I hear a lot of people saying, ‘I can’t believe it’s Christmas already. I’ve got so much to do’. Well there are lots of ways to simplify the holiday season and it starts with a little baking. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not I would like to share with you some of my favourite recipes that can be made in advanced, simply and economically. They can be given as gifts, shared with others or enjoyed whenever you like, anytime of the year.
Panforte (“strong bread”) or panpepato (“peppered bread”) is an Italian Christmas fruit cake from the Tuscan city of Siena. Densley packed with dried fruit, nuts, spices and chocolate, Panforte is more like a candied cake and makes a lovely treat to gift wrap. It also lasts a month or longer in an air-tight container and it is suitable to freeze. There are many variations using marsala soaked raisins, candied citrus, chilli powder and peppercorns, but I have kept my recipe to what I have on hand and you can too.
- 295 g mixed nuts (I used flaked almonds, hazelnuts & walnuts)
- 225 g mixed dried fruit, chopped (I used apricot, glace cherries & raisins)
- 75 g plain flour
- 2 tbsp cocoa
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 50 g dark chocolate, chopped (I used 60g chocolate coated sultanas I had in the fridge)
- 50 g butter
- 6 tbsp honey
- icing sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 180℃ and line a 20 cm by 30 cm baking tray with baking paper or use melted butter to coat the tray and dust with cocoa powder.
Mix together the nuts, fruit, flour, cocoa and cinnamon until well combined.
Melt together chocolate, butter and honey in a small saucepan over low heat.
Add the chocolate mixture to the fruit and nut mixture and stir until well combined.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and evenly smooth out the surface.
Bake for 45 minutes or until the cake is firm to the touch in the centre (it will look very dark, but be careful not to burn it). Allow to cool in the tin before turning out.
Dust the cake with icing sugar and slice thinly.