This cake is a specialty of the city of Siena in Italy. It is wonderfully dense, packed with fruit and nuts bound together with a sticky honey caramel. I slightly adapted a recipe from melangery but you can substitute the fruit and nuts with any that you like, you can add cocoa or other flavourings… the possibilities are endless.
250g blanched whole almonds
125g dried apricots, diced
250g dried figs, diced
125g dried apples, chopped
125g diced candied orange peel
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cups caster (superfine) sugar
85g unsalted butter
powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Spread nuts on a baking tray and roast until the almonds are golden, about 12 minutes. Allow to cool, then rub the skins off the hazelnuts as best you can.
Reduce heat of oven to 150°C.
In a large bowl, mix together chopped fruits, flour and spices so that the fruit if all coated in flour. Add the nuts and combine well.
Put the honey, butter and sugar into saucepan and bring to the boil until it reaches 116°C. To determine if it’s ready, drop a small quantity of the honey mixture into a glass of iced water. If it forms a ball which flattens but does not disintegrate between your fingers, it has reached soft ball stage. Be careful not to cook it too hot or too long, otherwise your panforte will be too hard.
Pour the honey mixture over the fruits and nuts and stir well to combine. It will be very thick and sticky and not an easy task – I employed hubby when my arthritic hands protested too much.
Line a 12″ x 9 1/2″ (30cm x 24cm) baking tray with a large sheet of aluminium foil (long enough to fold over the top) then lightly coat with oil. Press the mixture into tray, fold the foil over the top so it’s completely wrapped and place in the oven for 40 minutes, then unfold the foil on top and bake for another 10 minutes. Turn out to cool completely, peel the foil off, cut into squares and dust with powdered sugar. Stored in an airtight container it in a cool, dry place, it will keep for several weeks.