Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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Every hike, every swim, every day out deserves an indulgence. For long days outside, when you exercise and need to refuel, you need to find energy snacks that taste good and are good for you too. At home, we are huge fans of Yotam Ottolenghi‘s cookbooks whose Sweet edition (his cookbook on all things sweet) includes this delicious chocolate panforte recipe. We made a batch for our week in the Pyrenees at Refuge du Rulhe.
Pictured here at L’Etang Bleu off the GR10, doesn’t this energy snack look perfect for the great outdoors? It’s nutritious, small, packed with the best quality dried fruit and tastes delicious. It’s also a lot healthier than any of the chemical energy snacks or gels you’ll buy in stores, with no hidden nasties or additives. If you are ready for your next adventure outdoors, try this.
Isn’t it the Italian fruit cake you buy in upscale stores at Christmas?
Well yes, that’s definitely one way to come about panforte which is a Tuscan alternative to panettone. Panforte (also known as Siena Cake after the Italian city where it originated in medieval times) is a deliciously chewy Christmas concoction of dried and candied fruits, nuts and spices held together with molten sugar.
It’s an expensive food so it’s good news that you can make yours at home without breaking the bank. Yotam Ottolenghi’s chocolate panforte is not even difficult to make for home cooks. All it takes is planning.
We made the panforte about a week before the trip so that it would have time to settle and dry. The flavors and spices also need time to blend.
Shopping for ingredients did present some challenges outside of the festive season. I’m guessing that finding most of these items closer to Christmas would be fairly easy (as it’s essentially dried nuts and winter spices) but summer in Occitanie is a different challenge. As our local food stores didn’t stock “exotic” or unusual ingredients, we collected everything from three places: most nuts and cocoa from my dad’s favorite Petit Casino (a small but well-stocked supermarket), orange peel, ground cloves and dried fruit from the olive & spice stall at Béziers’ old food court (Les Halles), and honey and spices from an organic supermarket called L’Eau Vive.
Once made, the panforte was left to cool down, rest and settle on a table until it was time to slice it. This photograph shows a traditional Christmas panforte in its fruity glory.
Panforte is dense and a little goes a long way. For our trip to the Pyrenees, we cut 15 individual slices out of 40% of the panforte. So, the total yield for a whole batch would be 38 slices – which is enough to re-energize a big group or keep you going solo a long time. Whether or not you are ready to share something delicious is up to you — no judgments.
This recipe below uses metric measures. For US measures, see right after the recipe (instructions remain the same).