Edible Christmas Gifts – III

Panforte (pronounced pan-FOR-tay) is a traditional Italian Christmas cake containing fruit and nuts and originating from Siena in Italy. The texture is quite chewy and comes from mixing the fruit, nuts, spices, and flour with a boiled syrup made from sugar and honey. 

My version uses a lot less flour than others, rendering it less of a cake. What you’ll be left with are crunchy nuts set within a sweet caramel sauce. If you then chop them up into bite sized chunks and pop them in a jar, they make a fantastic Christmas gift. You could also keep a plate of these easily accessible as nibbles for friends and family to graze on over the festive period. 

Panforte Bites

Would fill about 5-6 medium jars

Rice paper for lining
200g blanched almonds
200g skinned hazelnuts
100g pecans
100g pistachios, shelled
200g dried cranberries
4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp grated nutmeg
Enough plain flour to coat
200g icing sugar
200g clear honey

First toast the almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios. Dry fry in a large frying pan over a low-medium heat for a few minutes until they begin to get some colour. Keep an eye on them as they can go from golden to burnt in an instant. Remove from the pan and allow to cool.Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan 140°C/gas 3. Line the base of a square sandwich tin with rice paper. In a large bowl, combine all the nuts and the cranberries. Sieve a load of plain flour into the bowl and toss the nuts and fruit until they’re all coated.  Pour the contents of the bowl into a sieve to remove any excess flour, and then add the spices and mix well. Put the sugar and honey in a large saucepan over a low heat and dissolve slowly. Continue cooking until it turns a light caramel colour – this will take a few minutes. Don’t be tempted to stir it, but you can move the pan around a little if you want to. Pour over the nut and flour mixture and mix very well until fully combined.

coated in flour and spices
before going into the oven

  1. Tip
     By all means feel free to add more spices or a different proportion of nuts.
  2. Tip Be sure not to over cook your caramel – if it gets too dark it will taste burnt. Once you start seeing some colour, wait a little bit longer and then take it off the heat.
  3. Tip As soon as you start to pour the caramel over the nuts, it will immediately begin to cool and set. This makes it quite difficult to combine everything together – but keep at it. It will just require some upper body strength.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the tin and press down well to make sure it is level, then bake for 25-30 minutes or until the nuts start to get some colour. Leave to cool slightly, then turn out.
  5. Tip The trick to get the contents out of the pan (remember it will all be incredibly tough and sticky) is to scoop it out while it is still warm and malleable. The easiest way is to put the contents on something the caramel won’t stick to, as it again will begin to set and stick to anything (particularly metal) once it’s out of the pan. I put the nuts on a wooden chopping board and used my hands to mould them back together into log shapes, knowing they would be easy to slice once it had cooled (see chopping board picture). Spend some time really pushing all the nuts together so they are densely packed with no gaps in between.
  6. Once they have cooled, take a large sharp chopping knife and cut them up into bite sized chunks. You can then pop these in a glass jar, top with a festive square of material or some brown paper, and they are ready to bestow upon those you know.
  7. Alfiyet olsun.

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