Panforte- The Great British Bake Off Christmas.

Friday 22nd December 2017.

Panforte is a traditional Italian delicacy which is usually eaten with coffee after a meal.  It is full of dried fruit, nuts and spices and baked in the oven on rice paper.  A little piece goes a long way as it is very rich.

I had tried some Panforte one Christmas when my Mum had bought some. It might have come from Lakeland or Waitrose but I couldn’t get enough of it.  I remember seeing whole hazelnuts inside the Panforte and it felt very chewy, almost toffee like in consistency.  No wonder I couldn’t stop at one piece!

When I was looking for ideas to make for foodie presents this year I saw a recipe for Panforte in my Great British Bake Off Christmas Book.  It was quite an expensive sweet to make as I don’t know about you but I think both dried fruits and nuts have gone up a hell of a lot in price in the past few years.  Don’t get me started on all the other baking ingredients!  So, I would only choose to make two panfortes and for those who I knew would like one.

It was the Friday before Christmas (can you believe that’s over a week ago now, where has the time gone?) and I was trying to do everything on that one day.  By the time it got to Friday teatime I had a meltdown and started crying thinking why am I doing all this?  I still had a birthday cake to bake, I hadn’t finished my Dad and step-mum’s Christmas present and I hadn’t made our usual mince pies and sausage rolls.  Any normal person would have gone out and bought them but I’d bought all my mincemeat in and also the sausagemeat and I didn’t want to go out spending any more money.  I guess, what with my day job and school breaking up so late I was struggling time wise.

But earlier on in the day I felt as if things were more under control.  I was keeping going drinking endless cups of tea and coffee but later I got Mr SmartCookieSam to pour me a large gin and tonic.  That did calm me down!

Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent.  Back to the panforte.  In the Bake Off recipe the dried fruit you need are figs and apricots.  I don’t mind dried apricots but figs- yeuggghhh!  I needed most of the packet of them and boy did they take ages to cut up.  Then I cut up the dried apricots and put them, along with the figs into a pan and heated it on the hob with some runny honey, some light brown muscovado sugar, ground cinnamon, nutmeg and some ground mixed spice.  The recipe needed cardamom pods (which I’d not got in) and also ground cloves.  I had whole ones but not the plain ones.  I had used the mixed spice instead of the cardamom and cloves.  Also to the pan I added about a tablespoonful of water.  This mixture was heated for about 10 minutes until it became soft and sticky,

Meanwhile I had weighed out some mixed peel, whole blanched almonds and some pistachios.  I had to buy pistachios with the shells still on (so I had to remove these before mixing them in) Along with that I put in 3 tablespoonfuls of plain flour.

Panforte is traditionally lined with rice paper but I couldn’t find any in my local Morrisons with the baking stuff.  I just lined the base of two loose bottomed  round 18cm or 7″ cake tins with baking parchment.  Though obviously that’s not edible!

I spooned the mixture between two tins as I had made double the quantity and baked both the panfortes at the same time.  They took about 45 minutes in the oven.  I must admit they didn’t look very pretty when they came out of the oven.  They looked like giant cow pats! But dusted with a bit of icing sugar then they would be fine.

When the panfortes were cooled, I put them onto a thin circular cake board and wrapped them in clear cellophane.  To finish I chose some pretty Christmas ribbon to tied them up with.

I gave one of the Panfortes to my Mum, the other to our family friend Paul. I hope they both like them and don’t break their teeth on them!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Florentines- The Great British Bake Off Christmas.

Friday 22nd December 2017.

Yet another new favourite from The Great British Bake Off Christmas book.  I love Florentines but have only ever made them once before.  They’re another perfect treat to make for foodie gifts at Christmas as well as handy for having around for visitors who don’t like mince pies!  I don’t know why I’ve only made them once before, maybe because if I did make them more often they wouldn’t even get to the serving plate or into the box!

The last and only time I made Florentines was about 3 years ago.  That year my mum, auntie, cousin and his wife came up to stay in a nearby holiday cottage in Yorkshire.  They came over to our house on Boxing Day but before we had lunch and went home to open the presents, we went out to the pub.  Normally I don’t leave anything food related under the Christmas tree  because our greedy Labrador would have the lot. Anyway I made the mistake of putting all the presents out under the tree for when we got back. I though I had shut the door into the lounge but obviously not. We left our dog at home for about an hour but when we came back we noticed that he had eaten half the Florentines and ripped open the cardboard gift box they were in.  It was a wonder he wasn’t ill, what with all the chocolate and glace cherries on them.  So my mum, auntie, cousin and his wife ended up sharing what was left of the Florentines between them! They didn’t look that marvellous anyway, quite rustic looking but I heard they tasted lovely.

This time I was planning on Florentines but this time I would bake them for my three step-sisters and their families.  I definitely wouldn’t be putting them under the tree!  I’d keep them up on the work top in my utility room with the door firmly closed.

The recipe introduction to the Florentines says: “These sticky little sweet treats are half biscuit and half chewy caramel goodness. They have become a classic at Christmas, probably thanks to the candied peel and glace cherries that are so beloved at this time of year,”

The recipe said it made 16-18 biscuits so I prepared two baking trays with lining paper.  I know that Florentines spread out quite a lot when they are in the oven so you need to leave plenty of space between each biscuit.  I wondered whether to set out a third baking tray just in case.

First, I melted butter and sugar in a small pan on the hob. When this was melted and turned into a paste, I stirred in plain flour and double cream.  This was kept on the heat until smooth and the sugar had dissolved.

After this I folded in flaked toasted almonds, candied peel, dried cranberries and glace cherries.  I love all the different jewel like colours in Florentines which does add to their seasonal prettiness.

When it was time to bake them I put teaspoonfuls  of the mixture spaced well apart on the two baking trays. They only just fitted on two trays.  Both trays went into the oven at the same time and baked for about 10 minutes.

A word of warning! Do not move the Florentines onto a cooling rack until you have given them time to cool first and harden up a bit on the baking tray.  Like with any cookies, if you move them before you need to, they will break!  That happened to two of mine so I left the rest for about half an hour and then moved them with a pallette knife.

To decorate the Florentines I chose to melt two different types of chocolate. I melted a pot of white chocolate and the other dark chocolate.  I turned each Florentine over so that the flat bases were uppermost and spread either the white or the dark chocolate on the top of it with my small pallette knife.  I then left them to set before putting them into gift bags, alternating white chocolate ones with dark chocolate ones.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx