In early December, in time for gift-giving, I spent an evening with Laloux pastry chef Michelle Marek learning all about how to candy fruits and preserve them, at one of the Depanneur Le Pick Up culinary workshops.
We learned how to candy quince, pineapple (+vanilla), kumquat, old shoe (just kidding), orange peel, whole tangerine, satsuma, quince again because it is delicious and tastes of jungle perfume, lemon, meyer lemon, mango (I’m assuming this is possible although t’wasn’t in the company that night), grapefruit and … well, anything fairly sturdy would be fair game for this process, I think. I don’t remember the ratio, but if you boil these things in a sugar syrup for a very long time, until they are saturated with this syrup, then you will have candied fruit… a very versatile substance. You can even make the syrup a personal thing, flavoured with spices, whole ones, bits of clove and pepper and anise and nutmeg…
I remember thinking that Michelle had such a delicate way of handling her food, almost a reverence. Natasha of Popcorn Plays was there to melt chocolate and otherwise smooth the events as they passed. Cookies were consumed. Spicy and crackly ginger things. A ridiculously dense and heavily spiced panforte was introduced the room like a large black quarry stone of deeply spiced Valrhona infused candy. Wait, I have to show you that in full glory:
It hurt the teeth but bolstered the soul, infusing the tongue with a lilting denseness that spoke of christmases without pretense but with a lot of singing and crackly fires/candles/good friends and family who know how to bake whilst sitting in red-plushy corner chairs, watching snow and swirly guitars move past … carollers with style. The kind of Xmas I think I probably experienced once or seventhrice, as a broadbeaneyed starry kid with feety pajamas and country-life to live.
Anything else? Oh ya probably but really is good for now to enjoy the sight of a whole candied LittleFruit. wee!
Disemboweled what for your viewing pleasure. sweet, redolent, orangey.
The next workshop was all about SAUSAGES you guys. omg
Panforte di Siena
from David Lebovitz’ book Room For Dessert
- 5 tablespoons cocoa, plus more for dusting
- 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate
- 2 1/2 cups nuts (hazelnuts, almonds or walnuts), toasted and coarsely chopped
- 3/4 cup flour
- 3/4 cup candied citrus peel, citron is ideal but orange and lemon is okay
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- pinch of nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon red chile pepper (cayenne)
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup honey
- icing sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 325ºF (162ºC.)
Line the bottom of a 9- to 10-inch (22-23cm) springform pan with parchment paper. Spray the pan with nonstick spray and dust the inside with cocoa powder, making sure to get it up the sides.
In a large bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, nuts, flour, candied citrus, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, nutmeg, and red chile powder.
Melt the chocolate in a small bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat and stir it into the nut mixture.
In a pan fitted with a candy thermometer, heat the sugar and honey until the temperature reads 240ºF (115ºC.)
Pour the hot honey syrup over the nut mixture and stir well. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. I start by using a spatula and as the mixture cools, once it’s cool enough to touch, I use a dampened hand to get it flat.
Bake the panforte for 35 – 40 minutes; the center will feel soft, like just-baked custard, and if you touch it, your finger will come away clean when it’s done. Let the panforte cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen it from the pan. Remove the springform carefully (sticky edges might tear, so keep an eye out), then let cool completely.
Once cool, remove the bottom of the springform pan and peel away the parchment paper. Sprinkle the panforte with powdered sugar and rub it in with your hands.
Storage: Panforte can be kept for several months, well wrapped, at room temperature.