A PANFORTE TO DAZZLE CHOCOLATE LOVERS!

Chocolate Panforte

Panforte

CHOCOLATE PANFORTE

For those unfamiliar with this very special holiday treat, panforte is a divinely rich confection packed with dried fruits, nuts, and spices, baked in a 7-or 8-inch slab, and coated with confectioner’s sugar. The traditional Italian recipe contains glazed fruits, but I much prefer the sweet, tangy flavor dried fruits contribute to the recipe. When chocolate and lots of spice is added to the mixture, each bite becomes pure nirvana, delivering a delicious melt-in-the-mouth medley of fruit, nut, spice, and chocolate flavors all at once. In other words, all those heavenly flavors and textures you could possibly desire in a holiday candy.

This recipe is ideal for plan-ahead kitchen wizards who love to make their cookies and confections well-ahead of the holiday and freeze or refrigerate them. Then, when they need them, they can easily reach into the fridge or freezer and the muss and fuss is well behind.

Chocolate PanforteDuring the autumn season, I make several batches of panforte, wrap them in double layers of plastic wrap, and tuck them into the fridge. Knowing I’ll be entertaining and going to several parties during the holiday season, my early prep serves me quite well.

A homemade panforte also makes an fabulous gift that can be safely shipped to friends and family across the country without spoilage. Once they taste, the lucky recipients will send you messages filled with OMGs!

Panforte

Entertaining at home during the holidays, I like to serve the panforte as an extra treat. Several hours before dessert time, I remove the panforte from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature for best flavor. Then, I unwrap a slab and put it on a colorful plate garnished with real or plastic holly. If the panforte is the only dessert, I’ll cut it into thin wedges like a pie. When serving it along with other desserts, I cut it into bite-size pieces, about 1-inch square. Because it’s quite rich, a little goes a long way.

Panforte makes an impressive homemade gift. Before gifting, tie a holiday ribbon over the plastic wrap, make a large bow, and present the panforte with a happy holiday wish. I like to add a touch of holly to the wrapping–it does such a great job of conveying the holiday message and makes an attractive addition to the presentation.

Here’s the process: Line the pie pans with parchment. Roast the nuts. Cut the fruits, Combine the fruits. Add spices and nuts. Make syrup and add to mixture. Spoon and press into parchment-lined pans. Bake. Cool. Dust with confectioner’s sugar. Ready to wrap.

Chocolate PanforteChocolate Panforte

 

Chocolate PanforteChocolate Panforte

Chocolate PanforteChocolate Panforte

Chocolate PanforteCHOCOLATE PANFORTE

Yield: four 8-inch round slabs

Panforte

2 cups pecansChocolate Panforte

1 3/4 cups walnuts

1 1/4 cups almonds

1 cup dried dried apricots, diced (i used Melissa’s)

1 cup flour (oat, all purpose, or whole wheat pastry flour)

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons organic sugar

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped dates

1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries (I used Melissa’s from melissas.com)

Zest of 1 lemon or orange

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmegChocolate Panforte

3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Chocolate Syrup

1 cup organic sugar

1 cup agave nectar

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken into several pieces

1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and have ready 2 large rimmed baking sheets and four 8-inch pie pans or cake pans lined with enough parchment to drape generously over the sides. Place 2 pans on each baking sheet. Set aside.

TO MAKE THE PANFORTE, spread the pecans, walnuts, and almonds on one of the baking sheets and toast them in the oven for 9 minutes. Immediately transfer the nuts to a large platter to cool and turn off the oven.

In an extra large bowl, combine the apricots, flour, sugar, raisins, dates, cranberries, lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, and pepper.

When the nuts are cool, add them to the bowl and mix well to distribute the ingredients evenly. Set aside.

TO MAKE THE SYRUP, combine the sugar and agave nectar in a 2 to 3-quart saucepan and mix well. Put the chocolate in a bowl and place it near the stove-top. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan and place the pan over medium-high heat. Boil until the temperature reaches 225 degrees F., approximately 5 minutes. This can happen very quickly. Do not stir during the boiling.

Turn off the heat as soon as the mixture reaches 225 degrees F. and stir in the chocolate. Continue stirring until the chocolate is completely melted.

Pour the chocolate syrup into the fruit-nut mixture and use a heavy-duty wooden spoon to stir and coat the ingredients completely. The mixture quickly becomes quite stiff and you’ll need to apply muscle power to combine the syrup and fruit-nut mixture.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Use a metal spoon to distribute the mixture equally among the prepared pans, a heaping spoonful at a time, packing it down before adding another. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely for several hours before removing the panforte slabs from the pans.

Then, carefully, remove the parchment from each slab and dust each heavily with the powdered sugar on both sides, using your hands to coat them completely.

TO SERVE THE PANFORTE, use a sharp, heavy-duty knife to cut the panforte into very thin wedges or into 1-inch pieces. If not serving right away, double-wrap each panforte in plastic wrap. The panforte will keep for a month or two at room temperature or for 1 year in the refrigerator.

Panforte

Can You Make Apple Crisp Blush?

HOLIDAY READY APPLE CRISP

A venerable, time-honored dessert as homespun as they come, this old-fashioned apple crisp spruces up for the holiday with a blush of cranberries and a touch of citrus zest.

applecrispWhile the name “apple crisp” may evoke a ho-hum response when you tell guests what’s for dessert, you’ll find them nodding and mmmmm-ing after they’ve taken the first taste. Honest, it’s a winner! Thank the cranberries and blow a sweet kiss to the dried apricots for making this apple crisp zing and dance with exceptional flavor. This yummy dessert is one ofVegan Holidays highres the special gems in my Vegan for the Holidays cookbook.

When you take the baked crisp out of the oven, it doesn’t look especially enticing–all brown and lumpy. So, if you’re dishing it out at the table, try putting the pan on a colorful placemat or napkin and toss a few fresh cranberries over the top. Each time I make the crisp, I play a little more with garnishing.

applecrisp2Truthfully, how it looks may seem unimportant to some people who are much more interested in how it tastes. But when I bring a dish to the table looking like a knockout, I know it stirs excitement and anticipation–and this little flavor-infused dessert really delivers.

After a large, festive meal guests will welcome this dessert. Because it’s mostly fruit, it’s lighter than a cake, sweetly satisfying, and leaves everyone with a smile.

It’s so easy to prepare you might even convince the family to pitch in and help put it together while you prepare another dish. And, taking part in the dinner or dessert preps has a special reward for the host–it makes the participants so much more appreciative.

I like to make the crisp a day or two ahead and warm it a bit before serving. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and pop it into to warm for about 15 to 20 minutes. You can also serve it room temperature. If you’re an ice cream nut, you might include an indulgent scoop of vegan vanilla ice cream on top.

HOLIDAY READY APPLE CRISP

Yield: 6 generous servings

Filling

3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered, and sliced

1 1/4 cups fresh cranberries

1/3 cup raisins

1/3 cup Turkish apricots, snipped into quarters

1/2 teaspoon orange or lemon zest (optional)

1/3 to 1/2 cup organic sugar

1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 

ToppingHoliday Ready Apple Crisp  copy

3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup dairy-free margarine

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and have ready an 8-inch square baking dish.

  1. TO MAKE THE FILLING, combine the apples, cranberries, raisins, Turkish apricots, and orange zest in a large bowl and toss together.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the organic sugar, flour, and cinnamon, mix well, and add to the apple mixture. Mix thoroughly until well combined and spoon the fruits into the baking, dish. Set aside and prepare the topping.
  3. TO MAKE THE TOPPING, combine the rolled oats, flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a medium bowl and mix well. Add the margarine and use a pastry blender or your hands to work it into the topping mixture.
  4. Sprinkle the topping loosely over the apple mixture, forming a crumbly, uneven, lumpy topping. Bake uncovered for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the apples are soft when gently pierced with a fork. Cool 15 minutes and serve warm or cool completely and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note:

If you prefer your apple desserts a little more toward the tart side, use the 1/3 cup measurement of organic sugar. Those with a die-hard sweet tooth will be happier with 1/2 cup of organic sugar.