Our gourmet club theme was really fun this month: lucky foods for the new year. We met last night and had a wonderful spread filled with all kinds of foods that should bring good fortune in 2013, including bacon jam (pigs symbolize progress and “the fat of the land”), smoked salmon dip (fish represent abundance), roasted grapes with rosemary (grapes are part of a Spanish tradition), Hoppin’ John risotto (black-eyed peas represent coins/prosperity), cooked greens (greens look like money), and honey cornbread (cornbread is the color of gold).
I was on dessert duty, and since there aren’t too many sweet foods that fall on the lucky list, I decided to explore the “round” theme for dessert. Round or ring-shaped foods represent prosperity (coins are round) and the idea of coming full circle. Bundt cake was a natural choice since it’s a popular ring-shaped dessert (I went with Martha’s Tangerine Cake with Citrus Glaze), but I wanted to add another element. Since chocolate and orange go so well together, I knew I wanted to make some kind of chocolate candy. Today’s recipe – Chocolate Panforte Candies – fit the bill perfectly. They pull together chocolate, orange, and several other unexpected flavors that work together wonderfully. Everyone liked the cake, for sure, but I think they loved these.
Chocolate Panforte Candies
Active time: 40 min. | Total time: 2 hours
1/2 cup quartered dried black Mission figs
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/4 teaspoons grated orange peel, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup (scant) hazelnuts, toasted
1 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
14 standard paper muffin baking cups
Cook first 5 ingredients and 1 teaspoon orange peel in heavy small saucepan over medium-high heat until liquid forms thick syrup that coats figs, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat; mix in cinnamon, remaining 1/4 teaspoon orange peel, and nuts.
Melt chocolate in microwave-safe bowl on medium power until melted and warm to touch, stopping once to stir, about 1 1/2 minutes. Arrange paper cups on rimmed baking sheet. Spoon 1 mounded teaspoon chocolate onto bottom of each paper cup. Tap baking sheet on work surface to spread chocolate over bottom of cups. Top center of each with about 1 mounded teaspoon fig mixture. Chill until firm, about 1 hour. Peel off paper. Let chocolates stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.
Source: Bon Appétit, December 2008
- I chopped the figs instead of quartering them and chopped the hazelnuts instead of leaving them whole.
- I found hazelnuts in the bulk section at Whole Foods. I roasted them for 9 minutes at 350°F and then rubbed the skins off before chopping them. Some skins didn’t rub off entirely, which wasn’t a big deal.
- The recipe makes about twice the amount of topping that you need, so I would recommend halving the topping or doubling the chocolate.
- The microwave instructions in the recipe won’t completely melt the chocolate. Just stir, stir, stir until the chocolate is smooth.
- I’ve made these with both semisweet and bittersweet chocolate; Dr. O and I like the bittersweet the best.
These candies are ridiculously good. Who knew figs and chocolate went so well together? The crunch of the hazelnuts is pretty special as well. Like one of the recipe reviewers, I was worried that the clove and nutmeg might be overwhelming, but everything blends together beautifully in the finished product. And I do mean beautifully… Both times I’ve served these, people wondered how I created such a gorgeous edge on these chocolates. Muffin cups work wonders!
These probably aren’t going to satisfy a crowd that wants Oreo balls and peanut butter fudge, but they’re perfect for foodies, adventurous eaters, or anyone who enjoys a little something unexpected. I’ll be making them again next December (if not sooner!) for sure.
Recipe link: Chocolate Panforte Candies