Sunday 5 January 2014

Panforte with a candy thermometer

The last thing I want to read in a recipe in the evening on Christmas Eve is that a candy thermometer is required.  It was probably just as well that it was late and I was too tired to change plans.  At least Sylvia was finally asleep and I had prepared the nuts earlier.  Carols by Candlelight was on the television.  I made the panforte at a cracking pace before wrapping the presents.

I have been making panforte for Christmas since 2009 with a recipe that uses fruit mince.  This year I found a new recipe in the magazine from the supermarket and decided to try it.  The recipe didn't call for fruit mince, which helped my resolution not to make fruit mince this year (having had last year's in the fridge all year).

This panforte was different both in making it and eating it.  I found that I had to act quickly in making this one.  Such is the nature of working with candied honey and sugar.  Firstly though I took my time zesting the lemon and orange in front of the carols. 

Once the sugar and honey were in the saucepan they were frothing with heat and the mercury was shooting up the candy thermometer and I had to break up chocolate and drop it into the hot liquid quickly.  However stirring the final mixture didn't need the oiled spoon the recipe suggested - that seemed like too much work.

I took the panforte to my parents' house on Christmas Day.  We saved it for Boxing Day when my dad's family came to celebrate with us.  It didn't disappear as quickly as the caramel tart or look as impressive as my mum's black forest trifle but it was a good festive addition to the table.  My aunt, Jacqui, is a big fan of panforte so I always know it will be appreciated.

This year's panforte was far chewier than in previous years - more like candy while my regular panforte is more like fudge (or a really dense cake).  While I love a good Christmas fruitcake (especially with chocolate chunks), I think this dense chewy chocolate cake is just my sort of festive fruitcake.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago:
Edinburgh Cafe: Scottish Storytelling Centre
Two years ago: Christmas cheese muffins, icy poles and the beach
Three years ago: On being a vegetarian
Four years ago: Potluck in Prinny Park
Five years ago: Chocolate, cherry and chestnut cake
Six years ago: Still life with fruit and fudge (NYE pt 1)

Italian Panforte
Slightly adapted from Coles Magazine December 2013
  • 110g* whole blanched almonds, roasted
  • 125g* whole hazelnuts, roasted, rubbed to remove skins
  • finely grated zest of 1 large orange
  • finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 150g dried figs, chopped
  • 2/3 cup plain flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa 
  • 1 tbsp mixed spice
  • 2/3 cup caster sugar
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 100g dark chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa), finely chopped
  • icing sugar, to dust 
* To roast almonds and hazelnuts, I gently dry fried on a non stick saucepan on low heat until they were smelling roasted and had slightly changed colour.  This took a while and the rubbing of the hazelnuts skins in a teatowel took a bit of vigour.

Preheat oven to 180 C.  Grease and line a 25cm round springform tin.  (I did a 20cm round tin and a 15 cm round tin.)

Stir nuts, zest, figs, flour, cocoa and mixed spice in a large mixing bowl.  Set aside. 

Heat sugar and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar has melted.  Reduce heat to low and gently simmer without stirring about 5-6 min or until it registers 118 C on a candy thermometer.  (This happened rather quickly for me but perhaps that is because I wasn't sure when the sugar was melted as I could still see graininess.) 

Remove from heat immediately and stir in chopped chocolate.  Quickly tip chocolate mixture into dry ingredients and stir until well combined (it will be quite a stiff mixture).

Press mixture into prepared tins.  Bake for 25 minutes.  (The recipe didn't say how to tell if it was cooked - I think the sheen should fade to a dullness but otherwise am not sure.  My little tin was slightly charred around the sides but was still good to eat.)  Cool in tin.  Keeps in airtight container for up to 4 weeks. Dust with icing sugar to serve. Cut into thin wedges with a sharp knife.

On the Stereo:
The Man in the Moon: 34 all time favourite songs, stories and rhymes


  1. ... just when I vow not to eat sweets, someone posts a great easily veganisable recipe like this!

    1. Thanks Veganopoulous - just keep it for next Christmas ( ha ha I know how hard that is and this is so so so good)

  2. Leaving out fruit mince makes this a winner for me, but I am not sure I'd have had the patience for playing with a candy thermometer on Christmas Eve! Still, it looks like it was worthwhile to do so and dried figs are an appealing addition too.

    1. Thanks Kari - the candy thermometer was more fearful in anticipation than in actuality - am sure you would enjoy this

  3. I've never made panforte but it sounds like a fun Christmas challenge for this year in 11 plus month's time :)

    1. Thanks Lorraine - I think you should put it on your list for next Christmas (high up the list)

  4. For what it's worth, I would expect the thermometer to reach 118°C pretty quickly if all you have in the saucepan is honey and sugar, especially if the sugar has already melted. When you are heating sugar, the temperature rises as the percentage of liquid decreases, so if you start with a syrup of half sugar, half water, it will take a while to boil down to 118°C, but if you start with honey (which is much thicker than water) and melted sugar, it will go very fast indeed.

    Sounds like an interesting recipe!



    1. Thanks Catherine - you sound so much more experienced with a candy thermometer than me - probably just as well it went fast - less time to stress that something was wrong :-)

  5. It looks fantastic but very rich! I think a little square would be enough for me. Panforte's not something I've actually tried but I do have memories of our family being given it as gifts at Christmas time.

    1. Thanks Emma - yes very rich - no wonder it is often among Christmas gifts because it is quite special

  6. I like the sound of figs in this version. The result does look a lot softer than the usual type. I notice there is no use of the edible rice paper as a lining too.

    1. Thanks Franscesca - it was still quite chewy but I am not familiar enough with a traditional version to know how it compares - I thought that rice paper was sometimes on it but haven't had that in the recipes I have followed

  7. I've been meaning to make panforte for ages and never got around to it - thanks for the reminder. Maybe by next Christmas I'll have got a candy thermometer and I'll be all set! What vegan thing could I sub the honey for, I wonder? Golden syrup - what do you think?

    1. Thanks Joey - I have wondered about a vegan equivalent for Honey - Golden syrup might work but is quite intense - we have a rice malt syrup here that I quite like and I would try a combination of both because it is not overly sweet but I am not sure if you can get this in the uk (I think it is like brown rice syrup). Would love to hear if you do try it.


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