A bittersweet symphony

A bittersweet symphony

Christmas wasn’t a holiday that we religiously followed, but I do have a few vivid memories of celebrating it.

Growing up, I remember going out with my friends and neighbours on the eve of Christmas for door-to-door carol singing and exchanging gifts as well. Over the years, that part of my life has changed and it’s become a lot more formal.

The tradition has moved on. Any gift exchange now involves food. My family and I go over to our friends’ house with goodies that we’ve made for the festive season. Due to our busy schedule, if we don’t get time to go over, we make sure that we at least send them food. It’s usually our ‘Christmas pudding’ and ‘Biscotti’ that make the rounds.

Though we don’t celebrate extensively, our son’s school has been encouraging him to take part in the festivities. This year, the school has asked students to bring homemade goodies and no junk items. So we’ve helped him make some gingerbread cookies and he was pretty excited about it.

The recipe I’m sharing today is of a unique Christmas fruit cake called ‘Panforte’. Its origins are from Siena, Italy. It is similar to the British fruit cake, but its texture and flavour is very different. It’s normally made a couple of months in advance and kept in the larder to mellow, and get the full bouquet of spices that’s added to it.

Traditionally, it is rolled in roughly ground spices but to give it a festive ‘snowy’ look the panforte is dusted with confectioners' sugar. Although this cake is made only during the Christmas season, it can be enjoyed anytime.
Chef Tanmoy Savardekar
Owner of The Winking Macaron
(As told to Anila Kurian)

Panforte

Ingredients
n Cocoa powder — 75 gms and 2 tbsps for dusting the pan
n Bittersweet chocolate —100 gms
n Karo corn syrup or liquid glucose — 60 ml
n Hazelnuts, toasted —
250 gms
n Almonds, toasted and cut into three pieces —
375 gms
n Flour — 185 gms
n Candied citrus peel, chopped — 185 gms
n Candied ginger, chopped — 20 gms
n Ground cinnamon —
15 gms
n Ground ginger — 10 gms
n Freshly ground black
pepper — 8 gms
n A pinch of grated nutmeg
n A pinch of cardamom
n Castor sugar — 250 gms
n Honey — 185 ml

Method
n Butter and line with parchment paper 2 to 8” (20 cm) cake rings. Dust this with the cocoa powder set aside.
n Melt the chocolate in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water or on low power in a microwave.  Set aside. Then in a large bowl
combine the nuts, candied fruit, spices, flour and cocoa powder.
n In a saucepan, stir together the sugar and honey. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Then clamp a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan. Continue to boil the mixture over medium heat, without stirring, until the temperature reaches the soft ball stage, 116°C.
Remove from heat and stir the sugar/honey syrup and the melted chocolate into the chopped nut and fruit mixture.  Add the corn syrup. The mixture will stiffen quickly so once combined, transfer to the prepared pan. With damp hands, or the back of a spoon or offset spatula, evenly spread the Panforte, smoothening the top.
n Bake in a 150° C oven for about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack.
While the ‘Panforte’ is still warm, remove from the sides of the pan and heavily dust the top of the cake with confectioners' sugar. Gently rub the sugar into the cake. 
n Let it cool completely, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and butter paper and store in a cool, dry place. The ‘Panforte’ can be stored, well wrapped for several months, till it is ready to be eaten.

 

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