Sunday, December 12, 2010

The need for Strong Bread

It's been a festive weekend. On Saturday, Lina, Paul, Kala, and I went out to play in the snow. Our snow-fun involved a really very strenuous 1200m ascent of Singing Pass, to the Whistler backcountry. Once we got up there, we found ourselves surrounded by lovely snow so took a run on each of Cowboy Ridge, Oboe, and Flute. After all that, our legs had nothing left and we skied back down with the rest of the backcountry skiers and other stragglers through the closed-for-the-day ski resort.

Lina and Kala on the way up Singing Pass

Lina on Cowboy Ridge

Paul on Cowboy Ridge

Paul in Pillow-Hopping Action

Kala in flight too...
And here are a couple of me that I stole from Paul:

A couple of years ago I made some Italian Christmas cake as presents for friends. It was a right pain to make, and it's "firmness" resulted in a hefty dental bill for Paul. I decided not to repeat the experience last year. This year, to my surprise, I received quite a lot of encouragement to make it again. To ease the making process, Kala and Geraldine chipped in with some candied fruit peel... and to ease Paul's dental health I added a bit more sugar syrup to the recipe. So, Lina and I produced Panforte MkII. Here it is, looking tasty:

Panforte, ready for action.

West Coast Panforte - by Margaret Gallagher
1 cup almonds, lightly toast
2/3 cup hazelnuts, lightly toasted
1/3 cup shelled pistachios, lightly toasted
2/3 cup mixed candied citrus peel (orange, lemon, citron)
1/3 cup dried currents
½ cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup unsifted, unbleached flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch process)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered espresso
1/2 cup mild honey
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Confectioners' sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Cut a round of parchment to fit the bottom of a nine-inch springform pan. Cut a
strip (or two shorter strips) about an inch and a half wide to go around the sides
of the pan. Butter the sides and bottom of the pan. Put strips around sides of the
pan. Place round in the bottom of the pan. Butter the papers on the bottom and
the sides and set aside.
3. Put all the candied fruits in a large metal mixing bowl. Working over the fruit,
sift together flour, cocoa spices and espresso. With your hands, mix the fruits
with the dry ingredients, thoroughly separating and coating the pieces. Add the
nuts and mix again. Set aside.
4. Put the honey and sugar in a medium over moderate heat. Stir with a wooden
spatula until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil. Insert a
candy thermometer in the pan and let the mixture boil without stirring until the
thermometer registers 248 degrees (stiff-ball stage). (This will happen soon after
the mixture comes to a boil.)
5. Working very quickly, pour the hot syrup onto the fruit mixture, stir with a
heavy wooden spatula to mix (you may work up a bit of a sweat!).
IMMEDIATELY transfer the mixture to the prepared pan.
6. Moisten your hands and firmly press the mixture into an even layer. Press very
firmly to make sure there are no air bubbles.
7. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes.
8. Set aside to cool. When the cake is completely cool and firm, remove the sides
of the pan and the paper strip (or strips) on the sides. Turn upside down on a
piece of wax paper and carefully remove pan bottom and parchment paper.
9. Through a fine strainer, generously sprinkle on icing sugar, forming a thick
coating. Carefully turn the cake right side up repeat.
10. Wrap in airtight plastic and store a room temperature. It also freezes well.