Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mmmm, Fruitcake!

I still don't understand how one of the loveliest holiday confections got such a maligned reputation. I never met a fruitcake I didn't like. I certainly never met one that was fit only for regifting or for use as a door stop. I usually make my own fruitcake this time of year, be it a traditional English Christmas Cake (soaking it with brandy for weeks before digging in) or my favorite, Panforte, which originates from Siena, Italy.

But because we are traveling for the holidays this year, I've purchased some famous local fruitcake to take along as gifts and to enjoy. A co-worker of mine was raving about the Claxton Fruitcake and said that they are wonderful soaked in rum for a few weeks before serving. I didn't purchase them in time, but I'm still really looking forward to trying it. Responsibly, of course. ;)

Even if you think you don't like fruitcake, give this recipe a try. You'll never look at the old doorstop the same way again.

Tuscan Panforte

Parchment paper
2 cups blanched, toasted nuts, almonds and hazelnuts are traditional.
1/2 cup candied citrus peel
1/2 cup chestnuts, chopped
1 cup mixed, dried fruit like dates, plums and figs, chopped
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon coriander
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup powdered sugar plus additional for dusting
3/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with parchment and grease well with baking spray. Do not skip this step, this cake is sticky as all get out.

Whisk flour and spices together and then toss with the fruit and nuts in a heatproof bowl.

Combine sugar and honey in deep saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring for 5 minutes (mixture will bubble up.)

Pour hot honey/sugar mixture over the spiced fruits and nuts. Using a wooden spoon, stir to combine.

Pour mixture into pan, spreading as evenly as possible. Bake for 30 minutes. Cake will be sticky but will harden as it cools.

Place pan on wire rack to cool completely. Remove from pan, peel away parchment. Dust with powdered sugar and cut into thin wedges before serving. The cake will last, freshness-wise, for a couple weeks. Good luck with that.

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