ain't christmas without it

ain't christmas without it

Every Christmas one of my favorite things to make is pan forte.  An Italian holiday confection made from nuts and fruit, pan forte translates as “strong bread.”  It is chewy, spicy, nutty deliciousness.  Put a slice in your pocket when you go skiing and you can have a nutrient dense, energy packed snack to keep you going.  I get great pleasure when I package the pan forte.  I wrap each square in wax paper, then brown paper (I cut up a grocery bag), tied with ribbon and sealed with sealing wax.  I love the way they look!  I make enough to give to family and friends and a few extra to have on hand for hostess gifts.  I’ve adapted this recipe from Nancy Silverton’s version in Pastries from the La Brea Bakery.

Pan Forte
makes one half sheet pan (13 x 18 x 1) prepare the pan with light oil and parchment

  • 3 cups whole raw almonds
  • 3 cups whole raw hazelnuts

toast the nuts separately in a 350 degree oven for 10 or 15 minutes until they are brown and toasty smelling.  Put the hazelnuts into a dry dish towel and rub them together to get rid of some of the dry skins.  Put the nuts in a bowl and add:

  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 Tablespoon ground black pepper (I like it spicy, you can add less if this scares you)
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup barley flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2.5 pounds mixed dried fruit

I have experimented a lot with different kinds of dried fruit.  Sometimes I use chrystalized ginger in the mix,  I always use dried peaches, figs, golden raisins, dried cherries, apricots, prunes.  Cut them all up into manageable pieces (1/2 inch or 1 inch).  Add the dried fruit to the nut/spice mixture and stir  to coat the nuts and fruit with the spices and flour.  Meanwhile… on the stove:

  • 1 1/3 cups honey
  • 2 cups sugar

Bring the sugar and honey to a boil in a saucepan.  The sugar should dissolve in the honey.  Cook without stirring.  Cook until it reaches the soft ball stage on a candy thermometer (224 -240 degrees).  Working quickly at this point you will pour the honey mixture over the nuts and frut, stirring to combine.  It will be very thick and you must work quickly because as it cools it becomes nearly impossible to stir.  Pour it into the prepared pan.  Using wet hands, press the mixture into the pan.  Bake for one hour at 300 degrees.  Let it cool slightly before taking it out of the pan.  Cut the edges off.  Cut into twelve rectangles.  Wrap when cool.  Pan forte keeps well when wrapped.