Christmas Baking Part 1: Prune Cherry Cocoa Nib Panforte & Apricot Pistachio Cardamom Panforte

There shouldn’t be any excuses for not baking this time of the year. Perhaps, it would be better to start a bit earlier and not a week before Christmas. But, as an old proverb goes – it’s still better later than never.

I think, I’m back.

I used to bake this Italian specialty in a round pan and give it whole as a gift to our Italian (and very appreciative) friends. But this year I’m making it different, baking it square, slicing into finger-like pieces and stuffing into multiple boxes along with other treats and cookies for many recipients. It saves me time, and saves them trouble to slice the panforte by themselves (surprisingly, but not everyone owns a good heavy sharp knife).

First panforte is quite hot and not too sweet due to the sour fruits I used (I liked this one most). The second one is milder and sweeter and will please more conservative taste. To distinguish one variety from another, I dusted the apricot panforte with icing sugar and left the prune panforte in its shiny beauty.

I want to emphasize a proper way of packaging these confections for gift-giving. The best would be to place each slice into an individual parchment cupcake liner (it will prevent them from sticking), or at least separate the rows with parchment strips. Do not put them directly onto decorative tissue paper. First of all, most of this paper is not food-safe. And second, the panforte will firmly stick to it.

Makes two (one of each kind) 8-inch square that could be sliced into about 40 slices (80 total)

For the prune cherry nib panforte:

  • 4 oz prunes, quartered
  • 4 oz dry sour cherries
  • 1 oz (¼ cup) cocoa nibs
  • 1 cup toasted whole hazelnuts
  • ½ cup toasted whole almonds
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp natural cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp freshly coarsely ground black pepper
  • a generous pinch of cayenne pepper (about a half of the smallest 1/8-tsp measuring spoons)
  • zest of 1 large lemon
  • 5 ½ oz fine granulated sugar
  • 7 ½ oz liquid honey

For the apricot pistachio cardamom panforte:

  • 4 oz apricots, quartered
  • 4 oz dates, quartered
  • 2 oz candied orange peel (homemade preferred)
  • 1 ½ cups toasted whole almonds
  • ½ cup whole pistachios
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp natural cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp cardamom
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp coriander
  • ¼ tsp finely ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • zest of 1 orange
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 5 ½ oz fine granulated sugar
  • 7 ½ oz liquid honey

Preparation (the same for both):

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 300 F. Spray an 8-inch square pan with vegetable oil spray and line the bottom and the sides criss-cross with two stripes of parchment covering the pan completely. Spray again.

In a large bowl, mix the dry fruits, nuts, nibs (if using), candied peel (if using), flour, cocoa, spices, and citrus zest.

In a 3-to 4-quart saucepan, bring the honey and sugar to a rolling boil over medium heat, stirring. Boil until an instant read thermometer indicates 240 F.

Remove from the heat and pour over the dry ingredients and mix well, working quickly, before the syrup cools. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Wet your hand and use it for spreading and smoothing the surface. Bake until the batter bubbles in the center and at the edges, about 40 minutes. Cool the panforte in the pan on a rack.

Invert the panforte onto a plate and remove the pan. Peel off the parchment and turn the panforte right side up. Slice thinly with a sharp lightly oiled knife. Wash the knife time to time and oil again to ensure neat slices. Keep between parchment paper in an airtight container at room temperature. It will only improve with time.

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19 Responses to “Christmas Baking Part 1: Prune Cherry Cocoa Nib Panforte & Apricot Pistachio Cardamom Panforte”

  1. I love Panforte! This version looks mighty scrumptious.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. I actually gasped when I saw a new post from you.
    So glad to see you’re back and hope all is well with you and yours.
    Merry Christmas.

  3. Stephane in Alaska on December 18th, 2010 at 8:02 am

    Tee hee! It’s wonderful you think you’re back. And yet, we do what we can. The recipes look lovely; thank you. And happy holidays!

  4. It’s so good to read U again ;-) I’ve been visiting u’re website many times and I’m very happy to see this new post. Hm…Unfortunately, I have never eaten Panforte but it looks very nice :-) best regards!

  5. Yay! So nice to have a post from you! I took a long, much needed break as well, and it was rejuvenating. These look great, and the ingredients are so wholesome, I can even eat these as snacks between meals. Happy holidays to you!

  6. Welcome back to baking!
    These goodies sound intense (in a good way). I love spicy candy and your panforte includes so many intriguing textures and flavors.

  7. I too am delighted that you are back. You’ve been missed. Thank you so much for this intriguing recipe. I’ve never tried panforte. Now I must!

  8. You don’t know me.. but I’ve been following your blog for while and it’s amazing to see a new post from you :) You have been missed! Merry Christmas!

  9. I want to make the one with pistachios and apricots! Looks so good!! :)

  10. i’ve never made panforte, but it seems to yield quite an elegant result! nice experimenting, vera!

  11. Thank you all so much for your kind words, it means a lot to me.

  12. Ah that panforte looks gorgeous :) My mom loves them, we get them at the local sweet shops here, but by a different name!!

  13. Love the use of cocoa nibs!

  14. As I was cooking from your recipes these last months, I was always checking to see whether there’s a posting from you and was very pleasantly surprised today to see that you are back. Haven’t tried panforte, but maybe one of these Christmases, why not! I shipped the Christmas sweets yesterday but may be next year. It seems sturdy and will probably travel quite well. All the best to you and a Happy Holiday Season!

  15. YEAH!! You’re back!! I really missed your posts . . . I hope all is well with you and your family. Wishing you all the best this holiday season. This is gorgeous and elegant (as are all your desserts), and the idea of slicing it and splitting up in boxes with other cookies is a great idea. Can I say I’m glad you’re back again?

  16. Avanica, thank you!

    Juanita, me too :)

    Mira, thank you very much for your feedback on the recipes and for your kind words. I greatly appreciate it. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

    Laura, thank you so much for your kind comment and the warm wishes! Everything is fine now, I’m not disappearing anymore. Have a wonderful holidays, Laura!

  17. I with many others welcome you back, you have been so missed.

    Happy New Year!

    Apria

  18. (my comment from a few days ago has disappeared into the ether… but here it goes again): Yay, you’re back!!! I really missed your posts. I kept checking and checking. The Panforte sounds wonderful. I’ve never heard of it but it sounds very easy. The date one sounds especially tasty because I love dates, especially Medjool dates. Will have to try that one!! I recently made (and blogged about) Medjool Date Rugelach. They were amazing!!
    Hugs,
    Hanaâ
    HanaasKitchen.blogspot.com

  19. These look yummy. I am going to try some for a party that is coming up. I thought I might print some fun phrases with my PhotoFrosr printer to go on top of them. Thanks for sharing.

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