I’m stepping a bit outside of my usual unrefined parameters to share a very special holiday recipe from Ms. Zel Allen. I met Zel via her site, Vegetarians in Paradise, when she was gracious enough to share one of my recipes with her readers. Zel also hosts a special site created just for the holiday season – Vegan For The Holidays – and it’s packed with festive plant-based recipes by Zel and lots of other creative vegan cooks. Whether or not you’re in need of some holiday meal-planning inspiration, you’ll want to spend some time on VFTH. For more about Zel, please read her short bio at the end of the post.
Being of Italian descent, I’ve had my fair share of sweets and treats from the Boot, but I’ve never eaten nor made panforte, so I was very curious about Zel’s recipe. I decided I had to try it for myself and the tempting results would make perfect gifts for my neighbors. Behold, panforte! *Note that my panforte is not dusted with confectioners’ sugar because I did not have any! For many, many more recipes for your vegan holiday table, pick up a copy of Zel’s book, Vegan For The Holidays.
SANTA’S FAVORITE PANFORTE
Panforte is a very traditional, festive Italian Christmas candy. Baked into slabs, dusted with powdered sugar, and cut into bite-sized chunks or thin wedges, these crunchy, chewy nut-and-fruit-filled nuggets make joyful treats for gifting. For convenience, panforte can be made several months in advance, wrapped in plastic, and refrigerated until you’re ready to box it, wrap it, or ship it across the country. While panforte keeps at room temperature for several weeks, it could attract ants or other critters that may also find it a delicious holiday temptation, so tuck it in the fridge. You’ll need a candy thermometer for preparing the syrup. – Zel Allen
Yield: Makes about 20 servings
- 2 cups pecans
- 1 3/4 cups walnuts
- 1 1/4 cups almonds
- 1 cup dried apricots (preferably Turkish), diced
- 1 cup all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons organic sugar
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup chopped dates
- 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 12 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 cup agave nectar
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons organic sugar
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line four 7-or 8-inch metal or aluminum foil pie pans, or 7-inch cake pans with parchment paper.
- To make the panforte, spread the pecans, walnuts, and almonds on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast them for 8 minutes. Immediately transfer the nuts to a large platter to cool and decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
- Combine the apricots, flour, sugar, raisins, dates, cranberries, and cinnamon in an extra-large bowl. Add the cooled nuts and toss well to coat all the ingredients. Set aside.
- To make the syrup, combine the agave nectar and organic sugar in a 2-quart saucepan and mix well. Attach the candy thermometer to the side and place the pan over medium-high heat. Boil until the temperature reaches 230 degrees F., about 5 minutes. (this can happen very quickly.) Do not stir.
- Immediately pour the syrup into the fruit-nut mixture and use a heavy-duty wooden spoon to stir and coat the ingredients well. The mixture quickly becomes extremely stiff, and you’ll need to apply muscle power to combine the syrup and fruit-nut mixture thoroughly.
- Distribute the mixture equally among the prepared pans, placing one spoonful of the mixture in the pan at a time, packing it down before adding another. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely before removing from the pans. Carefully remove the parchment paper from each slab and dust each heavily with powdered sugar on both sides, using your hands to coat it completely.
- To serve, use a sharp, heavy-duty knife to cut the panforte into 1-inch pieces or slice into thin wedges. Wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap and kept at room temperature, Santa’s Favorite Panforte will keep for 2 months, or for 1 year in the refrigerator.
Zel Allen loves to cook, a passion that led her to author two vegan cookbooks, Vegan for the Holidays and The Nut Gourmet. With her husband, she also co-publishes Vegetarians in Paradise, a vegan magazine appearing on the net for 16 years. The publication features tasty recipes, vegan resources, articles, and items of interest to the vegan community. She blogs at Vegan for the Holidays and Nut Gourmet and contributes articles and recipes to The Vegetarian Journal and Vegan Health and Fitness Magazine. Zel also teaches vegan cooking classes in Los Angeles.