How to make
· 20cm/8-inch shallow, round cake pan », greased
· 2 x 12.5cm/5-inch edible wafer paper discs
· 50g/1/3 cup whole blanched almonds
· 50g/1/3 cup whole pistachios
· 90g/2/3 cup dried figs, stalks removed, and roughly chopped
· 11/2 tablespoons sherry
· 5 tablespoons honey
· 75g caster sugar
· 75g/1/3 cup plain/all-purpose flour
· 100g/2/3 cup mixed candied peel
· 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
· a pinch of ground cloves
· icing/confectioners’ sugar, to dust
Makes ~30 biscuits
· 50g Glace cherries, washed and drained
· 50g Mixed peel, diced
· 100g Sultanas
· 200g Almonds, flaked
· 50g Plain flour
· 120g Salted Butter
· 160g Caster sugar
· 50 ml Single cream
· 200g Dark chocolate, roughly chopped
A great homemade gift is a Panforte – Italian in its origin, packed full of fruit, nuts and spices it is wonderfully festive gift and with a long shelf life it’s ideal as an accompaniment to a cup of coffee when the festive visitors start to arrive. It also doubles up as a dessert in place of a Christmas pudding if you only have room for a slither of something sweet after Christmas dinner!
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) Gas 4.
Place an edible wafer disk in the bottom of the prepared cake pan.
Spread all the nuts onto a baking sheet and toast in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Keep an eye on them to make sure they are not burning. Remove from the oven and place in a clean thick tea towel. Pull the towel up around them and twist tightly to enclose them. Vigorously rub the nuts through the towel until most of the skins are removed. Remove the nuts and discard the skins.
Put the dried figs in a food processor with the sherry, honey and sugar and blitz for 20 seconds. Transfer to a large saucepan and boil gently for 6-8 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the flour, mixed peel, spices and roasted nuts and stir well.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking pan and press down firmly (a slightly smaller pan wrapped in clingfilm/plastic wrap is handy for this). Place the second edible wafer disc on top of the cake and leave overnight to set. Dust icing/confectioners’ sugar generously over the top before serving.
The cake will keep for up to 2 months in the refrigerator.
Top Tip! Wrap the panforte in some crisp parchment paper and then tie with some festive twine or ribbon and hand over to the happy recipient.
Another Italian favourite are Florentines and these also make a wonderful edible gift. These colourful and chewy biscuits look great stacked into a pile and wrapped with some clear plastic or baking paper. If you’re making a batch for a bigger family gathering then why not double up the quantities – and don’t forget to add a batch for yourself!
Line your baking sheets with baking paper. A standard baking sheet takes six Florentines.
Wash all the syrup from the glace cherries, dry with kitchen towel and dice into small pieces. Place the diced cherries in a large mixing bowl and add the mixed peel, sultanas, flaked almonds and flour.
In a pan over low heat, melt the butter and sugar together. Remove from heat and stir in the cream, then add this to the dry ingredients. Mix until evenly blended. Spoon six walnut-sized scoops of the mixture onto the baking sheet spaced well apart, gently press down the mounds with the back of the spoon. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and immediately re-shape the biscuits into circles using the side of a knife. Transfer to a cooling tray and repeat method till all mixture is used.
To make the chocolate coating, melt the chocolate in a bowl set over hot water or in short bursts in a microwave. Remove from heat and allow to cool, stirring occasionally until it begins to thicken to the point that it can be spread thinly on the back of the biscuits. If it cools too quickly, just repeat this process.
Keep for 7 – 10 days in an airtight container or freeze for up to two months.