20 December 2009

Italian Panforte

dairy free egg free nut free

I'm not even going to pretend this is close to the original panforte from Siena. My aunt has lived there for most of her life and she would probably be horrified at the state of this recipe. Mainly due to two things: 1) Italians are not known for being very adventurous with their traditional recipes, and 2) to be fair, most panforte in Italy is bought, not made (much like panettone and pandoro, no one I know goes around baking the things). I'm pretty sure that chocolate was not an original feature of panforte, but since everyone's a gourmand these days, there are plenty of versions floating around if you care to google.

Nevertheless - a challenge is a challenge and here it is.

While you can fare quite well by omitting nuts altogether in many sweet recipes, it is a key feature of panforte - whole nuts, not chopped or ground. I recently came across a thing called Chic Nuts - roasted chickpeas made by  Partner Foods. The blessed things look exactly like hazelnuts = brainwave. They do have garlic powder added and while it wasn't overly strong, I did shake them about in a sieve to remove any excess. Though once added to the panforte and combined with the chocolate and figs and spices, it really is a non-issue. Roasted chickpeas also have a more brittle texture than nuts, and a crispier bite. It does the job pretty damn well.

The other thing to note is that you need to make the sugar syrup/caramel to a certain temperature before mixing it in - this is usually done with a sugar thermometer. I have no such thing, so I just waited until I thought it bubbled appropriately (do not stir it once the sugar is dissolved or it will crystallize) and then added it. Tricky to mix as the mixture is very stiff and the syrup makes it even more so. It reminds me of my mother making torrone (Italian nougat) - the liquid glucose is mixed in and requires two people to finish the job - one to hold the bowl and the other to mix the concrete-like mixture before it sets! (Brainwave #2: "chickpea" nougat hmm....)

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I'm quite pleased with this :)

Serves 10

1 sheet of confectioner's rice paper (not Asian rice paper)
85gm plain flour
1 tbsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground ginger
190gm dried figs, stalk removed, cut in half
200gm roasted chickpeas (or Chic Nuts) - on reflection, I would halve the amount of chickpeas because of their slightly unusual texture, so add only 100gm and check oven times as it may need a little more.
100gm dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (most 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate is dairy free but the majority have nut traces - so I use Kinnerton Luxury Dark Chocolate Bar)
1 orange, coarsely chopped zested rind only
150gm caster sugar
150gm honey
Icing sugar to dust

Preheat oven to 150 C. Lightly grease a 20cm cake pan and line the base with overlapping sheets of rice paper, trimming to fit. Sift flour and spices into a bowl, add figs, chickpeas, chocolate, rind and toss to combine well.

Heat sugar, honey and 2 tbsp water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Do not stir again as it may crystallise. Bring to the boil and cook until mixture reaches 115 C on a sugar thermometer (essentially at liquid caramel stage).  Using a lightly oiled spoon and working quickly, pour caramel over nut mixture and mix well. Spoon mixture into prepared cake pan and smooth top with a spatula. Bake for 15 minutes, cool and dust liberally with icing sugar. Cut into wedges and serve.

NB: This recipe was adapted from Gourmet Traveller. If you want to make the original nut-laden version, substitute the chickpeas for 100gm roasted hazelnuts and 100gm roasted almonds.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Queen Bee :) Thank you for your comment on the Vegan Royal Icing. I wish I could answer your question but unfortunately I only ever used it to decorate cookies, never a cake. I suspect it doesn't set quite as hard as regular royal icing though so I'm not sure how it would go on a cake. Maybe make a cupcake trial version?

    Love your blog btw :) Sorry it took me so long to get back to you.