed for 1-2 minutes. 

Lower the speed and add the chocolate mixture.

Add the dry ingredients, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Beat only until blended. 

Add the chocolate chips...

And stir in the nuts. 

Drop by heaping tablespoons on the lined sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes. Tops will by dry. Centers should remain moist and chewy. Do not overbake. Let stand on cookie sheets until firm enough to move to a cooling rack.