Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Pan Forte 

I should probably have posted this closer to Christmas, but... well. Expect an Easter bread recipe sometime in June.

It is a bit of a production, but so worth the effort. The recipe says it serves 12-20, but I tend to cut into 1 or 2" squares, and I wind up with a lot.

ETA: There's a lovely little story about the origins of this treat on About.com, here.

Pan Forte
1¼ cups whole unblanched almonds - (6 oz)
1½ cups whole unblanched hazelnuts - (6 oz)
1 Tsp cinnamon, ground
¾ Tsp ginger, ground
¼ Tsp cloves, ground
¼ Tsp freshly-grated nutmeg
1 Tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1 cup + 2 Tbl unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbl unsweetened cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
1¼ pounds dried fruits, preferably organic, any combination of black currants, white or black-raisins, black mission figs, white figs, sour cherries, plums, prunes, pears, peaches, nectarines, cranberries, apricots, and candied ginger. (Note: For an authentic Italian pan forte, choose things like figs, dates, apricots, maybe prunes, etc.)

2/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover
1 cup granulated sugar

1 candy thermometer
1 nine-inch cake ring *
1 sheet rice paper (Note: I've never used it. Not once. Couldn't begin to tell you where to find it. Go with the parchment, below)

*Note: Or several 4-inch flan rings placed on parchment-lined baking sheet, generously coated with melted butter and dusted with unsweetened cocoa powder

Place the ring or mold over the sheet of rice paper on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Spread the nuts on a baking sheet in 2 separate piles, and toast in the oven until lightly browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Shake the pans halfway through to ensure that the nuts toast evenly. Allow to cool a few minutes. Gather the hazelnuts into a kitchen towel and rub them together to remove the skins. Turn the oven down to 300 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the nuts with the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, pepper, flour, and cocoa powder. Cut the fruit into 1/2-inch pieces and toss with the nut mixture.

In a small saucepan, stir together the honey and sugar. Over high heat, bring to a boil without stirring. Using a pastry brush dipped in water, brush the sides of the pan to remove any undissolved sugar granules. Cook until the sugar reaches 224 to 240 degrees (soft ball stage) on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and pour into the fruit mixture. Stir to combine as well as possible. The mixture will be very thick and sticky (Note: and hot as all hell).

Dip your hands in water and press the fruit mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 1 hour, until the top is slightly puffed and the surface is matte. Remove from the oven and cool completely in the pan. Trim the rice paper around the edge of the mold. Store at room temperature, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for several weeks.

This recipe yields 12 to 20 slices.

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