This is another dish that I thought would be perfect for Anna's wonderful event - Festive Food Fair.
I'm always on the lookout for Panforte recipes in the hope of one day getting those elusive flavourings just right. A Donna Hay version proved most unsatisfying so I turned this time to Carol Field and her classic book The Italian Baker.
In case you're wondering what Panforte is, it's the traditional fruitcake of Siena. It's rich and dense with an intense spice blend flavouring the mixture. It's served in thin slices - chewy, nutty, fruity, spicy and sweet - it has it all.
[Makes one 20cm/9 inch cake]
115 grams whole roasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
115 grams blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
130 grams candied orange slices/peel, coarsely chopped
130 grams citron, very finely chopped
70 grams plain flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch ground white pepper
150 grams sugar
260 grams honey
30 grams butter
icing sugar, for dusting
Take a 20cm/9inch springform pan - butter and flour and line with baking paper. Set aside until ready. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
Place the chopped hazelnuts, almonds, orange peel and citron into a large bowl and stir well to get an even mix. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder and spices - once again stirring well to ensure it's well distributed.
In a saucepan, place the sugar, honey and butter and heat over low flame. Stir constantly to ensure it doesn't stick to your pan. Using a candy thermometer - cook the mix until it reaches 242-248°F/120°C.
You've got to be quick for this next part as this syrup cools rapidly and turns the mix hard.
Pour the syrup as soon as it reaches the correct temperature into the dry ingredients - it can help to have a person helping you. Quickly stir the syrup through until well blended then pour into your prepared pan. Smooth the top off with a flat-metal spatula - if you find it's getting too hard, dip your spatula into boiling water to heat it up - you'll find that it will make getting a flat surface easier.
Cook in the pre-heated oven for 30-40 minutes. The panforte doesn't colour and even when it's cooked it will look soft and runny. Don't be tempted to overcook as you'll end up with something you won't be able to cut. The mix will harden as the cake cools - ideally it should have a flexible feel to it, similar to soft nougat.
Let the cake start to cool in the pan - when the centre feels solid, remove it from the pan and turn it out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
When cold, dust heavily with icing sugar - it's needs to be a really thick coating.
To serve, it's best served sliced as thinly as possible, ideally with an espresso.
This version is certainly getting very close to the taste I'm after - if you can't make it to Siena for the real thing, I think this is a more than adequate substitute.