Sort of a cross between confection and cake, this Italian specialty is also known as a Siena cake. Dense, flat and unapologetically rich, panforte is studded with toasted pistachios, hazelnuts and almonds, as well as candied quince and orange zest, currants, dates, a blend of aromatic spices and no shortage of sweetness (it calls for honey, granulated and powdered sugars). This is a gift for someone special.
Rich panforte is just one way to get crafty this holiday season with homemade gifts from the kitchen. We've compiled 25 great ideas, ranging from quick and simple gifts (perfect if you're working with kids) to more intricate projects that call for a little extra time and patience.
Some gifts will last for weeks, perhaps more. Others are best eaten within a day or two.
Not only are homemade gifts a great way to save money during the holiday season, they're a thoughtful and creative way to show how much you care.
PANFORTE WITH CANDIED QUINCE
Total time: 3 hours, 15 minutes | Makes 32 half-inch slices
Note: Adapted from "Tartine" by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson. You can use any type of dried or candied fruit, in any combination, as a substitute for the fruits in the recipe as long as the total amount is about 4 1/2 cups (25 ounces).
CANDIED ORANGE ZEST
3 large, unblemished oranges
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1. Remove the zest from the oranges: Run a zester from the top to bottom of the orange, cutting the zest into thin strips (avoid the pith). Repeat with the remaining fruit. Reserve fruit for another use.
2. In a medium, heavy saucepan, cook the water and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Add the zest, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook at a gentle simmer until the zest strips become tender and semi-translucent, about 30 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and pour into a heat-proof container. Cool completely, then store the zest in the cooking syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. You should have about one-half cup (3 ounces) of candied zest.
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large quince
1. Peel the quince, slice it in half, remove the core and cut the fruit crosswise into one-fourth-inch slices.
2. In a medium, heavy saucepan, combine the water and sugar over medium heat, stirring with a spoon, until the sugar dissolves. Add the fruit, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook at a gentle simmer until the fruit is semi-translucent, about 45 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and pour into a heat-proof container. Cool, then store the fruit in the cooking syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You'll have about 1 cup (8 ounces) of fruit.
1 recipe candied quince, strained and coarsely chopped (8 ounces)
1 recipe candied orange zest, strained and coarsely chopped (3 ounces)
2 cups dates, pitted and coarsely chopped (10 ounces)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Zante currants (4 ounces)
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 cup lightly toasted unsalted pistachios
2 cups well-toasted hazelnuts
2 cups well-toasted almonds
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Freshly grated nutmeg from 1 1/2 nutmegs
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup honey
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 10-inch springform pan with 2- or 3-inch sides, line with parchment paper, and butter the parchment, making sure to butter the sides of the pan well.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the candied quince and orange zest, dates, currants, orange and lemon zest, and all of the nuts. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, pepper and cloves over the fruits and nuts. Mix well. Set aside.
3. In a deep, heavy saucepan, combine the honey and granulated sugar over medium-high heat. Stir gently with a wooden spoon from time to time to make sure that no sugar is sticking to the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and cook until the mixture registers 250 degrees on a thermometer, about 3 minutes. The mixture will be frothy and boiling rapidly.
4. Remove from the heat and immediately pour over the fruit-and-flour mixture in the bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon to incorporate the syrup thoroughly with the other ingredients. The mixture may seem dry at first, but it will come together once it is well mixed. (If you have rubber gloves, it is easier to mix with your hands than with a spoon.) Work quickly at this point; the longer the mixture sits, the firmer it becomes.
5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared springform pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula dipped in water. Bake until the top is slightly puffed and looks like a brownie, about 1 hour. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen and turn out of the pan and cool completely.
6. With a fine-mesh sieve, sift the powdered sugar over the top, bottom and sides of the panforte. Lightly tap it over the counter to shake off excess sugar. It will keep, well wrapped, in a cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks, or indefinitely in the refrigerator. To serve, slice into quarter- to half-inch slices.
Each of 32 (half-inch) slices: 330 calories; 6 grams protein; 56 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 12 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 4 mg. sodium.