These crunchy walnut bites are rather irresistible. And versatile. A darker version of the Italian panforte, they offer a pungent, forward flavor, laced with freshly ground black pepper, cinnamon, cocoa powder, candied lemon peel, raisins, and walnut halves. They are ideal to serve with a cheese course (a nicely aged Parmiggiano-Reggiano and a sip of vin santo works for me), or team them up with a slice of the cheese, stack the two on a toothpick, and serve as an appetizer.
Makes 32 bites
A 9 1/2 x 9 1/2-inch (24 cm) square baking pan; baking parchment
1/2 cup (65 g) dried black currants or raisins
1/2 cup (125 ml) sweet wine, such as marsala, vin santo, or port
2 tablespoons (30 g) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (150 g) unrefined cane sugar, preferably organic, vanilla scented
1/4 cup (60 ml) intensely-flavored honey, such as chestnut
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups (250 g) walnut halves
3 dried figs, stems removed, chopped
1 cup (90 g) candied lemon peel, preferably organic, cut into fine cubes
1/4 cup (40 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse, freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably Vietnamese cassia
1. In a small bowl, soak the currants or raisins in 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the wine for 1 hour.
2. Line the baking pan with baking parchment, letting the parchment hang over the ends. (This will make it easier to remove the panpepato once it’s baked.)
3.Center a rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
4. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the sugar, honey, and salt, heating just until blended.
5. In a large bowl, combine the currants and their soaking liquid, the walnuts, figs, and candied peel, and stir to coat the walnuts. In another bowl, combine the flour, pepper, cocoa powder, and cinnamon, and stir to blend. Add the flour mixture to the currant mixture, along with the remaining 1/4 cup (60 ml) wine. Stir to evenly coat the walnuts. Add the butter mixture and stir again to blend evenly. The mixture will be very dense and sticky. Spoon the mixture into the parchment-lined pan and smooth it out with a spatula. (Note that the mixture will be a walnut brown as it is placed in the oven, and turns dark, almost black as it bakes.)
6.Place the pan in the oven and bake until bubbly, dark, and fragrant, about 35 minutes. The mixture will be sticky, but will firm up as it cools in the pan.
7. Once it has cooled, cut the panpepato into very tiny bites. (Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.)
As an appetizer, I love these with a glass of Champagne. With the cheese course, try an Italian vin santo, a Sicilian Marsala, a Porto, or a French vin doux naturel, such as the Grenache-based Rasteau from the southern Rhône.
This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Lessons from Paris and Provence.
Please do not reproduce without permission.