Temps des Fêtes 2004
food and drink

BY: Jennifer McLagan

This is an Italian specialty that hails from Sienna. It comes in various combinations of fruit and nuts but always contains almonds and chocolate. It is very rich and is eaten in small slices.

3 oz (90 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup (250 mL) blanched almonds, lightly toasted
½ cup (125 mL) pistachios, lightly toasted
½ cup (125 mL) hazelnuts, lightly toasted, skins rubbed off
6 dried figs, stems removed, cut into chunks    
½ cup (125 mL) dried apricots, cut into quarters
½ cup (125 mL) candied citrus peel (recipe follows)
¾ cup (175 mL) all-purpose flour
½ cup (125 mL) cocoa
1 tbsp (15 mL) cinnamon
1 tsp (5 mL) ground white pepper
2 tsp (10 mL) ground allspice
¼ tsp (1 mL) ground cloves
Pinch salt
¾ cup (175 mL) honey
½ cup (125 mL) sugar

1. Place the chocolate in a bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with about an inch (2.5-cm) of water to a boil, remove from the heat and place the bowl on top. (The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water.) Leave the chocolate to melt; once melted, remove from the pan.

2. Preheat the oven to 300ºF (150ºC).

3. Stir the nuts, fruit and peel together in a large bowl. Sift the flour, cocoa, spices and salt over the fruit and nuts, stir until the fruit and nuts are well coated. Butter an 8-inch (2-L) springform tin, then line the base with a circle of parchment paper.

4. Put the honey and sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and boil until the temperature reaches 250°F (120°C) on a candy  thermometer.

5. Once the sugar and honey is at temperature, pour it into the melted chocolate and stir, then pour over the fruit and nuts. Mix very well. (The mixture will be thick and heavy.) Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. The centre will be slightly soft but not sticky.  Cool in the pan. Once cool, wrap well. Cut into small thin slices to serve.

Makes 1 cake

Candied Citrus Peel:

3 organic lemons
3 organic oranges
2 organic grapefruit
2 cups (500 mL) sugar

1. Rinse the fruit well, then dry. Cut a slice off the top and bottom of each fruit. Take each fruit and stand on one of the cut sides. Cutting down with a sharp knife remove the peel with the pith in large pieces. Keep the flesh for juice or fruit salad. If any flesh is attached to the pith, remove it. Place the peels in a large saucepan, cover them with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour, pushing the peels down under the water. As they cook, they will soften and sink.

2. Drain and rinse the peels with cold water. Cut the peels into small dice. Place the sugar in the saucepan and add 1 cup (250 mL) water. Heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Add the diced peel and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. After this time they will be very soft and translucent.

3. Using a slotted spoon, remove and place them, in a single layer, on a large baking sheet lined with wax paper. Leave at room temperature. After about 2 hours transfer them onto another wax-paper-lined baking sheet. Leave for another 2 hours then repeat the process. Leave the peels at room temperature for about 2 days or until dry. Once dry, place in a screw-top jar. Keeps for up to 2 months refrigerated.

Makes about 2½ cups (625 mL)

What to Serve