Food

The best panforte in the world

Panforte's name translates to "strong bread," but it is more confection than cake or bread, barely bound with flour and heavy with preserved fruit and honey that dissolve together as they cook. It's studded with toasted nuts and spiced with black pepper, cloves, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon and cocoa.

Maybe it's because panforte is so often compared with fruitcake and confused with panettone — the raisin- and candied fruit-studded, brioche-like Italian bread — that we don't see enough of the traditional Tuscan cake during the holidays. So I make my own, ever since discovering a recipe that makes an exceptionally fantastic panforte. It is the best panforte I have tasted — that's not a boast but a testament to the recipe.

The recipe comes from the cookbook "Tartine" by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson. Approached leisurely, it can take two days to make, and I like the journey of it. The gathering of the ingredients: pounds of pistachios and almonds, tiny currants, soft dates, fresh quince, oranges and lemons, along with a small pile of the spices, cocoa and citrus zest. (You'll have to grate 11/2 whole nutmegs.)

The quince get peeled, cored, sliced and cooked in sugar, the orange peel cut and blanched twice before candying. All the nuts are toasted. And then I get down to the business of making the actual panforte itself, mixing boiling, bubbling honey syrup with the fruit and spices before it goes into the oven and, finally cooled, dusted with powdered sugar.

Not cloying but warmly, deeply spicy, panforte is excellent with cheeses and sparkling wines or as dessert with tea. And a wedge of it wrapped in brown paper makes an excellent gift.

betty.hallock@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Christmas dinner: Get your goose
    Christmas dinner: Get your goose

    S. Irene Virbila likes to roast a goose for Christmas dinner.

  • The gift of Christmas dinner
    The gift of Christmas dinner

    Christmas dinner is a meal with plenty of tradition, but it's not as hidebound as Thanksgiving. It's more a matter of choice than obligation. We tend to serve the same dishes year after year, but it's because we want to — because we love them and feel like celebrating...

  • Posole, the taste of Christmas in New Mexico
    Posole, the taste of Christmas in New Mexico

    My family has lived in Southern California for more than 25 years now, but at the holidays we still seem to think of ourselves as transplanted New Mexicans. We string red chile lights, bake anise-flavored biscochito cookies, put out the candle-lit paper bags called luminarias and, most...

  • Tidings of comfort and latkes
    Tidings of comfort and latkes

    What am I cooking for Christmas dinner? Well a goose, of course, a fine, fat one, cooked in the Barbara Kafka way that involves high heat and an hour of resting in the cooling oven; and my mom's sweet-and-sour red cabbage; and blanched Brussels sprouts finished in hot fat. There will be no...

  • Christmas dinner: Sharing a pecan pie across generations
    Christmas dinner: Sharing a pecan pie across generations

    Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen manager Noelle Carter couldn't get in her grandmother-in-law's door without a pecan pie.

  • Easy dinner recipes: Mac 'n' cheese ideas for Meatless Monday
    Easy dinner recipes: Mac 'n' cheese ideas for Meatless Monday

    Could it possibly get any better than mac 'n' cheese for dinner? Probably not. Which is why we've included not one, but three mac 'n' cheese recipe options for your dining pleasure. You're welcome.

  • 10 great L.A.-meets-Naples Margherita pizzas
    10 great L.A.-meets-Naples Margherita pizzas

    It’s hard to write about Los Angeles pizza without getting a little defensive. Non-Angelenos love to hate our city, and after they exhaust the topics of traffic and Hollywood, they accuse us of having no pizza. This is a preposterous accusation. Los Angeles may not have a storied...

  • For real apricot flavor, look beyond the apricot, with a half-dozen recipes
    For real apricot flavor, look beyond the apricot, with a half-dozen recipes

    Have you given up on fresh apricots? You’re not alone. Unless you are fortunate enough to have a source for those perfect little Blenheims, most apricots you’ll find at the farmers market are pretty disappointing. They’re varieties that are intended for drying and canning,...

Comments
Loading