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Panforte
Panforte is a rich, intense and chewy Italian confection made from candied fruits, nuts and spices. In Tuscany, brightly wrapped packages of the dark, candylike cake are a telltale sign that Christmas is around the corner. If stored in an airtight container, the cake will keep at room temperature for at least a month. Serve in thin wedges with strong coffee.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 1 1/4 cups mixed candied citrus peel, chopped
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Confectioners' sugar for dusting

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit precisely.

Spread the almonds and hazelnuts on a baking sheet, keeping them separate, and toast until lightly browned and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven, place the almonds on a cutting board and place the hazelnuts on a kitchen towel. Rub the hazelnuts with the towel to remove the skins. Do not worry if bits of skin remain. Place the hazelnuts on the board with the almonds. Coarsely chop all the nuts and place in a large bowl. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

Add the candied peel, flour, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, nutmeg, allspice and white pepper to the nuts and mix well.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the honey and granulated sugar and heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts, about 3 minutes. Stir the honey mixture into the almond-fruit mixture, mixing well. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and, when cool enough to handle, wet your hands and press the batter evenly into the pan.

Bake until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and invert onto a rack. Lift off the pan and let cool. When the panforte is cool, peel off the parchment. Using a sifter or sieve, dust the top liberally with confectioners' sugar.
Makes one 8-inch cake; serves 8.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Seasonal Celebration Series, Winter, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1997).