His drawings are dark, Schielesque (if I can make that a word), his dissonant music even more so; his lips a vertical line without hint of teeth below intense eyes. He’s a loner, surrounded by his art and words and noise. Before, I would have grasped after his complicated darkness – my preternatural talent to home in on the damaged and the wounded. Beautiful, exquisite danger.
I’ve always been drawn to broken and frayed things. Not to fix them, oh no, but to love them, for all their splendid flaws. I cradle them tightly against my vulnerability and whisper, “I see your shadows and I love you for them, just as you are,” like my habit of gathering discarded objects from the sidewalks and the gutters, holding them up to the light, searching for their unique worth. I find beauty in the things others judge as trash.
We are all broken. We all have value. The darkness that resides in me sees the masked shadows in you.
This time, though, my heart said, “No, Enough. You have learned your lesson.” I have learned it well this time. I can love his art without gifting my heart to the marred soul that created it. No, I will not walk in the woods with him today. A tear escapes from my eye. This education is not without pain.
Somehow I’ve equated candied orange peel with holiday baking. All of my annual holiday bakes, including gibassier, stollen, and eccles cakes, require candied orange peel. This year, I’ve added mince pies and panforte to my repertoire, requiring even more peel. With nightmares of dreaded fruitcake in your head, you probably believe you’re not a fan of candied citrus peel. You most likely only know those chewy, tooth sticking, flavorless, processed nuggets that come in a grocery store tub. That’s what I thought candied peel was all about, too – until I made my own. Then, ooohhhh, I fell in love. Hand-crafted candied peel is pliant and juicy with the perfect balance between bitter peel and sweet syrup. Making your own takes a bit more work, but it’s the difference between a frozen beef patty and aged rib eye steak.
Panforte is a traditional Italian dessert. My recipe contains pistachios, walnuts, candied orange peel, chocolate and a shit-load of spices. Its chewy texture is halfway between fruitcake and candy. The secret to its soft and pliant texture is baking the panforte just until barely firm in the middle. Otherwise, it will rip the fillings from your molars. Panforte is typically served in thin wedges dusted with powdered sugar.
This version is only slightly adapted from David Lebovitz’s recipe.
Panforte is a traditional Italian dessert. Its yielding, chewy texture is halfway between fruitcake and candy.
- 1 ½ cups walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
- 1 cup pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped
- 5 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup chopped candied orange peel
- 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ancho chili powder
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 cup sugar
- ¾ cup dark honey
- extra cocoa powder, for dusting the pan
- powdered sugar, for dusting the panforte
- Preheat oven to 325ºF
- Spray a 10-inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Spray the parchment and dust with cocoa powder, making sure to dust the sides.
- In a large bowl, mix together the nuts, cocoa powder, flour, candied orange peel, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, nutmeg, and ancho chile powder.
- Melt the chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave, at 30 second intervals, stirring in between until completely melted. Set aside.
- In a small pan fitted with a candy thermometer, heat the sugar and honey until the temperature reads 240ºF.
- Pour the hot honey syrup over the nut mixture, add the melted chocolate, and stir well until fully incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top by using a spatula. Once the mixture is cool enough to touch, use a dampened hand to press it completely flat.
- Bake the panforte for 30 – 35 minutes; the center will feel soft, like a barely baked brownie; if you touch it, your finger will come away clean. (Do not over bake or it will be too firm once cooled.)
- Let the panforte cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, and then run a sharp knife around the edge to loosen it from the pan. Remove the springform carefully, 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. Serve in thin wedges.
You can store panforte for several months, well wrapped, at room temperature.
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