All through the Christmas season, bakeries in Tuscany are filled with the spicy fragrance of these rich, chewy confections: the result is more like candy than cake, a very far cry from the dry tasteless stuff that most of us think of when we think of fruitcake.
These heavenly honeyed fruit-and-nut cakes keep in an airtight container for at least a month. They make fabulous gifts or a special treat for your own family, served in thin wedges with a cup of good strong coffee. Those Tuscans really know how to live La Dolce Vita!
3/4 cup almonds
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1 1/4 cups mixed candied citrus peel, chopped
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.
2. Spread the almonds and hazelnuts on a baking sheet, keeping them separate, and toast until lightly browned and fragrant, about 6 minutes. Remove from oven and place almonds on a cutting board. Put the hazelnuts on a kitchen towel and rub them with the towel to remove the skins (don’t worry of there are bits of skin remaining). Place hazelnuts on the board along with the almonds and coarsely chop all the nuts, then place them in a large bowl. Reduce oven to 350F.
3. Add candied peel, flour, and spices to the nuts and mix well.
4. In a small saucepan, combine honey and granulated sugar and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts, about 3 minutes. Stir the honey mixture into the almond-fruit mixture, mixing well. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. When it is cool enough to handle, wet your hands and press the mixture evenly into the pan.
5. Bake 30-35 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and invert onto a rack. Lift off the pan and let cool. When cooled, peel off the parchment. Dust the top liberally with confectioner’s sugar.
Inspired by Winter: Recipes Inspired by Nature’s Bounty, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1997).